By Jonathan Brenneman
If you’ve ever seen Kirsten Van Ritzen’s alter ego “Louise the Party Gal” working the crowd live on-stage, you’ll be unlikely to have forgotten the experience. Created as a character many years ago for Edmonton’s legendary DIE-NASTY Improv series, Louise is a “throwback to the swinging ’70s … a happy barfly, a ‘timeless’ golden gal who enjoys a stiff martini, a ciggie and bad jokes,” known for flirting with older men in the audience and spontaneous games of Truth or Dare.
Since her debut, she’s gone on to host her own monthly alternative comedy series in Toronto, performances at comedy festivals in Orlando, LA and Chicago, and shows here in Victoria. Last but definitely not least, Van Ritzen has incorporated Louise into the Alternative Comedy class she teaches, which brings us to her new show, Geez Louise!, a comedy ensemble showcase featuring many of her former students.
“Many of the performers are from last spring’s Alternative Comedy class,” says Van Ritzen. “It’s so rewarding to encourage people to explore their comedy muse and have it culminate in a show. Live comedy has that immediate payoff of massive laughs, hugely valuable for the performers to test out their material, and a big win for the audience to cheer for their friends and have a great night out.”
While the formats of ordinary stand-up and alternative comedy share many qualities in common, the difference, says Van Ritzen, is more than aesthetic. By creating a performer persona distinct from one’s private self, she says, “Alternative comedy opens up new directions artistically, giving you the freedom to express wildly different perspectives.”
“If the idea of just telling straight-up jokes ‘as yourself’ is a bit intimidating, this might be a fun route to explore.”
How will all that manifest in September’s edition of Geez Louise? According to Van Ritzen, spectators should expect the unexpected.
“In the past, we’ve had characters, improv, sketch, music, poetry, audience games, brilliant new bits, unpolished gems, occasionally an act that bombs—but Louise, the Hostess with the Mostest—is ready to pick up the pieces and that is all part of the show’s good-natured charm.”
This fall’s edition of Geez Louise! will be taking place on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Sports View Bar & Grill at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, starting at 8 p.m. sharp (doors at 7). Tickets are available at broadtheatrics.weebly.com.