This interview was originally posted on Pam Victor’s Interview blog series, “Geeking Out with…”, and is being re-blogged here with Pam’s permission.
It’s almost impossible to watch Colleen Doyle perform without being struck by her improvisational prowess, her direct line to pure creativity, and her profoundly remarkable acting skills. She makes bold and refreshing moves that seem to inspire her scene partners and delight the audience. Watching her, I find myself in a state of slack-jawed wonder of how deeply Colleen commits to her characters and explores their lives with the primary focus on finding honest moments rather than playing to the laughs, though those come for sure. Ok, I’ll gush no more, but let’s just keep our eyes on Colleen Doyle because, if the comedy world is just and fair (and there are no guarantees in that arena, unfortunately), we will be seeing more of Colleen Doyle on screens throughout the land.
In the meantime, the lucky ones get to enjoy her company at the iO Theater in Chicago, both on the stage and in the classroom. Up until their recent move to Los Angeles, Ms. Doyle performed every Tuesday night with her comedy and life partner Jason Shotts in the much-deservedly acclaimed show, “Dummy” (A can’t-miss show if there ever was one), the masterfully gifted cast of the debut sketch revue “Trap” at TJ Jagowoski and David Pasquesi’s brand spankin’ new Mission Theater which housed in the new iO Theater., and with a host of off-the-charts talented women in the tri-coastal* improv ensemble, Virgin Daquiri.
Though improvisation is a team sport, Colleen had the opportunity to be hoisted on the shoulders of the winning team and celebrated for a lap around the bases at the campy Del Awards at iO Chicago where, just in the last couple years alone, Dummy has scored “The Team Award for Excellence in Show Postering” (2013) and “The 3033 Award for Excellence in Non-Haroldness” (2013, 2014) and Colleen herself won “The Sarah Fineout Award for Most Supportive Female Improviser” (2013), “The Liz Allen Award for Excellence in Teaching” (2014), “The Player Award for Excellence in Portraying the Opposite Sex” (2014) as well as the ultimate award of “Improviser of the Year” (2013). Not that awards mean anything … but just so you know how much she is appreciated on her home planet.
*If you count Lake Michigan, then, yes, Chicago is a coast.
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PAM VICTOR: This has nothing to do with improvisation, but did you really write greeting cards? I’m strangely fascinated by that industry.
COLLEEN DOYLE: I did indeed. First job out of college.
PAM: Did you write the cards?
COLLEEN: Yep. In the “alternative humor” department. Just geared toward humor.
PAM: LOL. Alternative humor. What the hell does that mean, nothing with kittens? Did you have a card quota to meet every week? And, last question on this topic I swear, but what are the people in the greeting card industry like? Do they wear a lot of vests? I always imagine them wearing patchwork-quilted vests. Sorry. I just pounded you with too many questions at once. See, I’m strangely fascinated by the imagery of people sitting around writing greeting cards.
COLLEEN: Alternative humor just meant not traditional. Not those sincere cards for your grandma. We had a quota every day with a topic they were looking for -maybe 10 cards a day? And the people in the industry are interesting. Good artists and funny people. They were as good as characters as anybody else from an office setting. Lovely people and a bit weird.
PAM: I know you grew up in Cleveland (Go Browns!) It sounds like you got into improvisation by accident but into performing by fate.
COLLEEN: I started doing short form my last semester in college. Then Second City opened a training center in Cleveland just before I graduated. My mom clipped the article out of the paper and pushed me to take classes. She’s my biggest cheerleader. I don’t think I’d be doing this now if it weren’t for her.
PAM: Yeah, it sounds like your mom really supported – in fact strongly pushed – you towards improv. Hello??? Great mom or the greatest mom in the world?
COLLEEN: The latter. She’s amazing.
PAM: You’re a lucky daughter. It seems like at that time in your life you were pretty interested in ANY and all areas of performing. What do you think it was about comedy that resonated with you (and your mom)?
COLLEEN: I’ve always loved comedy – never thinking I could do it, but loving the doers of comedy and wanting to be near it. My mom is also really funny. And like probably all people, we’ve always used it to deal with life’s shittier side. It is absolutely therapy for me.
PAM: Absolutely. I had a friend who told me that his therapist wouldn’t allow him to use humor in their sessions, and I remember thinking, “Ok. Well, I’ll never be going into therapy.”
COLLEEN: It’s such a release. It’s almost like humor reminds us that we’re all in this together. And that helps.
PAM: Do you ever have that experience that once you get into the theater, you forget all your problems? Or at least they get tinier for a short time?
COLLEEN: The latter. I was recently told, due to some personal stuff going on, to find some distraction. Being on stage or teaching allows me some respite from all the heavy stuff. Improv tinys my problems. Or something like that, (“tiny” being a verb).
PAM: Of course, the “we’re all in this together” element is pretty singular in the improv side of comedy. It’s nice not to feel alone for a while.
COLLEEN: I’m a lucky lady. And I think that being a part of this community – so many people say it’s their family – is incredibly rewarding and positive.
PAM: Indeed. I read that after Second City (Cleveland), where I believe they wisely cast you in their Mainstage show, you started your training at iO. Is it true you drove from Ohio just to take class in Chicago every week? That’s insane! (And so very sexy!)
COLLEEN: Yes! I was young and very, very hungry. It was transformative – I definitely knew I’d found my home.
PAM: I know what you mean. That’s an awesome drive you had and have. (I mean internal drive, as in motivation, though it probably was an awesomely long drive in the car too.)
COLLEEN: iO was, and will always be, my home.
…To continue reading the entire interview, visit Geeking Out with…Colleen Doyle.
““Geeking Out with…” is a series of interviews with well-known, highly experienced improvisers. It’s a chance to talk about stuff that might interest hardcore, improv dorkwads like Pam. The series can be found in full frontal geek out version on her website.”