Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 253 of Stageworthy I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. Thank you for listening.

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My guest this week is actor improviser career coach and Canadian Comedy Award winner Ken Hall. Ken is currently appearing as Herb in the Umbrella Academy on Netflix.

Now, when did you guys wrap umbrella Academy Season Two?

Ken Hall
Yeah, we wrapped it back in the fall at the end of November ish.

Phil Rickaby
Okay, okay. So before it wasn’t even really close to all of this.

Ken Hall
Oh, no. Now Oh, this wasn’t anywhere on anyone’s radar. No, it’s amazing how fast things are changing just since we wrapped and of November or December two to march. I mean, that was a really short period of time. But

Phil Rickaby
yeah, and it’s like we live in a different world now.

Ken Hall
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
In season one you were the physical representation on set of Pogo on the umbrella Academy, which means that you yourself were not seen and they didn’t even they didn’t use your voice. But in season two, you you’re yourself. You’re you’re seeing you. You aren’t the monkey. How did that come about that you went from just the stand in and season one and then a physical presence and role in season two?

Ken Hall
Yeah. It’s all very serendipitous in a lot of ways. So for Season One, I got to do the motion capture playing the body of Pogo from basically the shoulders down. And it was Adam Godley, his voice and basically his face as well, for Pogo. And I think that basically that I put a lot of work into it. So I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be my voice. But I wanted to really show up. And that means like being prepared and ready to give it and because this character didn’t exist beforehand, there was such a cool learning curve and a lot of discovery for me to embody Pogo. And for me to show up on set and to play off the actors. I had my own version in my voice of Pogo, and all the mannerisms and in section so I think that they saw that, that I would show up and I do Fully embody Pogo and be that character and play off of the off the leads, for example. And, and that halfway through shooting for season. That’s when my agent reached out to me. She’s like, yeah, they wouldn’t offer you like an actual like speaking role. It’s a small room, but would you be interested in like, absolutely, of course. And so in season one, Episode Six, that’s when we first see herb, who’s an analyst in who works as part of the Commission. And so we got a little sneak a sneak peek of, of herb and I remember talking to the showrunner a week or two after that he was it was it was a very, very small part and, and getting to play off Kate Walsh who plays the handler, this sort of cat and mouse dynamics, he’s super high status and herb is a bit sort of bumbling and awkward around around her and Particular. But the showrunner Steve Blackman, he was like that was laugh out loud funny, because I got to improvise some stuff and that’s that’s my wheel. my wheelhouse I am very comfortable with improv and comedy. That’s stuff I’d been doing for so many years now. And I think it was a combination of again been super practising and doing a really great job is playing Pogo it regardless of whether they’re going to their you know that there weren’t going to be using my voice I still showed up, ready to ready to jam and as I said, with the within playing herb and really milking it for all the economy. They they Yeah, they gave her a much bigger role this in season two, which is lovely.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Now, had you done motion capture before?

Ken Hall
No, that was my first time.

Phil Rickaby
Wow. Um, what was what was that like?

Ken Hall
Uh, it was cool. It was it was like Undiscovered Country because I’ve done a lot of prosthetic work when I when I first got into doing film and TV, like templates, like 10 years ago or so, I played monsters on a couple of shows, this one called freaking counters, and another one called scare tactics, which is like so I was very, very used to uncomfortable with prosthetics and I was on another show called people earth for a couple years. So it was again, the I, I was very used to that world of like having this sort of plus that uh, you know, this sort of plasticky these these silicone ish things on my face in and acting around that. So the motion capture work resistant, a different dynamic because you’re given a motion capture suit, which is like me to fit your body so it’s very comfortable. And, and it’s again, it’s like looking at movements and Pogo in particular was a really cool opportunity and a great first experience because I really got to play An animal so he’s talking and walking chimpanzee, but he’s also personified. So he’s got these very human like qualities to them as well. And, and the other career. The other really cool thing, which is a bit of a curveball was that he’s, he’s elderly, too. So he walks with a cane. And so I had to incorporate all of those characteristics and mannerisms and such, and it was a great challenge. I did a lot of research with my acting coach before that is more watching like YouTube videos of just how to chimpanzees move, and having to walk that line between he’s not, he’s obviously still a chimpanzee, but he has very human like qualities, but we don’t want him to be too human. And we don’t want him to be to champion z. So it was it was a neat thing to try and split the difference. And it was lovely because there was it was just, I got to jam with him for about six months, and getting into that physicality even, especially near the end. There was it was it was comforting Actually, there is felt good to embody that character and, and to walk, you know, with the cane sort of hunched over and such there was a, I really, I really loved Pogo, he’s a very, for me, I think he’s a very endearing character and, and so it was it was a good it was a cool challenge in some ways a lot easier because there wasn’t any prosthetics. Like, I only met like the hair and makeup people like, as I said, like three months in when when I got to do herb, because I’m dead. And I’m like, I just get dressed and my motion capture suit and I’m ready to go. So it was it was it was a it was a nice change. And what I love about this view of acting is that you get to try all this kind of stuff and and it’s like a giant buffet of experiences and, and, and I loved that it was not just a day or two. It was a real immersive experience that I got to play in for good six months.

Phil Rickaby
One of the things it’s kind of interesting And sort of like looking at you know your website and things like that if you go if I go to like IMDb, the first thing that comes up for you, is you as Jeff the Grey. So it’s not really even like your face. It’s like a strange Grey Alien. But if you’ve done a lot of like creatures and monsters, I guess it’s sort of like the price you pay for it.

Ken Hall
Yeah, I mean, again, I’m, I feel very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to play all those monsters, it was a nice way to, to get film and TV experience of what it’s like to be on a set when it’s like to, you know, be in hair and makeup for five hours, you know, for prosthetic bills, and into the opportunities to get to play Jeff, the grey was just amazing. I mean, to work with the calibre of people that I got to work with. And even though it’s not my, you know, people can physically recognise me walking down the street and be like, hey, you’re Jeff grey. There’s been times where people have recognised me through my voice, which I just find it’s so amazing. I was in Union Bill with my with my partner at the time and this guy came up to me He’s like, are you Jeff the grey? Like? Yeah, I just heard it from my voice and he’s like, I thought it was you. So that was that’s really neat. So there’s an anonymity. Yeah. So I don’t get you know throngs of people chasing me down the street. Not that they would do that anyway, but

Phil Rickaby
we’re not known for that in Canada. So

Ken Hall
yeah, exactly.

Phil Rickaby
I was going to ask you have you been recognised for for Herb yet, but we’re still in COVID time so it’s not like every you’re out on the street and as much as one might have been in the past?

Ken Hall
Yeah, it’s only it’s actually happened to me once last week. I went to the bank, and I do some stuff and one of the tellers is just like, me umbrella Academy.

Phil Rickaby
That’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. It’s not it’s not a particularly invasive recognition either.

Ken Hall
No, no, no mine. I love the recognition and I’m kind of curious. I was riding my bike the other day. And someone just looked at me and this guy kind of smiled and, and and I’m like, I don’t know why, but it looks like he sort of recognised me perhaps from something. And I’m like, I wonder if you seem I wonder and wonder who’s the brella

Phil Rickaby
I mean, the umbrella Academy has its you know, I mean, it’s in its second season it the first season obviously did well enough to bring it back for a second season. I mean, I was looking forward to it. I’m not done yet. So no sports for at least.

Ken Hall
How far are you into it?

Phil Rickaby
I just finished the episode where we meet the resistance.

Ken Hall
Ah, lovely. Okay. So you’re you’re getting there. You’re getting there.

Phil Rickaby
I’m getting there. But it was the there was some I thought that having herb do some, some fanboying was was a was a nice touch. Have have. I mean? Was it obvious at the end of the first season that it would come back for a second? Were you? Were you sure of that?

Ken Hall
Oh, no. I mean, I, I’m never sure if it ever serve anything to be outside of when I like when I book something. I’m never sure of it until I’m physically onset doing the work, then I actually might be like this may be happening. But apart from that, there’s there’s so many variables, and that’s the thing about working in film and TV. There’s so much stuff that happens it’s out of your out of your hands. People of Earth got picked up for a third season we attend episodes ready to go. And then not to, like far off from going to camera. That’s when we got the word of like, sorry, it’s not going to happen. So, again, there’s so many just moving parts and as an actor, I’m not involved in that decision making process for me, I’d be like If I say to people I’m like, that wasn’t my decision. And people various I’m like, I would love to keep keep going. But I there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of decision. People that that make those that make those calls. I’m hoping that, that there is another season that there’s a that has a lot of life to it. I think that it is such a unique show, like such a giant world and, and for me, I just feel is that it appeals to everyone. It’s not even one particular genre. It’s it, like it touches on drama and comedy and in action and superheroes and like family dynamics and like romance and, and current, you know, current issues that that we’re all experiencing, you know, like black lives matter for example, and lgtbq like it’s, it’s it’s amazing, just when, what like the degree of storytelling is is so cool. And so I feel like there’s no right I’m travelling I think there’s there is there is nothing but more story to tell in more experiences to show so I’m loving the fact that people are really digging in. I’m really digging in. I think it’s a great show, even if I was not on show, recommending the show, because it’s so good. It’s so good. And I think people are getting I think that’s why people are like, really responding to it. So yeah, absolutely. A lot more story to tell. I hope. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Now, I would like to talk a little bit about your, your theatre origin story. We all come into this business through different things. So what is it that made you want to get into acting?

Ken Hall
Yeah, I it’s a great origin story. Because like where I’m at in my life right now. I know where I was. In my teens and 20s. It’s just so it’s a complete 180 from where From where I came from, and I’ve kind of condensing give you the Coles notes version of that. But in essence, in my late 20s, I quit drinking, and I was a by play drums in a punk band and I didn’t work in my 20s and I was on disability and, and it was not a not a good time for me and hadn’t really been a good time for me for quite a long time. And I was looking to make some big changes in my life, in addition to the quitting drinking, so I graduated high school and went into college in it. I did a social service worker programme. I’ve always liked the idea of helping people. And I like okay, maybe I can revisit that. So I volunteered at a u shelter here in Toronto, but basically in Scarborough, which is sort of Greater Toronto Area. And I did that for about a year but it was still as to frontline for me. It was was heavy. And, you know, I was again still trying to figure myself out. And I’m like, I don’t think this is such a good fit for me. I ended up working at HMV. And I love always loved music and movies and things like that. And I guess the thing then in that in my life around that time was to try things. And I had no frame of reference really, because I’m like, I don’t I didn’t really do a lot of extra. I didn’t do any extracurricular activities, and I didn’t really have any hobbies to speak of drinking and partying was kind of like my hobby, but it had less, you know, sort of less returns as the years gone by. And so long story short, I was reading some family in Britain as writing letters in such a couple of cousins, my aunt, uncle and such. And I was loving it a first time that connected with them in a really, really long time. And they were really digging my letters and they’re like, oh, you’re really funny. And you And that kind of encouragement was really neat. And so I really enjoyed it. So I signed up for some creative writing night school classes here through the Toronto District School Board. And for the first time in my life, I’m like, wow, this is I’m a creative person. And then I ran into this world of writing short stories. And for the first time in my life, really seeing myself in a very different wing than I had, again, all throughout my teens and 20s. And I started did that for about two years. And at that end, I was like, I want to do something else. So in addition to so like the creative writing, I feel like there’s something else that I wanted to do and I just wasn’t quite sure what that was. I went through the course calendar of the transistor scoreboard, their night school classes. And going through it I landed on the theatre page, and I saw beginners drama and I got so scared and so excited at the same time. And this weird out of body experience, I can still see myself just building out the application. The night before registration was going to end. And just literally on a whim, I’m like, I’m going to do this I’m taking a giant risk and and, but it felt good. It felt like the right thing to do at that time, and I never did any drama or anything like that in, in in high school growing up. So then I did a beginner’s drama class, and I loved it. And I was terrified the whole time. It was so scary. His idea putting myself out there, I grew up my whole entire life. I’ve always been afraid of people. And I’ve only been people have looked at me, we’ve talked earlier about like people recognising me. But growing up, people would look at me and react to me, and I’m 47 and three quarters, so I’m pretty small. And I made your scoliosis and so I look different than most people. And people have made comments over the years and bullying and, and just led to feel that these differences were not good things and so that’s why I’m one Hide from the world and never felt comfortable, really around people. And so stepping into this world of acting, putting myself out there was such a gigantic paradigm shift of like, what if that very thing that you’re afraid of what if you lean more into that? And it wasn’t so crystal clear, it certainly wasn’t clear is that it was just like, this is so much fun. This is actually even more fun than drinking. And I don’t have a hangover from doing this, in fact, really good. And I’m connecting with other people. And that class in particular, remember, he was so wonderful. There was someone who worked at like the Pickering nuclear power plants.

There was a woman from India who English was a second language. I remember doing the scene like of like proposing to her and she just laughed and laughed and I couldn’t stop laughing. And like that happens a lot in improv scenes. People propose but that was like my first proposal scene. And, and because I was so young and she was much older, and it was, it was such a great moment. And it was filling me with wonderful positive experiences and in connection and spontaneity and, and those are so many things that I had missed in my life. And as an adult you know, I’d lived a very serious life in all of my friends growing up, were were on the fringes and so that’s how I feel like I can really identify with people that are like the underdogs or people that have experienced poverty and racism and, and discrimination and mental health and such. And growing up people I was confided in me, and I think it was always a good listener, wanted to listen and wanted to be empathetic to people and so those kind of experiences Rue was a bit The flip side to do performance so like we get to play pretend. So we get to have fun in. And that was, as I said something that had been missing in my life. So I did that class and I didn’t even tell anyone until about halfway through. I wanted to keep it secret. They didn’t it was so fragile. It was like incubating this and it didn’t want anyone to poke any fun or to say anything. I was very scared that somehow this could be taken away. And for the first time in my life, I felt like I found something that was unique to me. And that was so, so special and and then I signed up to do an intermediate class, but not enough people sign up for it. And so someone in that class is like, hey, you’re pretty good man. You should go to second city. In Second City, the one that we have here in Toronto and Chicago and LA. It’s like the world’s largest school of improvisation and sketch comedy and I grew up watching sctv both me and my brother loved it. CCV I mean, we could quote, a million of their episodes and something like Eugene Levy. I mean, just wonderful Martin Short and Catherine Heron, you know, Andrew Martin like it’s such a – such. Rick Moranis – I mean, the list goes on john candy first and

and that made a huge impression for me. And I’ve always loved comedy, but I was again too scared, and didn’t even think that that would be I grew up in a tobacco, which is a suburb of Toronto, and you don’t grow up in a tobacco thinking that you’re going to step into a world of comedy. Like, it’s just like, it’s a bit of a disconnect. If I grew up in Hollywood, maybe I was like, Hey, wait a minute. This is a possibility, but not Adobe go. But I was so happy that I found this world. And then I started taking classes at second city. It was about 16 years ago, I think, and it just never stopped. And that was it. I found it and I was like, This is such a giant. These are giant pieces of this puzzle that I’ve been trying to fit together my whole entire life. And now things start to make a little bit more sense. And it still feels a bit like a fever dream to be honest, because there was a lot of resistance even though I loved the classes, there was still a part of me that wanted to keep me safe that felt it was protecting me. So the idea of like, you could just stay home just stay here and play Grand Theft Auto. And, you know, it was it was predictable, but it was it was, I was on happy. And I I know that feeling of risking, and the exhilaration that goes along with that. And there’s usually a reward that comes from it. And I realised early on in my life is actually then, you know, the theories of improvisation of yes ending, you know, being open, saying yes to people’s offers and collaborating with others, because by default in life was to say no, because I was, I was always afraid. So I’m like, No, I don’t want to try this. And it was a way to protect myself. I realised that now. But also, I realised, through my level a class I’m like, wait a minute, I mean, I’ve been saying no to possible things that have could have changed my life in a good way. And now learning improvisation, the tools of improv I find spill into into your day to day life. And so as I said my default of saying no change to starting to say yes to things. And that was interesting. Very, very interesting because early on, I’m like, wow, this is like, I remember one of my, one of my friends in my level a class she was like, hey, join and go, we’re gonna go for some sushi. And my old Ken would be like, No, I don’t because I was very fun. Even with food, I was here to food. I was scared of trying different foods like so then I’m like, be gradually like, Okay, I will say yes. When Nancy. This time, I’m like, this is amazing. And so I started to try other foods. She, my friend took me to a Moroccan restaurant and Ethiopian restaurant, like I was like, This is great. And so those experiences, like wow. And that’s it, I give it I have experiences now I have, I have these very satisfying, very affirming moments and, and so that’s how I might my default of saying no quickly turned to saying yes. And I realised that that was just something that I just wanted to keep doing. And I wanted to have, I just wanted to play pretend I wanted to have these experiences. And with no intention of like, here I come Hollywood and it’s like, it didn’t exist. Like, I didn’t even have a cell phone back in the day. Like, that’s how much things have changed in in that time. And I saw myself change and I was learning the skills of improvisation but and it was fun. It was really just solid, wholesome fun, but at the same time, in a bigger way, I think I was really learning more about me. I was proud Seeing that I was my own training centre, in a sense, and it just felt good. And you know, I, I started working in career counselling. And as a career counsellor you try and guide people and help people uncover what your values are and what’s important to you and where your passions are and your skills and your strengths and all that. And I was realising that this world that I found on this world of improv the people in it were so lovely and so accepting, there was no judgmental It was like, people were coming up to me like after scene. And really, you’re really funny, or that was really good when you did this and, and that for the first time, I think in an incredibly long time, because I had no i nothing in my 20s there was no real positive feedback in that sense, you know, and, and so this was, again, just another opportunity to be affirmed of like, you being you as a good thing. And, and so that’s it. I just really fell in love with In, in in realised how much I can change as a person by just simply doing an improv class.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. You mentioned early on that you were flipping through that that the course calendar and and and the feeling that you had when you came across the theatre page the anticipated combination of fear and excitement Yeah, I often find and it’s it’s one of those things that’s that’s that’s difficult to make yourself do again you tend to say no to it the thing that scares you but also excites you sometimes the frightening you overshadows the excitement and it can be really easy to say no, but it’s important to listen to the Yes,

Ken Hall
yeah, absolutely. And that’s right. Like I love teaching adults. I teach a lot here in Toronto and a lot of at all the improv theatres like, Second City, Bad dog, social capital, the assembly and such. And one of my favourite things is like, again, helping adults to reconnect with the younger side and helping them To to refrain situations rather than because again, as adults, we get very serious and we get very, very into this fixed mindset of like, Did I do a good job? Did I do a bad job? And and a lot of the times we people put up their own obstacles of like, No, I can’t do it, or this word for these reasons. It’s easier to do that it’s easier to find conflict, it’s easier to to criticise. I think it’s a braver and stronger move to practice allowing and be like, well, what if, what if this can happen? For me, I’m playing a game I just lived in like I lived, what happens when you continually say no to things, and no two possibilities in your life, nothing changes. And I thought for a long time, that you know that that idea of like change was a bad thing. And resistant to change. It’s like, everything is always changing all the time. Nothing remains the same. It’s always changing. And the more that you can be cool with that, the more That you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable with the fact that everything is changing all the time is then there’s there’s a, there’s there’s a nice comfort within that there’s a paradox within that. And there because it’s satisfying. You’re like, Okay, great. I’m actually what if I if I flip on my nose to yeses? And of course, sometimes I’m like, we need to have a no, we need to set boundaries, we need to be like, No, I will not rob that bank with you. Like, I will say no. to that. That note could be a very great thing you know, but at the same time, it’s to realise whenever you say no, and when you say yes to things. And just as you’re saying, Phil, like, is it through fear? Are you saying no, from a place of fear? And if there it is, I just think it’s like, Oh, that’s interesting. Like, I know, there’s that part that wants to preserve us and it’s risky, but at the same time, realising like, life is too short to keep saying no to things and to leaning into those, those very things that scare us. I’ve talked to people that have done Skype And they’re like, oh man, improv is pretty much diving. for them. They have that and I’ve never skydive. But I’m like, I see that parallel and but there’s just, there’s so much more to be gained, I think from saying yes. To leaning into that fear to experience that fear without putting judgement on that.

Phil Rickaby
Now you’ve taken, you’ve done pretty much every major festival that I could see you’ve done. It looks like all the major Canadian fringe festivals, the Edinburgh Fringe and so many other sketch fringe was that with two men no show or was that with a variety of projects?

Ken Hall
Mostly, it’s probably with the two men no show with me, my best friend and comedy partner, Isaac Kessler. We formed 11 years ago as a duo for the Toronto Fringe Festival. never really played as a duo before. And Isaac got in and he’s like, hey, do you want to do a show together and like Okay, great. And about a month before we open We had no show. So, like, let’s be honest about that we don’t have a show so. And two days before we opened, we really didn’t have much of a show. We’re the skeleton of the show. And our background is an improv. And so a lot of our shows were like we had, we had an idea of where we wanted to go, but, but not like we change and, and so we would often, you know, say a joke. And if it doesn’t land with the audience, if it doesn’t work, we’re like, Okay, let’s try another one. Because the audience is different and very different. And we’re just so green and performing like we, we were learning very much as we went along, but that first show, did incredibly well. We got, you know, five ends from now magazine, which is the local weekly publication here that everyone really goes goes by and we got critics pick and patrons pick awards and sold out most of my run. So then we just start talking afterwards and we’re like, hey, people seem to really dig our style, and it’s Physical, it’s very, you know, breaking the fourth wall. It’s very cloud based. It’s very improv. And so that’s that’s when we started to play all these festivals which culminated in 2010 Oscar in Edinburgh, and we did 25 shows there for the month of August and that was an experience and, you know, so it’s in but I’ve also done like some 10 gentle fringes, whether it be a solo show or with other like improvisers, for example. But the prime the primary stuff has been, you know, Isaac, we’ve we love like playing festivals, and we love bringing our stuff to to an audience and we were in Sarasota, Florida last year, which was a really cool experience. We had to 45 minutes sets, just purely improv, but our version of improv is very different because we’re very plan based. So we’re like, when I got to Florida, I was like, Oh, yeah, I forgot. There was a lot of older people in Florida that may not really apply. reshade are absurdness you know, clown based humour. But that being said, we we really did a great job of endearing ourselves to the audience and to win people over. And we actually heard from the festival producer afterwards, that again, you know, with all the politics that’s happening in the world, and especially in American Florida, we brought people together and that’s a lovely feeling to be like, okay, we’re helping people with our unique brand of clown prov off the wall absurdist stuff, we bring the playing, we bring the fun, and that’s for everyone. It’s accessible for everyone. But yeah, so we’ve, you know, we played all over and, and, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a thrill to get to play with my best friend and also get to travel the world as well. It’s lovely.

Phil Rickaby
Whenever airboat the people mentioned that refrige they talk about, you know, doing it for a month and I keep thinking, I find doing a Canadian Fringe Festival like six, seven shows and like 10 days to be exhausting. I can’t imagine doing a show every day for 25 days.

Ken Hall
Oh, yeah, it was I mean, it was really a lot It was very humorous on our part to be like to go to the biggest Comedy Festival in the world, literally only just over a year there would have been it would have been 13 months that we’ve been a duo. And we’re like we’re gonna take our show there and and play wasn’t experience. Yeah, it’s a grind 25 shows that you don’t know. We had a late night show too. We had a Our show is at 1145 every night. And the average audience and for audiences for people because there’s three, there’s 3000 plus shows that are happening simultaneously. So how do you stand out like that? I mean, we we were above the average we I think we average about maybe 20 people on most nights and so that that’s great and but our show is very polarising and we? Our thing was like, either you like us or you don’t like us. And I remember this one show and for whatever reason Wednesday’s was not a good day is people were like, there was, I don’t know, middle of the week, people were kind of like, disgruntled and like, you know, what are you doing in a show at 1145? And let’s be serious, you know, that’s not nice. That’s not nice. But I remember this one show, we get the entire front row got up and walked out.

Phil Rickaby
Oh my god.

Ken Hall
Here’s the sort of younger uh guys in their 20s kind of thing. He’s had these beers and they’re just like, like, here in Canada, because they were like, so conscious of like, other people’s feelings inside. Yeah. Like, so that would be like, you just never we would suffer it out. We would be like wrong, you know, we’ll possibly leave at an intermission. You know, if, with apologies and being like, but there’s good neighbours, like, they got up and it was more of a discussion of like, yes, or you know, like, there is no subtlety whatsoever. That was in bro. I mean, that was that was a great experience. Right, it’s part and parcel of it. But you know, again, we’re not locked into a script. So we get to play with this right? Yeah, play with it. And sure we offered other people be like, does anyone else want to leave? We can help you out. You know,

Phil Rickaby
the I mean, the thing about about Edinburgh is, you know, you mentioned the 3000 3000 other shows. And if you’ve done just regular Canadian fringe, fringe festivals, you are completely unprepared because you can’t promote, again, 3000 shows by just going to lines and saying, Can I tell you about my show? That doesn’t work there?

Ken Hall
Yeah, we Well, I mean, we hired a producer and hiring that producer, got us a place to stay about three minutes with the two three minute walk from our venue, which was lovely. Our venue was actually at one of the better venues a very well known value, then you called the gilded balloon and also that much helped you hire a fire team. And so it wasn’t just me and Isaac and we were pretty tired by that, because we toured a lot of other festivals. So, you know, we did a tiny bit of firing, but the sort of magic of firing It was like, we’re kind of done with that, and we’re hiring a fire team. But that’s it, you know, it’s, there is a there is a way to do it. And I, you know, it’s, I kind of like it in a weird way. It’s almost, it’s a bit masochistic. And it’s like that first thing of like, you see a line, like 300 people lining up not to see your show, but to see someone else’s show. And you’re like, Okay, here we go. Just suck it up. And then you’re like, Hi, you know, I have my name is can I play this show? And dah, dah, dah. And then he’s just like, early on, you just start talking with people and you start to make them laugh. And I think most mostly, are like actually pretty receptive to it. They’re like, Oh, okay, well tell us about your show. And I think that’s the strategy instead of just blankly handing of, you know, Yeah, building audiences, there’s no interest, there’s no connection. So, you know, it’s just that getting over the initial self consciousness getting over the initial shyness. And then you just start to chat with people then you get to chat with three new people. And by the end of it, you’re like, you’re on a roll. You know? It’s that it’s that thing of, you know, when you’re like, Oh, I got to go to a party. I just don’t feel like talking anyone today. I stay home but then you go to the party and you’re like, What? You’ve had such a great time. And you’re like, but really last person to leave? Yeah, that party. So that’s what it is. But they said there is a bit of a, you know, there’s a bit of an art to pursue promoting shows and such. But I don’t that’s something that I’ve developed over the last several years and I had that down in, in in Edinburgh at all but it was a great experience.

Phil Rickaby
Um, just as we sort of start to move towards wrapping up I’m curious like one of the we were all in strange situations, with the Coronavirus and quarantine and all of that stuff. Um, what was your situation at the time that everything sort of shut down? And how have you been weathering the storm so to speak?

Ken Hall
Yeah, I so in the early to mid March, I was actually performing at an improv festival in Cape Town, South Africa. And so even in I flew from Toronto to Zurich, Switzerland had about 12 hours there. And but even then, the writing was on the wall, the talking to an Uber driver. They’re like, yeah, there’s hardly Not a lot of people around. So things were starting to get bad in Europe. And then, even when I got to Cape Town, I think I got to Cape Town on like the Tuesday or the Wednesday. And by the end of the festival, so the last night of the festival. I got back to my apartment that I was staying at. And I got an email from my dad. And he was saying, Yeah, the Canadian guy. mean is now asking all Canadians abroad to come home while you still can. Okay, well, that’s it. I was going to actually do a safari three Night Safari. After the festival in less than 12 hours I would have been on a plane flying to the other side of South Africa to do to do a safari with with my friends, but when I saw that, I’m like, Okay, well, that’s the decision made for me. And then we ended up kind of scrambling for flights to get back. And so thankfully, I got back to Toronto thinking like, okay, we’re gonna quarantine everything’s gonna be good in about 14 days. All right, we’ll see you later.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, we all thought we all basically thought that in a month, this will all be blown over.

Ken Hall
I could use the downtime I’m like, and there was just like, no, I the reading was on the wall that this is going to be something you know, more long term and such and it was hard. It was such an hard transition coming back that first week and being like I didn’t do anything that first week I think it was a bit kind of stunned you know, as we all were, as it was quarantine, I didn’t leave my house in seven days and I watched a lot of word documentaries and it was so upset It was not a good not a good not a good thing and but I think we all have to kind of go through a process and for me, I did a bit I started teaching a little bit Second City transition all of their in person classes to doing stuff online. And so that was a learning curve to wrap my head around this technology and being like, Can I can I’d never taught you know, online like zoom and Google Hangouts and trying to learn all this stuff. So it was a bit of a it was a learning curve for sure. What I’d been doing over the last two and a half months or so about three months ago, I guess I put up my social media. That I wanted to help people and as I said, I worked in the field of career counselling. They did that for about 10 years. And I know it’s COVID that you know, people got laid off got furloughed lost their jobs. So I wanted to put it I want to do something I want to help people and I really like helping and if I can’t be on the stage making other people laugh, then I’m I reflected on my blog about these skill sets. So you know, I can really maybe help some people that sir, pointed out in the social media, that I was offering free employment counselling or donation, only employment counselling, if people needed help with their resumes or cover letters or interviews or career transitions and things like that. And so a lot of people actually reached out to me and so that’s really what I’ve been doing for the past two and a half months solidly. I’ve just been My days are spent on in zoom meetings, doing career counselling with people and and I it’s been in a lot of ways it’s been really wonderful. I really like helping people. I like making a difference. And, and a lot of people are in an interesting place of making some big changes, I think in their life and what they’ve done up until now, maybe can continue in the same way. And so people are kind of this this whole collective, like, experience where it’s like, Okay, what you knew before is not happening. And so I think those distractions, I know, for myself as a performer, like doing multiple shows a week, teaching, you know, multiple classes, like there’s always stuff that fills our time but now within this like, again, self isolating, or social distancing in such there, that I think people have been sitting with their thoughts and feelings a whole lot more and going deeper in perhaps giving them selves an opportunity for introspection and being like, wait a minute, the things I’m actually doing. I’m not really happy with this. So maybe I want to make some changes and maybe now’s a good option. You need to make some changes. So as I said, I’ve been doing that a lot and, and even with my own self, it’s kind of like, what do I want to do? And what am I doing with my life? And what gives me more meaning what gives me more of an opportunity if I can’t physically, you know, be around people in the same way that a was before? What can they do to keep that connection? What can I, you know, what can they continue to do to, you know, to keep my creativity going, and I’ve been very lucky and very grateful for my experiences, I’ve been able to teach a lot. And, you know, in any game during the coaching has been, has been sort of a silver lining, I think. And yeah, that’s, that’s what I’ve been doing. And that’s how it was for me. And it’s still kind of like,

Phil Rickaby
it’s a pretty interesting situation that people are finding themselves in.

Ken Hall
Yeah, exactly. And there isn’t any end date. There’s not like, okay, November November 1, again, see you then kind of thing it’s, it’s, it’s still murky, and it’s still uncertain. I think generally we’re, we are in Toronto, we’re in stage three. So things are starting to open up and inside. So this it there, you know, and I always want to be an optimist, I want to be real, but I also want to be an optimist as well. And for me, I feel that there is that there’s always hope and, and, you know, again, I’m, I’m inspired by what other people are doing and, you know, connecting and, and, and, and working on ourselves and I think maybe for the first time like finding ways finding, it’s, it’s been kind of forced, but like finding ways of how we can look after ourselves better. And, and that’s something that I’m practising, you know, kindness with myself and compassion and being like, if I don’t feel like doing something today, then I’m going to get myself permission not to do anything, you know. And in I think that that’s, again, kind of like the silver lining within all of this. And so hopefully we get through this sooner. And I’m glad that Netflix is there. But umbrella Academy is there, because that’s been really lovely. I’ve lived in that world for the past week, and I’m like, I love it. And I so, you know, but that’s, I’m it. The other cool thing I actually will say too, is that I really enjoy teaching people. And not just people in Toronto, but like, I’ve been teaching people like improv dropins for example, I did one a few weeks ago, we’re one person who was zooming in from Tel Aviv. And so you know, I’ve talked with other people who are like, from like Melbourne or Melbourne, Australia and Sydney, Australia, as well. And it’s just like, it’s it’s quite nice that this is very global. And so there’s classes if there’s experiences that you want, again, it you don’t have to physically necessarily go to these places. You can do that online and So that’s again been something that has been a bit of a silver lining within this.

Phil Rickaby
Ken, Thank you so much. It’s been a great conversation. I really appreciate you doing this.

Ken Hall
I appreciate it. It was great chatting with you.