Blind Tiger Comedy was founded by internationally-recognized improv groups The Sunday Service and Hip.Bang!, and the school’s core faculty are the six players from those two groups. Not only that, but in our short history we’ve also added some of the best staff in the game. Meet them below.
The Sunday Service
Since their humble beginnings in 2005, The Sunday Service has quickly become the toast of Vancouver’s alternative comedy scene with their unique blend of improvised theatre.
Coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines, these four performers deliver a style rarely seen in Vancouver. They skirt the line of meta-comedy, rock opera, witty word play and slap stick shtick, combining it all for an addictive cocktail that makes habitual users out of even the most casual observer.
Hip.Bang! is an improv duo from Vancouver whose playful, absurd scenes have delighted audiences worldwide. They were just nominated for the 2013 Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe. Pretty fancy.
Tom and Devin of Hip.Bang! have been featured at comedy festivals worldwide, including the 2013 San Francisco SketchFest, NXNE, Rapid Fire Theatre’s Improvaganza, the Detroit Improv Festival, the Del Close Marathon, Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival, and more.
Aaron Read is an improvisor, musician, and visual artist working out of Vancouver. He has been performing weekly with The Sunday Service since 2008 and has loved every minute of it (for real)! Previous experience includes being a founding member of Canadian Comedy Award nominated AKA Improv and a main stage player at Vancouver TheatreSports™ League. A few notable moments in Aaron’s career include winning best improv troupe in Canada with The Sunday Service in 2012, a nomination in 2007 for best improv troupe with AKA improv, and performing alongside the likes of Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Show), and Mark Chavez (The Pajama Men). With over 9 years of improv experience including training from Alistair Cook (Instant Theatre), David Razowsky (Second City) and Lee White (Crumbs) Aaron has cemented himself as a creative and collaborative force in the improv world.
Caitlin Howden is the writer and performer of four critically acclaimed main stage revues at The Second City (Toronto). With a total of fourteen Canadian Comedy Award nominations in four years, she is the winner of multiple awards including Best Comedic Play/Revue (2010, 2011), Best Sketch Troupe (Second City 2009), and Best Improv Troupe (The Sunday Service, 2012).
Recently her teaching has brought her to Poland and Paris.
Caitlin is a founding member of Uncalled For (Montreal) and is also the co creator of Ghost Jail Theatre (Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver). Last year, her TIFF debut “Crackin’ Down Hard”, directed by Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys), was chosen as one of the Top Ten Shorts.
Since moving to Vancouver, Caitlin happily joined the main stage cast at Vancouver TheatreSports League. Caitlin calls The Sunday Service home, and is thrilled to add Blind Tiger to that list.
Devin Mackenzie is an improviser, comedian, writer and producer. He performs with Hip.Bang!, Ghost Jail Theatre, Vancouver Theatresports League and Pump Trolley Comedy. He has entertained audiences in improv and comedy festivals all over North America including San Francisco SketchFest, Del Close Marathon, NXNE, Out of Bounds, Chicago Improv Festival, General Fool’s Fest and Improvaganza.
His improv duo Hip.Bang! was recently nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award and produces the popular monthly shows 10 SPEED and Cloud Comedy at the China Cloud Theatre.
Ese Atawo is a Nigerian-born, Toronto-raised, Vancouver-resident improviser. She started her comedy career at Second City learning improv and she’s still doing it… to her surprise. Ese Atawo is a cast member of Instant Theatre where she’s the co-creator and co-host of East Vancouver Improv League aka EVIL Improv. She’s also part of acclaimed local troupes Your Moms and Nasty Women.
Ronald Dario is a sketch comedian and improviser from Vancouver and an alumnus of Blind Tiger Comedy’s improv and sketch house teams. He is also a cast member at Instant Theatre. Ronald has performed at JFL NorthWest, the UCB Theatre’s Del Close Marathon (New York), the Vancouver International Improv Festival, and the Vancouver Sketch Comedy Festival. He also regularly performs at local shows like The Hero Show, Sidekicks, and Weird Al Karaoke.
Ryan Beil is an actor and comedian based in Vancouver, BC. Best known for a run of commercials for A&W restaurants, his legendary improv troupe the Sunday Service and a decade long career as an actor of note on stage and screen. When he’s not performing he’s watching baseball. He is also the co-founder of the comedy school “Blind Tiger” and curates a live venue called “Little Mountain Gallery.”
Taz VanRassel has been committed to a life of improvisation and comedic performance since 1995 when competing in the Canadian Improv Games.
His initial training was with The Vancouver TheatreSports League and Unexpected Productions (Seattle). Taz was a founding member of !nstant theatre with one of his first teachers and mentors Alistair Cook. Since then he has gone on to perform with four time Canadian Comedy Award nominees for best improv troupe Urban Improv, as well as securing a mainstage performer position at Vancouver TheatreSports League for the past 7 years.
His biggest accomplishment to date is co-founding the Sunday Service in 2005 and watching it grow into a staple of Vancouver’s comedy scene, culminating in national recognition when they won best improv troupe in Canada in 2012. Taz has collaborated and performed with the likes of Ryan Stiles (the Drew Carey show), Colin Mochrie (Who’s line is it anyway), David Cross (Arrested Development), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Will Sasso (Mad TV), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Sean Cullen (Last Comic Standing) Paul F Tompkins (Mr. Show) and Oscar Nunez (the Office[US]).
Tom is an improviser, writer, and sketch comedian from Regina, Saskatchewan. He is half of the Canadian Comedy Award (CCA)-nominated improv group Hip.Bang!, with whom he has toured the continent several times, including showcases at the San Francisco SketchFest, Rapid Fire Theatre’s Improvaganza, The Detroit Improv Festival, The Del Close Marathon, and The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival.
Tom co-founded Pump Trolley Comedy, a sketch comedy group made up of some real cool comedians. He co-founded GIANTS Comedy, a series of major comedy events that were part of the 2012-2013 Cultch season, and was Co-Comedy Curator of the 2013 Olio Festival. He writes for CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show and is a cast member of Vancouver TheatreSports.
Helen Camisa – General Manager
If you are a student or are thinking of becoming one you’ll get to know the amazing Helen as she handles all student communication and finance questions. We dare you not to like her!
Abdul Aziz – Head of Business Development
Abdul Aziz has everything from a MBA, to a thick comedy resume as an acclaimed stand up comedian, to an actual hand drill, to a beautiful baby. Abdul handles our finances, and leads our internal business development.
We are lucky to be connected to some of the best comedic minds in the world, straight up. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have them come by and share their wisdom with us. Maybe they’ve been through once, or thrice, and/or they’re coming back this weekend.
Kaisa Kokko, an improviser, instructor and communication skills teacher, has learned, performed and taught improvised theater for more than 12 years and has more than 20 years of experience in scripted theatre. She has had the pleasure of teaching and performing improv in the United States, Peru, Costa Rica and all over Europe. Kaisa is the co-founder and teacher of Finlands first Finnish Improv Training Center ImproKampus and the co-artistic director of two theaters, Mikäklubi and KujeImpro. Kaisa has taught improv for kids, teenagers and adults from different fields of life, performs regularly in two different improvisational theaters and has her own musical-duo. She also does a lot work in the field of applied improvisation and communication skills.
Kaisa specializes in deep and meaningful connections, relationship based grounded scene work and musical improvisation. Kaisa has studied at the iO Chicago, Unexpected Productions in Seattle and under many great improv teachers all over the world. Kaisa firmly believes in the strengthening power of improv and is thrilled to be part of something that will – little by little – change the world!
Ben Gorodetsky is a physical-theatre maker, improviser, burlesque performer, and educator based in Brooklyn. Prior to moving to NYC to pursue an MFA in Performance and Media at CUNY Ben lived in Edmonton, AB where he served as Associate Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre. Ben is co-creator of award-winning comedy duo Folk Lordz (with Todd Houseman). Teaching and performing improvisation has taken Ben from LA to Austin, Yellowknife to Vienna, Ljubljana to Reunion (near Madagascar!). Ben performs burlesque and nightclub variety acts under the alias Ding-Dong Daddy, and has shared the stage with Taylor Mac, Jacq The Stripper, and Peekaboo Pointe. His multimedia, physical theatre performance works have been presented at festivals across Canada, and he has danced for Mile Zero Dance, The Brian Webb Dance Company, and The Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy.
Joel Kim Booster is a comedian and writer based in LA. He has performed stand up on Conan, Comedy Central, MTV, LOGO and festivals and clubs both in the US and Abroad including Melbourne Comedy Festival and Just For Laughs Montreal. He has written for Billy on the Street, Problematic with Moshe Kasher and Big Mouth.
Kirsten Rasmussen is a Canadian Comedy Award Winning improviser and alumnus of The Second City Toronto Mainstage company. Kirsten has performed improv, sketch and solo shows all over the world. She is a current teacher and director at The Second City Toronto and The Bad Dog Theatre and teaches independent character classes out of The Comedy Bar. Kirsten’s recent solo sketch show won Audience Choice Award at TO Sketchfest 2018.
Sex T-Rex (né Sexual Tyrannosaurus) is a Toronto-based Comedy troupe whose cinematic style, wild physicality and spot-on parody has delighted audiences across Canada and the USA. Veteran improvisors, with hundreds of performances under their Cretaceous belts, Sex T-Rex branched out into scripted comedy in 2011. Their shows Callaghan! and the Wings of the Butterfly , Leviathan, Watch Out WildKat! and SwordPlay: A Play of Swords have all garnered rave reviews and their last show, Wasteland won the Second City Outstanding Comedy award for 2016!
Nicole Passmore is an improviser and comedian who has been performing for 17 years, and teaching improv for over a decade. Originally hailing from Instant Theatre in Vancouver, Nicole is now a performer, director, and faculty member with the Bad Dog Theatre Company in Toronto. Whether solo or with one of her troupes (Virginia Jack; Benjamins), she has performed at festivals across North America, including Improvaganza (Edmonton), Combustion (Toronto), VIIF (Vancouver), MPROV (Montreal), Stumptown (Portland), Out of Bounds (Austin), and the Detroit Improv Festival. Nicole is an alumna of the Second City HouseCo, was voted Bad Dog Theatre’s “Favourite Instructor” for 2015 and 2016, and can be heard on multiple episodes of the award winning podcast Stop Podcasting Yourself.
Amy is an actor, improviser, teacher, director, puppeteer and ensemble member with Impro Melbourne. Amy has taught and performed Improvisation and drama workshops to children and adults all around Australia, in New Zealand, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Austin, Reunion Island, Germany, Paris and Barcelona. She has developed and directed numerous improvisational formats each of which have been performed in various cities across Australia and New Zealand and the USA. With a background in the performing Arts, Amy has performed in numerous scripted and non scripted shows including performances in the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Keng-Sam Chane Chick Té is an improviser from Reunion Island (French Department). He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years in many different places around the world such as France, the US, South Africa, and Australia. When Keng-Sam is not busy travelling, he is producing the FERIIR Festival (International Improv Festival of Reunion) which takes place once a year.
Tess Degenstein has performed across the country, most recently touring Rebecca Northan’s hit off-Broadway show Blind Date. Internationally she has performed and taught in Vienna, Berlin, London, Oslo, Atlanta, and New York. She has been nominated for multiple Canadian Comedy Awards for her ensemble work in the improv troupe The Bad Dog Repertory Players, and the webseries Space Janitors (CSA Winner), and a Sterling Award for Best Actor in the world premiere of Nicole Moehller’s An Almost Perfect Thing. Her onscreen credits include King, Murdoch Mysteries, and First Round Down.
The Pajama Men (Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez) are a world-renowned comedy duo known for their unique style of narrative-sketch comedy that incorporates elements of stand-up, sketch, improv, and an array of memorable characters, all of which are narrowly contained by intricately woven story threads.
They have developed more than ten original stage shows together which have appeared on London’s West End, in Chicago at both Steppenwolf and Second City, St. Anne’s Warehouse in New York, The Sydney Opera House, The Largo in Los Angeles and countless clubs, pubs, theatres and festivals around the globe. They have written commissioned screenplays and television pilots for, HBO, BBC, Film4, Paramount, and Scott Free and have collaborated as writers with Paul King (Director of Mighty Boosh, Paddington) and James Bobin (Director of Flight of the Concords,The Muppets). The Pajama Men are Creative Associates of London’s hottest comedy venue, Soho Theatre.
Ben Gorodetsky is an improviser, theatre artist and Associate Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre. Ben’s been improvising since 2004 and in that time has performed and taught improvisation in Austria, Slovenia, NYC, LA, Philadelphia, Austin, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and the French island of Reunion (near Madagascar!). Along with Todd Houseman, Ben is co-creator of the award winning, multi-cultural improv show Folk Lordz, which fuses the unlikely combination of Cree storytelling, Chekhovian character drama, and spontaneous comedy.
Ben is the recipient of the 2016 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts award for Emerging Artist of the Year. Ben is the author of three plays: Boogie Monster Club (Snowglobe Festival), Magnetmonton (Fringe), 7 Steps to Success (NextFest, with Mat Simpson and Nikki Shaffeullah), and 2 seasons of weekly sketch show Pump Trolley Comedy. As a curator and producer Ben is the main creative force behind the Dirt Buffet Cabaret. Running monthly in co-production with Mile Zero Dance, the Dirt Buffet is an experimental variety show that focuses on short-form performance art and surprising spectacles. Ben holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Alberta.
Todd Houseman is an improviser, actor, aboriginal peoples interpreter, author, educator and musician. He’s been improvising with Rapid Fire theatre since 2009. Todd is co-creator of the Cultural Diversity in the Arts award winning show Folk Lordz and co-producer of the Stories on the Hills, an indigenous storytelling gathering and festival. Todd’s recent acting credits include the new APTN sitcom Delmer and Marta and Studio Theatre’s play Or the Whale. His comic “Ayannisach” was featured in the 2015 School Library Journal Book of the Year award winning Moonshot: The Indigenous Comic Collection. Todd is also the singer, songwriter and drummer in his band Skunk Coat. In the realm of education Todd works as a cultural exchange facilitator and mentor for Indigenous and at-risk youth through Boyle Street Education Centre and the Journeys program.
Chris Wilson is an actor, writer and comedian who is one half of the 3x Canadian Comedy Award Winning sketch duo Peter N’ Chris. Peter N’ Chris have performed at acclaimed festivals such as Just for Laughs, JLF42, San Francisco Sketchfest, Chicago Sketchfest, Toronto SketchFest, Gilda’s Laughfest and have written videos for CollegeHumor. They are regulars on the Canadian Fringe circuit where they have earned several Best of Fest Awards for their brand of narrative sketch comedy.
Chris now lives in Toronto where he runs the monthly stand up show Cloud Comedy and performs with Canadian Comedy Award winning Sketch troupe “Get Some” . He is a writer for the CBC website Punchline, CBC Radio’s The Irrelevant Show, the web-series White Ninja voiced by Paul Scheer, and you’ve been reading his writing in this ‘third-person bio”. Chris can be seen on the CityTV Prank Show “Meet the Family” as well as in the upcoming SuperChannel show “What Would Sal Do?” – playing a young Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall).
Paul Blinov is an improviser, writer and comedian based in Edmonton. He’s a senior player with Rapid Fire Theatre, and has toured improv and sketch comedy to places like Seattle, Toronto and Winnipeg. Alongside Amy Shostak, he is one-half of acclaimed sketch duo Gossamer Obsessions.