For Joe Amero, a social worker turned improviser, his biggest accomplishment is pursuing his dream of getting into comedy. “Walking out there with nothing and creating something funny or sweet or brilliant or whatever with someone is as good as it gets,” he says. “It’s pure joy.”
Joe started improvising three years ago. Born and raised in Toronto, he lives in Hamilton with his family and commutes to Toronto for work and for improv. He notes that his commute is filled with podcasts, reflective thoughts and endless tears. Here’s what Joe had to say about his journey in improv and what he has gotten out of it.
How did you get into improv?
When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I took her to see a live performance of Night of the Living Dead at Theatre Passe Muraille for her birthday. After the show we were walking and talking about life and it hit me, that’s what I wanted to do! After all the years of studying and paying my dues in the social services field, I forgot about my first love: comedy! Here we are talking about how we’re going to teach our kids to follow their dreams, and I’m just completely sidetracked doing what I needed to get by instead of what I truly wanted to be happy. The next day we were walking through Trinity Bellwoods Park and I found a tiny flyer for classes at Second City Toronto on a lamp post. It was a sign, literally, so I looked them up online. At the very last second, I chickened out and pushed the button for the comedy writing program since I had zero improv experience and figured I could check it out safely from there. I loved everyone I met there and would check out the long-form shows after every class. I was hooked! As soon as I finished the writing program, I signed up for improv level A and there was no turning back.
What has the journey been like for you after getting started in improv?
The journey for me has been completely amazing so far. I’ve studied with the best instructors, formed a troupe that has trained and failed and failed and succeeded together. We’ve travelled to festivals and had our own monthly show. I’ve made great friends whom I would have never otherwise even met and we’ve laughed and shared and created and played together. Plus, we’ve gotten to be a part of The Assembly since the very beginning!
That’s awesome! Can you tell us more about your troupe?
My improv troupe Pepperoni Pizza Cats was born in the long-form conservatory at Second City. We soon started our own monthly show, stuck together after graduation, and have played in festivals in Toronto, Detroit and New York City. We voted on the name, I lost, and I’m glad I did because people seem to love it as much as I have grown to. Pizza Cat is one of those things on the void that is the internet that makes zero sense, yet says it all, and is just for fun, which suits us perfectly.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?
My biggest accomplishment as an improviser is becoming one in the first place. Walking out there with nothing and creating something funny or sweet or brilliant or whatever with someone is as good as it gets. It’s pure joy.
Do you have any favourite scenes?
One of my favourite moments so far was at a workshop with Mick Napier. He said, “Improvising is the least important thing you will ever do in your whole life, or at least it should be.”
Great perspective! At break time, he told me I was pretty funny and I said, “Thanks! So are you.” He laughed.
How has improv made a difference in your life?
Improv has made an enormous impact on my life. It changed my entire way of thinking and dealing with people. I don’t get the same anxiety I used to (I get a different anxiety but I know how to use it for fuel) and I look forward to every day and every situation to see what crazy shit will happen next. I’m more curious about the world and how different people see it in different ways. I’ve also drank the Kool-Aid and I’m sure people see me as a proud improv nerd.
Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?
I remember a scene with my homie Bradley Tingle where one of us, or maybe both of us, messed up our word right off the top. We just dug in deep and did a whole scene that seemed to make perfect sense to us and the audience, in complete jibberish. It was awesome!
Where can we see you on stage?
I play as much as I can on my own at people’s shows in Toronto at The Social Capital Theatre and Bad Dog Theatre, where I’m currently studying. I’m on a house team in The Assembly called Pepperoni Pizza Cats and we play those shows all the time at SoCap, Comedy Bar and Cahoots Theatre. I also volunteer for Funnies For Families and so should you!
Is there anything else you would like to add or anything you would like to plug?
The Pepperoni Pizza Cats Show is the 3rd Wednesday of EVERY month at The Social Capital Theatre (3rd Floor/PWYC!).
Thank you for sharing your story, Joe!