Christina Muehlberger and Ryan Mulligan are hosts of the podcast Scene Partners. As they put it, it’s a show about improv and standup comedy, pop culture, television shows, movies, relationships and life. They bring a witty chemistry to their conversation that adds to the flow of show as well as the interviews they do while on the air.
They recently peeled back the curtain on their lives to share some stories and anecdotes on what it’s like to perform improv comedy around town and how they want to highlight some of the wonderful, and sometimes hidden, local talent. And right off the bat, it quickly became apparent during the interview that much of the information in their responses were going to be sprinkled with a generous helping of humour.
Apt613: Good afternoon Christina and Ryan, thanks for joining me. Can you please start off by telling our audience a bit about yourselves?
Christina: Oh jeez… like I just get to tell you anything about myself?! … hmmm could you tell the Apt613 readership that I look a little like Jessica Alba, from my left side. I would really appreciate it, because it’s a really defining feature of who I am as a person!
I’m also super awkward, really tall, I breath with my mouth—another feature I find really distinct about me… I also grew up on Vancouver Island and went to university in Nova Scotia because I didn’t really know how to choose a university, as I couldn’t afford to travel far from home. And so alphabetically, Acadia is the first University on the list of Canadian schools and is the only one I applied to first, for that reason. Then I moved to Ottawa for grad school about seven years ago and I haven’t left. I took Political Economy in university and dropped out of a PhD in Sociology. And I work for a union now and I use my degree every single day.
Ryan: I also am awkward, but I like to think of myself as the cool awkward, whereas Christina is the awkward awkward… I’m from Regina, Saskatchewan originally. I actually lived in a small town of fifteen thousand (people) then moved to Regina and all my friends from the small town were like: “You’re the big city kid now, you’re changing, you’re too cool for us,” but I’m still waiting for that to happen.
I moved to Ottawa about seven years ago to work and I love it here. Christina and I started doing comedy about two and a half years ago, so we’re still relatively new to the comedy world.
How did you two meet?
Ryan: We took improv class together…
Christina: … I introduced myself (to Ryan) and he was like: “you’re so funny.” And I said: “thank you, you’re just okay… you have this awkward thing about you.” And then I would say we were pretty much best friends from then on in, right Ryan?
Ryan: …that’s all exaggeration, but we really did take improv class together at the Ottawa Acting Company. We both took class and ended up doing a lot of scenes together and we thought, “oh we should both take another class together”… and after that we just tried to take opportunities to try and perform together.
What made you take improv class in the first place?
Christina: I was just working ridiculous hours, like 7am to 10pm most days. So I was just exhausted and had no work life balance. I needed something that I have to go to every week and can’t drop to stay at work and thought why not try improv as I’ve always loved making people laugh, I really love acting and trying out characters and stuff, so it seemed like a good fit.
Ryan: I had taken improv for like a minute in high school. I’d tried it and liked it, but was cut from the improv team so I forgot about it after that. But then I got to a point in life like Christina… where I had a day to day job, but needed something where I could explore all these acting and comedy dreams I had. I’d always loved performing, like I was in a band before but never got a chance to do (perform). So I really wanted to get on stage again and have some fun.
So how did your classes transfer into live performances?
Christina: At the end of all of our classes, we got to do a show… and I was addicted to improv right after the very first class. I think improv is recess for adults and nothing is more fun than doing improv. But doing improv in front of an audience is like no other experience. The adrenaline rush you get from having to make things up on the spot and trust the other people you’re on the stage with and hearing fifty people laugh at something you just thought up that second is a rush…
I think improv is recess for adults and nothing is more fun than doing improv. —Christina Muehlberger
Ryan: …yeah, I totally agree and you do get addicted to it quickly and you’re next thought is how can I do that again and get that rush again because it’s addictive making people laugh. The concept (of improv) is to go into a scene and make your partner in the scene look good and your partner is trying to make you look good and everybody is into that and it’s a real team effort… it’s incredibly energizing and fun.
How did you two decide collaborate on a podcast?
Ryan: Well, for me, it was two things: it’s hard to get stage time on Ottawa as there isn’t a huge scene here, and the other side is that Ottawa actually has a very great scene with very talented people. So I think we saw this as an opportunity to both push ourselves, grow ourselves as comedians as well as profile what’s going on in Ottawa and profile all the funny people we come across work in the scene.
Christina: …I think that captures it for me as well perfectly. I think it’s so hard to get stage time and working out those muscles, because a podcast is essentially all improvised. We’re just having a conversation, it’s about us thinking through comedy and trying to figure out what’s funny so we get to work those muscles a bit, in between shows.
What do you hope to get out of your podcast?
Ryan: Like Christina was saying, it’s an improvised podcast… so we need to be funny and draw people in and I want to keep getting the same high I get out of improv, which is to make people laugh. And I want to be able to bring on, honestly, some of the funniest people we’ve met who are right here in Ottawa, who have a job, and are then finding time to perform. There are funny people in the city that are part time comedians, because that’s how you do it in Ottawa. And we just want to recognize these really funny people…
Christina: …yeah… I think that sums it up nicely.
You can listen to Christina and Ryan’s podcast Scene Partners on iTunes and Google Play. Catch them live with their Improv Group “A Little Awkward” on April 11 at Irene’s Pub. Follow them Twitter @scenepartners and Instagram at @scenepartnerspodcast.