We talked with Artistic Director Corina Dransutavicius about loveable bros, the value of losing fights… and beating up Santa
Where are you from, and how long have you been with Sorry, Not Sorry?
I’m originally from Fort McMurray, but live in Edmonton now. Because when you grow up in Fort McMurray, you go Ah, this is not where I want to remain! I joined Sorry, Not Sorry in late 2015. But it had already been in existence since 2012.
I don’t imagine Fort McMurray has the most robust improv scene — or would I be surprised?
You’d be wrong! Absolutely wrong. So when I started doing improv, I started doing the French version, like with the referee, because I did French Immersion, and my grade school French teacher made us do French language improv. That was my first exposure. But I started doing it more in earnest in high school. The Canadian Improv Games is like a high school/junior high tournament for improv and it is a really super welcoming, wonderful atmosphere. And that’s where I started to really do improv many, many, many years ago. Then I went away to university, was the president of the McGill Improv Company, and came back to Edmonton and joined Sorry, Not Sorry.
When people think of Fort McMurray, I think they think of the camps. And yeah, if you’re out at the camps, there is not a lot of stuff to do there — it’s just like an eat-sleep-work kind of environment. But the city itself has a thriving arts community, and there’s lots of really cool things happening. Keyano Theatre does local productions there, and they have always been quite well respected in the community.
Is improv like stand-up comedy in that you always remember your first time on stage, and the hell that usually is?
Once a week on Fridays at my high school, we used to perform for the school during lunch. Those are probably my first memories, but I don’t have specific instances of my first show. But, when I was in high school, we used to do a 24-hour improv show. And that was stupid. And when I went away to McGill, they also had a 24-hour show and I was like, we’re not doing this. This is terrible and bad.
Like a literal 24 hours? That sounds insane.
Yeah, you know, those 3 a.m. scenes, a lot of them involve beds. But there’s a local group, Die-Nasty, that does like a 52-hour, improv soap opera. That one is wild. I would recommend to anybody who has even a passing interest in comedy or local arts check it out. They do 52 hours solid, and some people will do the entire 52 hours, which is bananas. They tell one story the entire run and it’s really cool. I’ve done it once myself, but I will not do it again, because I’m now an old person.
How did Sorry, Not Sorry develop All the King’s Men?
I joined in 2015, then in 2017 I started as artistic director. And we started playing around with different formats. One of them was All the King’s Men. It originally started with two of our female improvisers dressing up as men, so drag kings, and then just giving advice to the audience. Like the audience asks a question, then they answer it. The original title of the of the format was All The King’s Men, a Bro-Down Hoedown: Mansplaining with the Boys, which was kind of a long title. And from there, we had opportunities to revisit the format again over the years and it gradually grew into a dance and a lip sync show.
We’ve kept that element of advice giving and added more improv comedy elements. So there’s scene work, there’s improvised singing. We have a cast of five main kings, plus our accompanist, who is also dressed up as a drag king. We’re heading into the January show, and this one’s probably the biggest one we’ve ever done because we have dance numbers and stuff. So that’s sort of the history of All the King’s Men, which was originally developed by Glenda Schowalter and Shanni Pinkerton. They’re the two who are responsible for it. It’s kind of their baby and I just kind of helped guide them a little bit.
Do you know if there was there a specific mansplaining incident that sparked the idea in their minds?
I mean, everybody who’s cast in the show is a woman or non-binary, so we have all had the experience of having something explained to us where the person answers with confidence as if they know the answer, but they don’t. Or they are explaining something that we are already well aware of. I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was a specific incident that spawned the desire to do the show between Glenna and Shani, they’re just kind of poking fun at these characters, these over-the-top, overly masculine personas that some men feel the need to put on.
How does the audience participation work?
We have folks write out their questions on slips of paper, just so they can think about it before the show starts and don’t feel pressure to talk in front of a big group of people. The questions get drawn, we read them out loud, and then we have a very brief discussion in character because all of our different drag kings have their own sort of areas of expertise.
So for instance, Marq is our expert in relaxation and spirituality, and he constantly has a vape on him. My character won’t be in this show — he’s kind of based on this fellow on YouTube called BroScienceLife, which is a prime example of some great mansplaining — but his name is Rock “The Glock” Harding, and his specialty is in physical activity and going to the gym.
And we’ll talk about the question a little bit and kind of just riff back and forth, until we find something that inspires us to do a scene or to do a song. Generally speaking, it’s like a story from the guy’s life that is tangentially related to whatever the question happens to be. And it just progresses like that.
Can you explain the biggest differences between being a drag king and queen? Is it more than just less makeup and more comfortable clothes?
Oh, absolutely. So we play our drag kings a little bit more real, but there are absolutely drag kings who do big makeup — think 1980s rocker — where they wear tons of makeup and have fake floofy hair, and that in itself is its own sort of microcosm of an instance in time of masculinity.
The biggest difference is not the genders of the people doing it — because you can have female drag queens and you can have male drag kings — it’s really more along the lines of what aspect of this gender spectrum are you exploring and poking fun at? So drag queens poke fun more at femininity, and drag kings poke fun more at masculinity.
At a glance, there’s probably a lot of reasons that drag queens are more popular. Obviously, you’ve got really well-known international shows that are very popular, like RuPaul’s Drag Race, that exclusively feature drag queens. But I think to a certain extent, it’s also that the public at large is more willing to laugh at and make fun of women than they are to laugh at and make fun of men. You know, the blonde stereotype, right? I think that’s part of why when I say we do a drag king show, people are like, what? And there’s a lot of local drag kings who do more traditional drag shows, doing audience riffing interaction, and pure lip sync dances. We take a little bit of that, obviously, to do our show, but I would say it’s an improv comedy show first, and then the drag aspect is the second part of it.
Do you have a favourite celebrity macho man who inspires your inner bro?
So, I watch a lot of pro wrestling. And one of my faves right now is Daddy Magic Matt Menard in AEW. He’s not super well known, but he should be — he’s Canadian, and he’s a very good example of everything that I find funny about hyper-aggressive men, like Johnny Bravo. Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy is another example, where he feels big emotions, but he presents so like…rawr!
What do you like about Daddy Magic’s persona?
He’s just a very funny guy who’s very angry, but in a charming way. It’s a really hard line to sort of walk and a lot of our characters are trying to tow that line between kind of obnoxious, but also really kind of sweet. Inevitably, we always end up having at least one sort of segment that’s a little bit more down to earth and not as absurd. But then we also have scenes where we fight Santa Claus, so…you know.
Meh, Santa’s probably had it coming for a while. Are there certain funny things about masculinity that the show regularly goes back to?
Probably just the mansplaining, being overconfident with a question like, “Do you know how this works?” And instead of being like, no, I’ll Google it, it’s like, “I absolutely know how this works.” And that overconfidence I think is also why a lot of people think that men are funnier than women in general, because they have this bravado overconfidence. And that’s just funny to me, when people are like, really wrong, but they say it so confidently.
It sounds like you kind of have a soft spot for those types of guys.
There are a lot of unfair stereotypes that people assign to the ways people present. I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well, and there is definitely an opportunity, in some gyms, for a kind of a toxic, you-can’t-challenge-me-I’m-the-king ego inflation. But all the people that I train with, even though they look like they could crush your skull — and they absolutely could — are some of the sweetest, most thoughtful people. You just wouldn’t want to mess with them.
I very much don’t do Brazilian jiu-jitsu , but I’ve heard plenty of MMA fighters explain that in real life, they would do everything they can to avoid a fight. And I read a book about male rage where the author was saying how valuable it was, when he first started training, to just lose over and over while sparring, that he learned so much about himself and that it was actually spiritually freeing.
I’ve only been doing it for like a year and a half, so I lose all the time. Last night I tapped 10 times in five minutes. But you have options, right? You can look at that and ignore and deny and pretend it didn’t happen, or say your opponent had some unfair advantage, and push everything away from yourself. Or you can be like, actually, the reason I’m so hurt by this is because I’m erroneously assuming that I should be somehow better than this person…this person who’s been training for six years. That’s insane.
And there are levels to both the art of jiu-jitsu , the sport of it, as well as the internal growth that you have to go through when you are in what feels like a real fight, because your body doesn’t know the difference between a real fight and a fight where you can tap out. So there’s a lot of self-examination that happens, or should happen, in your real life. I think it’s also why you end up getting a lot of people who do Brazilian jiu-jitsu who don’t do that — your Joe Rogans, for instance, who I think might be a really good example of toxic masculinity and speaking as if he knows truth. I think it’s because these guys get to such a high level in jiu-jitsu, and they feel like they’ve got their ego so well checked when they’re on the mats, that they forget that you need to take that part to the rest of your life.
What is your character looking forward to in 2023, in terms of transformation or improving himself?
Well, he’s gone through a lot. He didn’t deal with the pandemic super well. He’s spent a lot of time self reflecting. The first times you saw Rock, he was a lot more… toxic, I guess. He had a lot stronger opinions of what women were supposed to do for him. And as he’s kind of entered into this year, he’s begun to acknowledge that there are people that matter outside of himself.
You know, I’m playing around with this character who is so ultra-focused on himself and self improvement, right? Gym Bros are a whole goldmine unto themselves, and that’s where I’ve spent a lot of my time as an adult, in sports and with the guys who go to the gym and ego lift, and rip their biceps off and all that kind of fun stuff. But his big growth has been largely finding that when he was finally on his own, and totally stuck by himself, that he was not doing so hot, and that he needed the community around him, like we all do.
Get your bro on January 14 at Evolution Wonderlounge.