The Backline - An Improv Podcast

The Backline - An Improv Podcast
Canadian Comedy Award winners Rob Norman and Adam Cawley discuss weekly improv-based topics based on a theme. New episodes every Wednesday.

186 - Relationship
May 27 • 38 min
Sketchtown continues! This week, Rob and Adam discuss the make-up of relationship scenes, why they’re funny, and why although they might underrated, continue to serve an important role in a sketch revue.
185 - Genre
May 20 • 48 min
This week, Rob and Adam discuss styles, frame of reference, parody and finding the perfect vehicle for your premise. Also, the legacy of Second City founder Howard Alk!
185 - Satire
May 13 • 40 min
Satire is a comedy tradition that is thousands of years old. This episode Adam and Rob discuss satire, authority, and saying what you mean without saying it. Also The Boys, the Annoyance Theater’s President Bush is a Great Man, and the art of making maple…
184 - Stakes
May 6 • 39 min
In this episode, Rob and Adam discuss comedy’s relationship with tension, why stakes are important, and when you don’t need to focus on stakes in a show. Also Adam’s favourite instagram account, I Think You Should Leave, and Kurt Vonnegut.
183 - Structure
Apr 29 • 39 min
Part Three of Sketchtown. This week, Adam and Rob discuss how to structure a scene, how tension is useful, and why knowing structure is necessary to build out a comedic premise. Also, Adam talks about his favourite Greek myth.
182 - Premise
Apr 22 • 55 min
Sketchtown - Episode 2. In this instalment, Rob and Adam discuss premises: how to find them, how to write them, and ultimately where does comedy comes from.
181 - Welcome to Sketchtown
Apr 15 • 49 min
With the pandemic upon us, Rob and Adam launch a new mini-series on The Backline all about sketch comedy, finding premises, and trying to write them down for the first time. In this episode, Rob and Adam discuss their first experiences in their sketch…
180 - Back in Action
Apr 8 • 43 min
With the world in a state of lockdown, two grizzled warriors emerge from isolation to set you straight … about using make believe to tell stories. It’s Season 6 of the Backline with Rob and Adam. This week, they discuss their thoughts, hopes, and…
179 - Year End Review
Dec 11, 2019 • 53 min
It’s the Backline Finale! This week Rob and Adam reflect upon their top three moments of the year and follow-up with two listener questions! Thank you so much for your ongoing support. We will still be available to answer your questions via Facebook and…
178 - Top of Your Intelligence
Dec 5, 2019 • 49 min
This week Rob and Adam, discuss the term “playing to the top of your intelligence” within scenes. Will they have conflicting opinions? Will this be the topic that finally ends the podcast. Also, Adam confronts Rob about Spinegate 2019, they discuss their…
177 - Bulldozing
Nov 20, 2019 • 42 min
This week we’re talking about bulldozing. How much space should you take up onstage? What is the difference between attacking the scene and bulldozing over top of your partners ideas? This week Rob and Adam, discuss how to know if you’re a bulldozer and…
176 - Solo Improv
Nov 15, 2019 • 25 min
This week Rob is very lonely talking about solo improvisation, while trying to record an entire episode by himself. From monologues to ghosting to audience interaction - he’ll give you all the new tools to try your own solo set tonight!
175 - How to Build an Improv Company
Nov 7, 2019 • 42 min
In this episode, Rob talks with two entrepreneurs who are building parallel improv companies in two very different countries. Martha Stortz (Toronto) and Sara Delile (Mexico) discuss what its like expanding their respective troupes into an international…
174 - Questions Only
Oct 30, 2019 • 37 min
In this episode, Rob and Adam answer your questions! From Haroldfest to auditioning for a gig you don’t even want to book, we’ll tackle it all. Also, a brand new Backline show announced!
173 - Five Tips For Producers
Oct 23, 2019 • 28 min
Renowned improv curmudgeon Adam Cawley, shares with us his 5 tips for making improv shows run a little smoother from creating smooth transitions between acts to how to create a more communal atmosphere in shows - this episode has it all!
172 - Relaxation
Oct 16, 2019 • 49 min
Improv is all about going with the flow. So why are we always so stressed out? What does it take to relax? This episode we chat about relaxation onstage and offstage, and the trouble stressed out play can bring.
171 - Break the Scene
Oct 3, 2019 • 49 min
Trying to find an ending can be tough. Sometimes we’re hoping for someone to sweep, or a joke big enough to bring down the lights. Other times, we pray to the improv gods for some kind of divine intervention to save us from our own truly horrible scene.…
170 - Old Team, New Player
Sep 25, 2019 • 46 min
What happens when you’re a new improviser joining an established team? Does placing a new player on a team with veterans promote or stunt their growth? What happens to experienced players who play with new players?
169 - Beatprov
Sep 18, 2019 • 51 min
This week Rob and Adam walk you through a semi-scripted beatprov show. They chat about characters, story, and what makes beatprov different from conventional longform. Also on the podcast Mad Men, Doctor Who, physical fitness, and Just For Laughs Toronto.
168 - Making It Natural
Sep 11, 2019 • 51 min
Of course you want to learn technique and understand structure. But you don’t want to make it look mechanical. You have take your “comedy math”, internalize that work, and make it look easy. Also avoiding TIFF, Los Angeles living, and the end of Ontario…
167 - Social Media
Sep 5, 2019 • 44 min
To post or not to post? What does it mean for an improviser dealing with show promotion, self-congratulatory braggarts, and the constant cascade of never-ending tweets. How does it affect our careers? More importantly, what happens to our mental health?…
166 - Direct
Aug 29, 2019 • 47 min
After a month of touring, Rob and Adam have finally returned home. In this episode, they discuss Zapotec spiritual traditions, foreign legal advice, and also improv stuff. Mostly, how to direct your energy at your partner, avoid generic emotion, and…
165 - Tour Essentials
Aug 21, 2019 • 51 min
This week Rob reflects upon his tour through Birmingham, London, and Copenhagen. Also Rob and Adam tally some essential supplies you’ll need on touring different improv festivals and theatres.
164 - Small Town
Aug 14, 2019 • 44 min
Adam Cawley is back! Rob Norman is back! This week they discuss how to keep your team motivated when you’re the only competition in town and your team is losing motivation!
163 - Connecting With Your Partner
Aug 7, 2019 • 62 min
This week Rob talks with Stuart Moses (host of the Improv London Podcast) from the Nursery Theatre Training Centre for a crossover event! In this episode, Rob and Stuart chat about connecting with your partner, emotional depth, and the roleplaying game…
162 - Buzzed Out
Jul 31, 2019 • 41 min
This week Rob and Adam talk about what it feels like to “buzzed out” from an elimination-style improv show, and what to do if you feel like the audience doesn’t like you.
161 - Whose Line Is It Anyways?
Jul 24, 2019 • 44 min
This week, Rob and Adam discuss the renown improvised TV show Whose Line Is It Anyways? Also, Adam drops a HUGE surprise …
160 - Reviews
Jul 18, 2019 • 47 min
This week, Rob and Adam discuss improv reviews, how criticisms benefit improv shows, and how much we should expect when a critic comes to see your show. Also migraines, reality television, and Now Magazine’s See it or Skip It List.
159 - The Johnstonian Dictionary
Jul 10, 2019 • 55 min
Different improv schools have differing names for games, improv technique, and sometimes radically different philosophies that govern their approach to unscripted work. This week, Rob and Adam unpacked Johnstonian terminology and compare the similarities…
158 - Agenda
Jul 3, 2019 • 46 min
There’s nothing more difficult than starting a scene. This week, Rob and Adam discuss why initiating a scene deserves a second thought, how to protect your agenda, and why inspiration is the most valuable resource onstage.
157 - How to Remember
Jun 26, 2019 • 53 min
You’re standing on the sidelines, and the group game has just come to a close. Now it’s time to initiate 2nd beats … but you have nothing. Nada. Can’t remember a single scene or character. Uh oh. This week Adam and Rob discuss problems with remembering…
156 - The Fifty Dollar Ticket
Jun 19, 2019 • 46 min
The Raptors won! Two million people took to the streets! Don’t worry Rob and Adam are locked inside their homes talking about improv. Specifically, how do we achieve massive, commercial successes improv shows with a $50 ticket price - in hopes that…
155 - Small Crowd
Jun 12, 2019 • 50 min
This week Adam answers questions from the Backline mailbag, while Rob reveals a very bad idea for an improv jam. Followed by a chat, about what to do when playing to a small crowd.
154 - Improv as Ritual
Jun 5, 2019 • 49 min
Improv has a rich tradition of ritual and ceremony that dates back to mask work and continues right through to the teachings of Del Close. From shortform to longform, ritual (and transformation) is hidden in all the unconsidered things that we do onstage.…
153 - The 30 Second Clock
May 29, 2019 • 54 min
Shortform has particular kind of rhythm. Action sparks every 30 seconds. In this episode, Rob and Adam discuss how to slow down, enjoy the moment, and find more relaxed play out of a shortform metabolism.
152 - Coming Back to Improv
May 22, 2019 • 44 min
Its the launch of Season Five! This episode Rob and Adam talk about what’s it’s like to break from a regular improv performance schedule, how to get back into the community, and why it shouldn’t feel like you’re starting from scratch.
151 - A Year in Review
Dec 12, 2018 • 41 min
It’s the season finale of the Backline with Rob and Adam. This episode Rob and Adam discuss changes in the improv landscape, new exciting announcements, and what they’re looking forward to in 2019! See you all in the new year!
150 - Mapping
Nov 22, 2018 • 40 min
This week we discuss how to map the rules of one scenario over top the context of another. Also this episode, Rob and Adam answer questions about mirroring and comedic horror. Happy 150th episode!
149 - Preparation
Nov 11, 2018 • 55 min
We spend lots of time talking about what happens onstage. But sometimes scenes are won/lost before you even step onstage. Before your show there are warm-ups, research, intentions to be set, etc. This week Rob and Adam discuss every thing that happens…
148 - Be Affected
Oct 31, 2018 • 46 min
“Our only job as an improviser is to affect others, and be affected.” We all know it to be true, yet over and over again, we get stuck in scenes where we’re explaining our premises to our partner. This episode Rob and Adam discuss the need for real time,…
147 - Improv on TV
Oct 18, 2018 • 41 min
After an afternoon on set, Adam wonders about the future of improv on television. What changes when you record an improv show? Why isn’t more improv on TV? If television networks don’t want more improvised content, then is improv forever relagated to damp…
146 - Frustrated
Oct 11, 2018 • 59 min
When you spend tons of time with the same people over and over again, you’re bound to get frustrated with some of them. Where does all that frustration go? What if you hate your classmate, teammate, or even your coach? This week Rob and Adam delve deep…
145 - Playing Yourself
Oct 1, 2018 • 49 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss what’s it like to “play yourself” onstage. From grounded scenes to nuanced heightening to characters who talk just like you!
144 - Reading The Room
Sep 22, 2018 • 42 min
This week Adam and Rob discuss our relationship with the audience, how to follow Blue acts, and what to do when our expectations don’t match what the audience wants. Also oil lamps.
143 - Casting
Sep 5, 2018 • 42 min
In this episode, Rob and Adam discuss casting and what does the “perfect” Harold team look like! If you’d like to play at home, pick 8 archetypes from the list below: 1) Initiator - This player starts scenes. Always the first person out. 2) Listener -…
142 - Loud, Proud, and Wrong
Aug 15, 2018 • 47 min
This week Adam and Rob discuss the importance of swagger, showmanship, and stagecraft in improv scenes. Whether you’re struggling controlling an audience or you’re stuck in a scene that’s gone terribly wrong, then this episode is for you.
141 - Bombed
Aug 8, 2018 • 36 min
This week Adam chats with Rob from Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss that terrible, awkward, weird feeling when you bomb. What do you say? How do you manage the feeling? What do you say to your friends. Also, updates on Rob’s tour through Latvia and Denmark.
140 - Advanced GOTS
Aug 1, 2018 • 49 min
This week Rob and Adam revisit the Game of the Scene from Season One, and discuss how their views have evolved over the past four years. From pattern recongition to heightening, all is covered in this episode. If you’re new to GOTS, check out GOTS (ep.…
139 - Questions Only
Jul 25, 2018 • 43 min
This week Rob and Adam answer listener questions! From improv copyrights to accents to panicking onstage to the walk-ons - all will be revealed. Please if someone knows where Rob’s dad is, contact us @thebacklinepod on Facebook or Twitter.
138 - Disappointment
Jul 19, 2018 • 50 min
Rob And Adam talk disappointment.
137 - So We Bought a Zoo
Jul 11, 2018 • 45 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss the very theoretical scenario of opening an improv theatre. What do you need? What resources do you require? How does an improv theatre actually work? Also if you have a really bad business idea for an improv theatre, let us…
136 - Blocking
Jul 4, 2018 • 41 min
If we don’t need to literally say “Yes And” to offers in scenes, then what does agreement actually look like? With this new defintion, what is blocking? Is blocking even possible in modern improv? This week Rob and Adam do a deep dive on all-things…
135 - $300
Jun 27, 2018 • 40 min
For students new to improv, classes are a great way to meet people, involve yourself in the community, and hone your craft. But what do you do when classes are no longer challenging you and you aren’t getting any better? This week Adam and Rob discuss…
134 - Therapy
Jun 20, 2018 • 45 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss all things therapy! From improv as therapy to their real expereinces inside a therapist’s office, and the importance of mental health care in an industry full of rejection, self-doubt, and hurt. If you have your experiences…
133 - Effort
Jun 13, 2018 • 51 min
Canadian Comedy Award winner Adam Cawley has a couple pet peeves that he has to get off his chest! Watch out relaxed improvisers! Beware trucks parked in the bike lane! Prenez-garde major corporations who slightly inconvenience the public! Angry Adam is…
132 - The Maker
Jun 6, 2018 • 38 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss The Maker, Toronto’s best kept longform secret. In this episode, you’ll learn The Maker’s origins, the nature of thematic longform, and how to try one in your own city. Get ready for a metanarrative improv rollercoaster ride…
131 - Trust
May 23, 2018 • 45 min
“I got your back” is the last thing you hear from your teammates before you leap onstage. But real trust is more than just a platitude. It’s earned. What do you do when you struggle with putting your faith in others? Where does distrust come from? How do…
130 - When to Leave
May 16, 2018 • 50 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss their decision to leave MANTOWN: The Improvised Frat Party after 12 years of service. When is it a good time to leave? Why should you stay on a team? What does it mean? All will be discussed in this week’s episode of THE…
129 - The First 30 Seconds
May 9, 2018 • 36 min
What happens in the first 30 seconds of your scene - determines what you’ll be stuck playing for the next 4 minutes. This week Rob and Adam explore the challenges of starting a scene and what typically goes wrong.
128 - The Harold Experience
May 2, 2018 • 58 min
It’s the premiere of SEASON FOUR OF THE BACKLINE! This episode Rob and Adam debrief The Harold Experience from the Next Stage Festival. What does it mean to do a Harold for an hour? What burden do improv shows face in front of a non-improv theatre crowd?…
127 - A Year in Review
Dec 20, 2017 • 40 min
This episode Rob and Adam say goodbye to the dark cloud that was 2017 by remembering all the good things: the touring, the travel, and burgeoning improv communities across the globe! Also have you read any Dragonlance novels? Let us know @thebacklinepod…
125 - Judgment
Dec 6, 2017 • 33 min
Of course, you never want to judge an offer. But sometimes it’s easier said than done. This week Rob and Adam discuss the nature of judgment and investigate where it comes from, how to deal with challenging offers, and when judging an offer might actually…
123 - The Improv Sherpa
Nov 15, 2017 • 39 min
Sherpas live near the Himalayan mountains. They are known to be expert mountaineers and sometimes guide foreigner through the perilous trek up the mountain. For many veterans, guiding new improvisers through an improv jam can be equally daunting. So how…
32 - What’s Missing? (R)
Nov 8, 2017 • 43 min
FROM THE ARCHIVES: This week Adam and Rob talk about might be running through your head, standing on the backline of a longform improv set. Great improvisers don’t walk onstage and just do good improv scenes. They are mindful of the scenes that came…
122 - How to Frankenstein a Character
Nov 1, 2017 • 29 min
This spooky Halloween episode, deals with using arcane sorcery to animate a character and bring it to life!!! Adam and Rob talk Tatiana Maslany, Mike Myers, Hot 30’s, and accents. Regardless, this episode is full of improv tricks and treats. Enjoy!
121 - R.I.P Who, What, Where
Oct 25, 2017 • 53 min
There comes a time in every improviser’s life when you have to say goodbye to your previous ideas of who,what, and where. This week, Adam and Rob rabidly scream out their frustrations with the limitations of explaining context and offer other perspectives…
120 - Adam’s Guide to Producing
Oct 18, 2017 • 45 min
Adam Cawley, renown curmudgeon, goes into detail about the basics of producing your own improv show: from etiquette to show premise. Adam also shares his producing pet peeves and some simple fixes to make your show shine. Enjoy!
119 - The Golfer’s Clubs
Sep 27, 2017 • 49 min
Every improviser is a golfer with a bag of clubs. Every club is a different way of improvising and a different school of thought. The improviser looks over the green (the show they are doing) and decides which club is appropriate. Picking the right club…
118 - Framing
Sep 14, 2017 • 47 min
This week Rob and Adam, delve deep into the world of UCB-style Game of the Scene and discuss framing. We know framing is all about contextualized, that one weird offer in your base reality (platform), but how do you know what do with those offers? How do…
114 - Jams (Wish I Was Your Lover)
Aug 10, 2017 • 49 min
This week Rob and Adam get into a heated debate over the effifacy of improv jams. How useful are improv jams? What’s the best way to make the most of jamming? As well as, some tips on how to handle difficult players you might meet at a random mash-up.…
113 - Vulnerability
Aug 2, 2017 • 47 min
Jokes are a great place to hide. Having a funny voice or massive character can protect you from you having to expose your true self. This week Rob and Adam discuss how to open up in front of audience and reveal your story to the audience.
112 - Greedy (In a Nice Way)
Jul 19, 2017 • 51 min
As performers we are inherently greedy for stage time. We have to be. It’s competitve in an improv show. Lots of people vying for attention with competing narratives. This week Rob and Adam gives tips on how to maximize your time onstage (in a nice way).
111 - Coachless
Jul 12, 2017 • 36 min
Again and again, you constantly hear about the importance of having a coach. Which is all good if you’re rehearsing in major improv cities with thousands of other comedians. But what do you do if you live in a smaller community? This week Rob and Adam…
110 - Mentorship
Jul 5, 2017 • 42 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss the importance of mentorship in the community: what to look for in a mentor, how to connect with possible mentors, and how to be a valued protege. Also discussed: the giant duck, Rob’s new favourite tea, and shout-outs to…
109 - Our Favourite Shortform Games
Jun 29, 2017 • 49 min
While The Backline spends tons of time discussing concepts related to longform improvisaiton, Rob and Adam both started in shortform. This week: Pillars, Pan Left, roast jokes, set-ups, and best practices when performing a shortform show!
108 - Showmanship
Jun 23, 2017 • 47 min
No matter how hard you work, you can only get so good at improvising scenes. At a certain point it feels like it’s impossible to get any better. This week, Rob and Adam give a list of simple tips to improve your performance - without technique. Good ole…
106 - A Week in the Life of an Improv Show
Jun 7, 2017 • 27 min
This week, Rob and Adam go behind the scenes of MANTOWN: The Improvised Frat Party to learn what it takes to produce a sold-out improv show. This episode follows a week of radio diaries from Sharjil Rasool, LeeLee Miller, Noemi Salamon, Andrew Bushell,…
105 - Jokes
May 31, 2017 • 45 min
In the context of improvisation, jokes can mean many things: a punchline, an out-of-place remark, a desperate attempt to get the audience to like you, or a straight up street joke (think Knock, Knock). This week Rob and Adam deconstruct what it means to…
103 - Silence
May 17, 2017 • 42 min
Silence is golden. This week Rob and Adam talk very loudly about silent scenes. Together they explore: how to find silences in scenes, the 30 second rule, and how to improvise in a non-verbal way. Also covered: Australia, Post-ITS, and Adam’s new…
102 - Connections
May 10, 2017 • 48 min
It’s the launch of Season 4. In this episode Rob and Adam discuss how to take random scenes and find connections between them. Also covered, the difference between callbacks and connections, different methods of finding similiarities between scenes, and…
100 - Musical Improv (LIVE)
Dec 21, 2016 • 54 min
It’s the finale of Season 3! In this episode of The Backline LIVE, a reluctant Adam takes a tour through the world of musical improv with some of Toronto’s best musical performers. Along the way he discovers how to sing, compose a narrative through song,…
99 - Gifts
Dec 14, 2016 • 58 min
Its a very special holiday-themed episode of the Backline. Tis the season for gift-giving, so this week Rob anda Adam examine what kind of offers make the best “gift” for your scene partner. Together the guys chat about inspiration, reinforcing ideas, and…
From the Archives: Time Travel (17)
Dec 8, 2016 • 41 min
From the Backline Archives: Time Travel! It’s impossible!!! OR IS IT? In this episode Rob and Adam go back ten years into the past to warn their earlier selves about improv techniques, philosophies, and rules that they focused on when they were young –…
98 - The Armando
Nov 30, 2016 • 52 min
This week Rob and Adam attempt to discuss the longform, storytelling format called The Armando. Unfortunately, both Rob and Adam know nothing about it and forced to find help. It’s a real shit show without some sort of Christmas miracle! Also, discussed…
97 - Grounded
Nov 23, 2016 • 42 min
Sometimes bigger characters, sillier jokes, and dumber choices doesn’t always mean a funnier scene. This week, Rob and Adam discuss how to create a grounded scene, navigating auditions, and how to be more human in scenes.
96 - Group Scenes
Nov 16, 2016 • 38 min
We take two-person scenes for granted. But most of our training, and time onstage is within two-person scenes. We think that’s improv. We assume what works in a two-person scene, will work in scenes with 3 or more people. But group scenes have an entirely…
95 - Expectations
Nov 9, 2016 • 53 min
Determining what success or failure is depends on only one thing: expectations. This week Rob and Adam discuss what happens to an improviser who expects a certain kind of scene partner, or improv scene or improv show. Also covered: how to deal with…
94 - Mirroring
Nov 3, 2016 • 36 min
In improv classes across the world we are taught the value of saying Yes, going with the flow, and supporting our partner. But for some reason onstage we focus on conflict, difference, and contrasting characters. This episode, Rob and Adam dissect the joy…
92 - Hecklers
Oct 18, 2016 • 45 min
Rob and Adam discuss the topic of hecklers! From calling out in the middle of shows to an accidental cell phone going, the guys discuss ways to handle any surprise. They also chat about their favourite/worst heckling experiences, things to keep in mind…
89 - Reputation
Sep 28, 2016 • 45 min
This week, Rob and Adam chat about what your reputation means within the comedy community: the value of a player’s reputation, your improv show’s reputation, and how to change how you are seen by the comedy community. Also discussed: Second City’s new…
88 - Babies, Animals and Bigots
Sep 22, 2016 • 42 min
Some characters are easier than others. In this episode, Rob and Adam go over some troubling characters and how to best approach them in a show. Also Adam shamelessly gushes about his love of map apps, which is odd because it is a very weird interest to…
87 - How To Tour
Sep 15, 2016 • 65 min
After a one week hiatus, The Backline with Rob and Adam are back! Where did they go? They were on a West Coast tour: Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton. Now home they share their favourite memories, tips for starting your own tour, and share their…
86 - Steph’s First Improv show
Aug 30, 2016 • 32 min
Rob’s friend Steph “accidentally” signed up for the improv competition TKO. In this episode, we chat about what it feels like to step onstage for the first time in front of an audience.
85 - Listening
Aug 24, 2016 • 37 min
Any time you receive a note on Listening, it’s not a comment about your inability to absorb information from your partner but rather a criticism on your reaction to partner’s offer. If you learn how to be present with your partner, you won’t have to worry…
84 - Debrief
Aug 17, 2016 • 46 min
An improv exercise is only as good as the conversation afterwards. This week, Rob and Adam discuss how to debrief exercises and scenes for maximum effectiveness. Also hear updates about the Backline on Tour in Montreal, and discover trivia about the…
83 - Pressure
Aug 11, 2016 • 36 min
Expectations, anxiety, and responsibility are all factors that contribute to feeling pressure onstage. This week, Rob and Adam discuss why pressure happens and some tricks they use to letting go before stepping onstage or into an audition room. Also…
82 - Left Behind
Aug 3, 2016 • 53 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss what happens when one teammate isn’t making progress in shows or rehearsals. Is your improv troupe a business arrangement or a family? When is it time to cut someone from an improv team? What’s the best way to break-up with…
81 - Push/Pull
Jul 27, 2016 • 41 min
From Mick Napier’s book Improvise, Rob and Adam discuss the concept of Push/Pull and what it means to their own practices. Also talked about is Verse/Chorus and Dynamic/Waste, two adaptions to explain their relationship with taking a break from the…
80 - How to Waste Time in Rehearsal
Jul 20, 2016 • 38 min
You only have two hours to rehearse your 8 person Harold team. It’s easy to waste that time and get nothing done. This week Rob and Adam make it even easier, by listing 10 simple things you can do to not accomplish anything in rehearsals. Also, a big…
79 - Staying Sharp
Jul 13, 2016 • 40 min
Eventually, you’re going to get rusty. Whether that’s from taking a break from doing shows. Or simply outgrowing the teachers in your town or city. This week, Rob and Adam take you through some simple techniques that can help you improve your game, even…
77 - Called Out
Jun 29, 2016 • 45 min
Adam and Rob discuss calling out offers in an improv scene. What’s the difference between “Hanging a Lantern” on a mistake and undermining the reality of the scene? What should you do with waning accents, inconsistent object work, or calling a character…
76 - How to Plan a Party (Show)
Jun 15, 2016 • 50 min
This week Rob and Adam share their experiences from MANTOWN: The Improvised Frat Party and detail how to plan a party-oriented improv show. Tips on what music to pick, how to host, and how to involve the audience in a way that creates memories. Also Rob…
75 - More Physical, More Fun
Jun 8, 2016 • 39 min
This week Rob and Adam demystify physicality in improv and offer a series of suggestions for you to try onstage tonight. From characters to object work to stage picture, The Backline offers a bunch of challenges for you to try onstage tonight! Also Rob…
74 - Teachers
Jun 1, 2016 • 53 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss what makes a good improv teacher, how to be a good student, and what sort of teachers they avoid. As a student know your rights in class and what you deserve from a lesson plan. The guys also discuss their favourite improv…
73 - Can Improv Fix You?
May 25, 2016 • 47 min
We make a lot of promises as improvisers, teachers, and corporate facilitators. We promise new students that saying Yes, working as an ensemble, listening, and taking care of your partner can change lives. But is it actually true? In this episode, Adam…
71 - Duos
May 11, 2016 • 47 min
Rob and Adam discuss the politics, technique, and obstacles to committing to a two-person improv troupe. Adam also reveals his greatest frustration while working with Rob. It gets heated. Then it cools down and congeals into longterm relationship.
69 - What is a Suggestion?
Apr 27, 2016 • 42 min
This week Rob and Adam look at the most fundamental aspect of improv: the suggestion. What’s the best way to take an audience’s idea? How should we use it? Is a suggestion still important in modern improv? All that and more! Special thanks to listener…
68 - The Power of No
Apr 20, 2016 • 32 min
This week Rob and Adam delve into the power of saying No is scenes. Is saying No ever a good thing onstage? How can saying No move a scene forward? When does No become dangerous in scenes. Also Adam has a FitBit. He’s real excited about it!
66 - Improv Is Not a Formula
Dec 17, 2015 • 46 min
It’s the end of Season Two. Rob and Adam discuss what makes up a quality scene, faulty checklists we are told we have to follow, and goals to strive for every time you step onstage. After this episode, we’ll be on a holiday hiatus. Subscribe on Stitcher…
61 - Genre
Nov 4, 2015 • 45 min
This week Rob and Adam explore genres in improv. What is a genre? How do you elevate genre-work to a higher level? Also Adam reveals why he hates genre and begrudgingly agreed to do this episode. Enjoy!
60 - Should I Quit?
Oct 28, 2015 • 44 min
Is there a time when you look at your improv and think “Maybe I should cut my losses and quit?” This week Rob and Adam discuss the complications involved when making that decisions and also recount their own times in their life when they almost quit.
56 - Persona
Oct 7, 2015 • 51 min
This week Rob and Adam discuss stage personas improvisers often adopt when “playing themselves” when they first come onstage, take the suggestion, or between scenes. But what does a stage persona actually mean? How can you charm an audience before you…
55 - Five Ways to Make Object Work Fun
Sep 30, 2015 • 38 min
Ugh, object work. The dreaded chore that every improviser must endure. No one wants to mime when there’s stories to explore and jokes to make! This week, Rob and Adam discuss problems with object work and offer five solutions to make your non-verbal…
54 - Characters, Consistency, and Change
Sep 23, 2015 • 50 min
This week, Rob and Adam discuss characters, consistency, and change. When should your character change their emotion or energy? When should you reinvest? How is a shortform character different than longform?
50 - Dynamic
Aug 19, 2015 • 39 min
This week we delve deep into what drives a scene: the dynamic. Rob and Adam investigate the differences between dynamic and relationship, how to keep your scenes in the now, and an easy way to figure out what your scene is about. Also Adam loves coffee;…
49 - Group Mind
Aug 12, 2015 • 54 min
This week Rob and Adam mind-meld to discuss their mystical, psychedelic, group mind encounters. From working better together as a team to factors that prevent teams from synergizing, The Backline investigates shared mental models of all kinds! Check out…
45 - Warm-Ups
Jul 8, 2015 • 46 min
Before every class or show, improvisers dedicate their time, energy, and focus to a series of activities that are supposed to improve their performance. But do they actually work? Rob and Adam discuss the nature of warm-ups, how to use them effectively in…
43 - Hosting
Jun 24, 2015 • 40 min
This week, Rob and Adam delve into hosting: interacting with the audience, common pitfalls for newer improvisers, and basing your style on the tone of the show. Also listener suggestions of broad characters we never need to see again.
41 - R.I.P French Guy with a Cigarette
Jun 16, 2015 • 47 min
There’s a handful of characters that every improviser knows. Stock characters that we fall back on in scenes. This week Adam and Rob, put a bullet in the brain of 10 well known hack, trope characters and discuss how to make your characters more nuanced…
40 - Premise
Jun 3, 2015 • 39 min
We all know preconceived notions can be toxic for improvisation. But what do you do when premises are ingrained in the format you’re playing? This week Adam and Rob recount their experiences writing through improvisation at Second City, improvising…
38 - Editing
May 13, 2015 • 48 min
There’s nothing worse than a perfect improv scene that goes on for too long. This week, Rob and Adam tackle different types of edits, tips on how to make clear transitions, and what a well-edited show looks like. Enjoy!
35 - Failure
Apr 28, 2015 • 3 min
The comedy business is hard. It’s full of rejection, hardships, and failure. If you’re feeling lost in your career, this episode is for you. This podcast contains a reading from Improvising Now: A Practical Guide to Modern Improv, available on…
34 - Back to Basics
Apr 22, 2015 • 12 min
Improv is getting too confusing. Go back to basics. This episode shows you how.
29 - The Harold or Not the Harold?
Mar 18, 2015 • 26 min
The Harold is the most recognized format in improvisation. The list of celebrities and improvisers who have learned, loved, and mastered it is extensive. In this episode, Rob and Adam discuss what is a Harold, how it works, and some tips for improvisers…
28 - Self-Evaluation
Mar 11, 2015 • 37 min
After a particularly rough show, Rob and Adam sit down to discuss the importance of self-evaluation. If your troupe has made the dangerous decision to play without a coach, you’ll need to learn how to deal with failure, self-critique, team challenges, and…
27 - Story
Mar 4, 2015 • 37 min
Every scene has a story. For game-based improvisers, we believe that story is what happens while you’re busy with other stuff. But for narrative improvisers, story is something to be cultivated. In this episode, Rob leads Adam through a Joseph…
25 - Survival
Feb 18, 2015 • 37 min
It’s the 2nd Beat (Season) of The Backline with Rob and Adam. In this episode, the guys remember back to their first days of being a “professional” improviser and all the odd jobs and desperate measures they took to stay afloat. Discover that there truly…
23 - Ego and Ensemble
Dec 17, 2014 • 3 min
Ego is the part of Self that interacts with outside world. A strong ego is important for developing your voice and point of view onstage. But is it possible that your comedic voice might be interfering with the quality of group work onstage?This week Rob…
22 - Shame
Dec 10, 2014 • 38 min
Shame is that secret, perceived weakness that can either power or handicap an improviser’s performance. We’re comedians. We are all dealing with some kind of childhood psychic trauma that continues to affect us adults. In this episode, Rob and Adam reveal…
21 - Shortform
Dec 3, 2014 • 41 min
Rob and Adam discuss the improvisation of Theatresports, ComedySportz, and Whose Line is it Anyway? SECRETS REVEALED: how to set up an intro, building a running order, the value of shortform for longform improvisers, and the ongoing imagined beef:…
Nov 27, 2014 • 33 min
Rob and Adam pack up the Backline podcast and take it on tour. Driving from Toronto to Peterborough they discuss their best touring memories, pitfalls of playing away shows, and they bicker. LOTS OF BICKERING!!! The Guys also have some concerns about this…
19 - Auditions
Nov 19, 2014 • 43 min
Have you ever wanted to know EVERYTHING that happens in your audition after you leave the room? From professional gigs to auditioning for Conservatory, Rob and Adam take you behind the curtain and reveal all: who is on the panel, what they are thinking,…
16 - Troupes
Oct 29, 2014 • 58 min
It’s time to grab a posse! YOU CAN’T IMPROVISE ALONE! But how do you go from a random smattering of people to a reliable improv family onstage? Rob and Adam discuss creating your first improv troupe, finding rehearsal space, securing a coach, and how to…
14 - Game of the Scene
Oct 15, 2014 • 53 min
If there’s one improv technique that Rob and Adam use more than anything else onstage, it’s Game of the Scene. Together they discuss their personal definitions, simple techniques to try onstage, and moves to avoid while trying to build patterns. If you…
12 - Stuck (In Your Head)
Oct 1, 2014 • 46 min
Ever have that feeling like you’re just going through the motions onstage? Rob and Adam also feel that way all the time! Today these two best buds discuss anxiety, comfort, improv trances, being in your head, and some solutions to find freedom and play…
8 - Notes
Aug 27, 2014 • 62 min
Time for real talk! You need some feedback about notes: good notes/bad notes, how to receive them, what notes you should avoid, and what to do when a fellow improviser gives a note. Rob and Adam chat about it all in this episode and respond to listener…
2 - Fear
Jul 23, 2014 • 51 min
The scariest episode of the Backline to date! Rob and Adam discuss the nature of fear onstage: Where does it come from? Is fear a good or bad thing? What does fear look like in new players? Passive Aggressive Burns: #3.5 (Can you find them all?). Music by…
1 - Getting Started
Jul 18, 2014 • 42 min
It’s the first episode of The Backline! Rob and Adam discuss getting started in the improv business. Together they outline steps from student of a beginner level improv class to becoming a “professional” improviser. Rob and Adam remember their origin…