Meet the face behind Victoria’s Garden City Comedy school
Kevin Matviw is a Victoria kid who moved to Toronto in the mid-2000s to pursue his improvisational comedy dreams. He performed there for well over a decade. He’s back in Victoria now and started Garden City Comedy, a school for improvised comedy, in 2021.
I’ve just finished taking Matviw’s 101 course where I learned improv fundamentals like making and accepting offers, “yes and,” and establishing the who, what, and where of scenes. After class, I sat down with him to talk about his comedy roots and his vision for Garden City Comedy.
Based on the stories you’ve told in class, you got your start in traditional theatre, correct?
I wanted to be a dramatic actor, so I went to an actor film college that doesn’t exist anymore. That was in town in Bastion Square: The Canadian College of Film and Acting … There was an improv part of that class and I realised how much fun it was. I had a teacher from that school encourage me to go to Toronto and pursue acting at Second City.
Did you start by taking introductory classes at Second City?
No, I actually started taking classes at the Bad Dog Theatre. I went to Humber, it’s like a school for “comedy.” I had a teacher that was encouraging me to take classes outside of the classes that I was getting in Humber because I wasn’t really satisfied at the time, and he recommended Bad Dog as the place to be … Luckily one of the teachers of that class was also one of the producers of Theatresports. Based on my stuff in the class, he asked me to come to do Theatresports, which is their main stage show at the Bad Dog, as a swing, meaning I was kind of an understudy … I was [taking] classes, as well as doing the rehearsals for Theatresports once a week and performing pretty early on, which is great, because you need to do it like three times a week to get good at it.
Did you graduate from Humber?
I dropped out within a year, and I was like, ‘I don’t like this anymore.’ I felt that I was learning more and getting stage time [outside of Humber].
How long after you first started your classes did you get to be up on stage with a real audience?
Right away. At the Bad Dog there were a lot of opportunities for students to play, which is a great idea really because it dispels the mystery of that if you have any trepidation about doing it. So yeah, I was taking classes and I would do a show called Midweek Mayhem, which was just for anybody to show up and go up and play a bunch of games.
So generally the way the process works with Second City is you take all the courses until you get to the max level and then at that point are you open to audition for these other things?
That’s the idea, I never took a class at Second City until I already started working there, because when I was working there I got them for free. So I did classes at Bad Dog and then through that sort of built my reputation enough … The promise of taking classes there and then doing the conservatory [is that] theoretically they’ll put you in the show. But there are so many examples of that not being the case, and [of] people doing their own thing and auditioning and getting it.
Explain your vision for Garden City Comedy and how people can get involved?
My plans are to continue teaching classes. I have beginner classes all the way up to level 401, which are more performance-based … 101 gets you warmed up, used to the idea of following your impulses, of working collaboratively. And when you get to 401, I’ve designed it so it’s getting people ready for being in Garden City Comedy shows, which I want to do more of. There’s the monthly pro improv comedy shows where I bring folks from Second City or elsewhere into town and perform with them. I also have another short-form improv show that I have cooking, but I don’t want to say what it is yet.
Are you planning on staying in Victoria? Rightly or wrongly, Victoria has not always been viewed as the greatest place to pursue comedy professionally. Are you planning on investing in the school long term?
Ask me on any given week and my answer will be different. But the way I’m approaching it is I’m doing it like I’m going to stay here, even if that ends up not being the case, because I don’t believe in half-assing things. The more that Garden City Comedy grows, the more inspired I am and the more inspired I am by the students, who are amazing. And I feel like the shows are starting to happen. My biggest thing is I’ve missed performing on a regular basis. I was performing like three to five times a week for a few years and I think there’s potential for that to happen here. I want to see what the future holds.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.