Take a handful of comedians, throw them on stage in front of a live audience, give them little direction, and add a sprinkle of lighthearted stripping.
Mix it all together and presto — the outcome is the Comic Strippers, who are bringing their comedy bodies to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Sept. 16 for a night of male stripper parody and improv comedy.
“It’s essentially a Whose Line Is It Anyway meets Magic Mike with dad bodies,” said longtime comedian and original Comic Strippers performer Ken Lawson. “It’s pretty absurd. It’s a ridiculous show.”
The hilarity came to fruition when founding member Roman Danylo’s wife came home from a proper male stripper show. It was then that Danylo, of CTV’s Comedy Inc. fame, had an epiphany.
“Roman thought, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We’ve got torsos and we can dance around like idiots,’” Lawson said. “It immediately worked.”
Danylo rallied the troops, reaching far into the depths of Vancouver’s improv comedy scene to find male comedians willing to bare it all on stage. It was there, four years ago, that he found Lawson, Chris Cassillan and David Milchard, and the Comic Strippers were born.
“We’ve all worked together for a number of years, and we’ve been doing it (Comic Strippers) for just over four years,” Lawson said. “People love it.”
At first, they weren’t sure where the show would take them. But when they started touring the Australian fringe circuit, they knew they had hit comedy gold.
And it’s not only women that enjoy the shirtless, oiled and gyrating comedians on stage. According to Lawson, roughly 30 per cent of the audience is male.
“It’s a show for all genders. We don’t actually strip — that would be horrifying for everyone,” Lawson said. “We’re all different shapes and sizes. We’ve got what we call comedy bodies. The idea of perfection is out the window with us.”
While Lawson enjoys dancing shirtless in front of a live audience, he admits stripping is not the direction he thought his career would take him.
“It’s changed my life in a lot of ways,” Lawson said. “I never imagined that in my late 40s I’d be dancing around in spandex in front of 500 women.”
The Comic Strippers show relies heavily on audience participation, with improv acts based on audience suggestions, making each performance entirely unique. And for Lawson, the audience’s integral role makes it all worthwhile.
“It’s really great that we actually get to meet a lot of our fans,” Lawson said. “In place like Vernon, we’ll end up meeting fans after the show.”
The show has taken the oiled-up troupe across Canada and the globe, and Lawson hopes that the streak will continue.
“I’d love to keep touring. I never thought I’d see this much of Canada,” Lawson said. “We want to just keep touring more. You’re touring with your buddies and making people laugh.”
Moreover, as the troupe ages, Lawson feels it will improve the comedy potential.
“I think it’s one of the shows that the older we get, the funnier it will get,” Lawson said. “If we’re hobbling out there on walkers, that would be hilarious.”
The Comic Strippers take over the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $39 from the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469 or www.ticketseller.ca. A group discount of $34 each for groups of six or more is available at the box office. Ages 19-and-up only.