5 Questions for Daryl Olsen

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(Gary Hirsch [left] and Daryl Olsen as the amazing two-headed psychic.)

Daryl Olsen is the founding member of brainwaves improvisational comedy and long time Portlander. Daryl would also get my vote if they ever have a “Fastest Wit and Flat Out Funniest Person in Portland” contest.

In an earlier post I talked about brainwaves starting a run of shows to celebrate 20 years of improv comedy and after their opening weekend I had a chance to ask Daryl five questions. I thought I would share them with you.

ME: “When you first started the group [brainwaves] in 1986 did you ever think, ‘Yeah, I’ll still be doing this twenty years from now?'”

DARYL: “I’m not sure that I specifically thought ‘I want to do this for 20 years,’ but I knew that I wanted it to be a long-term part of my life. I remember the night that I stood up in a comedy class in 1986 and asked people if they wanted to form a group, I came home and wrote myself a letter that said I knew in my heart that if we committed to this it would be a special and successful journey. The first year saw many trials, as people from the class dropped out and we had to add new members, but I was glad I stuck through that tough first year.”

ME: “I know for years the group focused on touring, has that changed?”

DARYL: “From 1991-2001, we were focused on doing college tours. We showcased at College conferences and had agents booking shows for us. In early 2002, the economy went belly-up and we stopped doing so many tours. Also, the members of the group grew a bit tired of driving around in a van for a month in the Midwest. Since then we have become more focused on having a regular home and playing to crowds here in Portland. Also, doing more Corporate work in the NW. But, still, the occasional road trip comes up, and many of us travel with On Your Feet.”

ME: “Are Portland audiences different from other cities?”

DARYL: “We have an advantage with Portland audiences, since we all live here and can incorporate daily life into the show. At first when we started touring and playing at events like The Chicago Improv Festival, I worried that our show would not transfer to another city. But, we found that humor is universal. Our showcase in Chicago killed and we got a standing ovation.”

ME: “How does brainwaves differ from the other improv groups in town?”

DARYL: “I think what makes us unique is that we are a small ensemble. I like to think of us as a comedy troupe that just happens to do improvisation. I believe that our focus on having an equal gender count in the group is important. Any improv group that wants to survive has to have talented and confident women, who get as much stage time as the guys.”

ME: “Do you think brainwaves will last another twenty years?”

DARYL: “I hope so. I am as engaged and excited about this work now, 20 years later, as I have ever been. It would be hard to picture my life without brainwaves. Thanks for asking!”

The brainwaves 20-year anniversary run continues Fridays and Saturdays until December 23. Details here!

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