The Sunday Service improv show has been happening every week in Vancouver for 17 years.
The regular crew consists of Ryan Beil (of A&W and V.I.A baseball writer fame), Mark Chavez, Aaron Read, Caitlin Howden, Taz VanRassel, and Kevin Lee but this past weekend (Dec. 11) they welcomed a couple of guest stars to the stage - stars being the operative word.
Actor Bob Odenkirk, fresh off his stint as the titular Saul in the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, stopped by the Fox Cabaret along with Cedric Yarbrough of The Goldbergs, Bojack Horseman and Speechless, and Nancy Robertson from Corner Gas.
The trio is in Vancouver filming their new TV show Straight Man and decided to flex their improvisation muscles with the locals. Odenkirk told the audience during Sunday's show that he likes to drop in at different improv clubs when he's travelling for work. In the past, he's performed at the Loose Moose Theatre Company in Calgary.
Robertson, a Vancouver TheatreSports alum, reached out to Beil to ask if she could recommend Sunday Service to Odenkirk while they were all in town and members of the Straight Man crew came along as audience members.
"I was nervous for sure," says Beil over the phone. "But once you get on stage, they're such great generous performers it just becomes improv again."
Beil managed to make the three laugh a few times during the performance, something he says he will "take as a badge of honour to [his] grave."
They didn't advertise the cameos ahead of time but whispers did get out into the community and the audience was very excited to see Yarbrough, Robertson, and Odenkirk.
Yarbrough and Odenkirk did a little Q+A session as well which the team used as the basis for their long-form improv.
There is a long-standing tradition of improv in Vancouver. It's perhaps even more abundant than stand-up. Beil, who also co-founded and teaches at Blind Tiger comedy school, says that there's a lot of "room for cross-pollination between" the groups and while he doesn't exactly know why there's such a rich history of improv in this city, he suspects it could be traced back to TheatreSports and its global success.