Naomi Sniekus: One to Watch
Back in October at the 2010 Canadian Comedy Awards, in a stunning green dress Naomi Snieckus won Female Improviser of the year. The crowd’s eruption was genuine because she’s one of the funniest and most gifted improv performers around, not to mention one of the hardest working.
Her industriousness stared early as she moved from Ontario out to BC, and balanced working in theatre with running a film production company. And then came an opportunity which would change the course of her career forever. The famed Second City was holding auditions, but they wouldn’t see her. So she crashed, and was hired almost on the spot.
“I’m a huge advocate of crashing,” says Naomi. “My 1st professional job was one of the spirits in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. And I crashed those because they wouldn’t see me for that either.”
5 hit seasons at Second City showed it was a great decision.
A familiar face on Canadian television and commercials, she plays regular gigs in Toronto, along with her partners in comedy, The Carnegie Hall Show and National Theatre of the World.
Now she’s on her way to Europe to perform with Improv performers from all over the world. There’s no hiding her enthusiasm when she says “It’s gonna be great. Improv is like a common language. I mean, we’re going to improvise with the Japanese. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be something.”
So I need to ask, what’s the difference between Sketch Comedy, like Second City, and Improv? Is it really just that one is scripted and the other is being made up as you go along? The answer is a resounding yes. Says Naomi “in Sketch Comedy, you’re working in the moment to come up with a final product. In Improv the moment is the final product.”
I tell her it must be fun to be able to play for a living. She laughs, but then gets serious when she tells me about coming out after a Second City show one night to find a woman crawling around the audience on all fours.
“She was looking for her ticket stub,” said Naomi, “because she wanted a memory of the show, and I thought that’s amazing. We are blessed to do what we get to do.”
Then she adds “There’s a level of this industry that’s comforting in a way, because we know we can survive anything. When the recession started, people were so worried about losing their jobs, and I’m like ‘we lose every job we have.’ And you get used to it. So I feel like we’re a little bit more buoyant and if we hit hard times, we can figure it out, and make it work, and there’s nothing wrong with it. It feels a little empowering that we have that. We’re creators, so you hit hard times and you go create something.”
I ask her if she has any advice for someone who’s thinking of starting a career in comedy.
Without skipping a beat she replies: “Do your work and start stuff. Don’t wait for someone else to come along and start it for you. Anything’s possible, just go do it. It’s like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger and better it gets.”
And her muscle is pretty strong. She’s on her way to England this week, for the “London 50 Hour Improvathon” and then on to Amsterdam for the “International Improvisation Theatre Festival“.