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By Paige Vonk

Working on German double-sided cat puzzles is how the Carleton Improv Association (CIA) prepared for competing against uOttawa’s improv club at this year’s “Cracking Up the Capital” event.


This was the second annual “Cracking Up the Capital” event and the University of Ottawa won once again and took home the coveted “Bucky the Beaver” trophy.


With over 10 improv games played and up to 10 points awarded by the five judges for each game, the final score was 189 for CIA and 203 for uOttawa imorov.


“Cracking Up the Capital” was started by John Helmkay and Jim McNally 10 years ago. It’s an Ottawa-based festival to help support mental health.


“We didn’t want to just do four nights of stand up comedy,” said Helmkay.


That is where the involvement of Carleton and the University of Ottawa came from. It was a great way to involve more youth, said Helmkay.


This year’s competition was hosted by former Red Green Show star, Patrick McKenna.

“This is all about mental health and there is such a high amount of teen suicide in the Ottawa area that this is really the groups we should be talking to,” said McKenna.


The show consisted of jokes about diarrhea, Rob Ford and Miley Cyrus. CIA started off the show by winning the coin toss and told a story about Bucky the Beaver playing polo but everyone could only say one sentence at a time.


Other games included an interrogation scene where the interrogators give hints to the accused as to who he is supposed to be until he can guess and a scene with three people where someone must always be sitting, standing and lying down.


“I think what really lost us was the first two scenes,” said Ryan Pickering, a history major from Carleton. He says they were just difficult scenes but both teams had some great moments. “I really liked the ball wrecker song but that might be biased because I sang that. I liked [the University of Ottawa’s] time jump game with the Tim Hortons.”


Both teams practice for shows like these by playing games and becoming well versed with how their other teammates think and react. Wendy Liau, VP external for CIA, says they critique each other and do workshops to try and improve.


“We work on the fundamentals of improv which include platform, rising of action, conflict, solution and resolution,” said Kristine Shadid, VP external for uOttawa improv team.


McKenna says he can see the benefit of improv for mental health as someone who has ADD. People can just be themselves without having to edit anything about them.


Helmkay and other organizers are talking about expanding “Cracking Up the Capital” and doing a festival in the summer as well as on a more national level.


The competition will be back again next year and both teams are already excited.  “We look forward to fighting them next year,” said Pickering.