Monday, March 2, 2015

You're Going To Meet Some People: Courtnee Johnston

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with Courtnee Johnston, who performs with Harold team Shake-A-Stick.

Mike Brown: Hey Courtnee!

Courtnee Johnston: Heyyyyyyyyy!

It's been ages!

I know! It's so sad.

So sad.

I need to see you more!

Yeah because we did the Conspiracy workshops together back in the day! Back in the day, a year ago...

I know. We were like the tightest team there ever was, seriously.

Oh my god. I still talk about that Level 3 grad show to people.

I know me too! It was the funniest time I've ever head. And was it Floyd [Alexander-Hunt, former Conspiracy performer] doing the news report as well?

Yep. Oh no, it was Tess [Dobre, former Conspiracy performer]!

Oh it was Tess too! And we were all grinding up on everything.

That scene with you and Lauren [McKenna, Harold Night team Bass Drum Kitten] where you were mapping stripper terms to a ice cream shop...

Yes. I thought we were in a strip club, and she thought we were in ice cream shop, and we said it at the same time.

And they both melted perfectly together, just like ice cream.

It was one of my favourite shows.

So yeah we know each other.

Very well.

Do people know you. Like how did you come into the Improv Conspiracy? Had you been performing before that?

Yes so I had been acting since I can remember. I had always been in drama, back home in Tassie, and I had always done tons of theatre back home, and musical theatre. And then when I moved to Melbourne, I went to 16th Street [Acting Studio], graduated there, and I really wanted to find something comedy because that's what I love, comedy and improv and everything like that. And Tess, happened to say she found Improv Conspiracy and do I want to do it. So if it wasn't for Tess I wouldn't have known, because I'm hopeless at social media. I feel like she did a stand-up thing and found out about Improv Conspiracy through that, I think that's how it happened. She asked me, and she also said it to Tim [Watson, Harold Night team Bass Drum Kitten], and yeah, the rest is history.

What's it been, a year and a bit?

Yeah, it's been a year since we've been in a team, and then did we start in June the year before? I think did we?

Around July-August 2013?

Haven't looked back.

Do you remember your nickname in that first Level 1 class?

Ohhhh. Did I say Captain?

Yeah Captain Courtnee!

Yeah [laughs].

I remember.

I love it. Captain Courtnee. We're you, I was going to say, Magic Mike? Is that right?

Yeah you got it! 


Yeah I remember saying it and our Level 1 teacher Andrew Strano said "oh yeah like the film!" and I had that moment of "I'm an idiot I hate my choice." [both laugh]

Nah I loved it.

How does improv compare to other acting you've done?

Really good, because I've always str- I love acting, but I've always struggled with having a script in the fact that I want to make stuff up. [laughs]

It's like "yeah this isn't good I can do my own thing."

I've always been the one, in school when there had to be speeches in assembly, if someone had to do a speech and they were sick on the day, they'd be like two seconds before "Courtnee can you do this speech, just introduce such and such to" "Yeah fine!" I'd just jump up and go on and on.

Do you remember any particular speech where you ad-libbed like that?

I don't remember what I said but I did it so often in high school. And I'd get up and sing songs acapella in high school, and- this was in front of a thousand people.

Oh wow you were in a big high school.

Yeah. Oh I may have exaggerated, but it was around eight or nine hundred.

[laughs] It's still big! 

So I would be singing and dress up in like Santa outfits and yeah-

Of course of course, you'd dress up in Santa outfits and sing. That makes so much sense.

Yeah. I always wanted to get up and say whatever's in my mind.

And improv is that outlet then.


Who was your celebrity crush when you were younger?

Ooh my celebrity crush when I was younger. Aww hmmm. Ok I've always been into music, so it's been like music people. OK so in music it's always been like McFly and Busted, which are English bands, and they've formed and become McBusted and I'm going to there concert in a few weeks.


And I feel like my fifteen year old self again and I'm going to go crazy, because they are all married with kids and I feel like I'm a teenager again. So I love them, I had posters of them all over my wall of those guys. And actors, I've always have loved Johnny Depp and I've always loved Steve Carell.

Those are some good choices. One going more comedic, one going more dramatic in both of those, switching lanes.

Yeah that'd be my crushes, but I probably would tell you another one in five minutes someone else would come to me as well. 

Alright you can interrupt the next ques-

Ooh! And Ryan Reynolds! 

Well ok that makes sense.

I'm like "he's so cute" and I find him really funny. And the kind of person- because I went to a serious acting school, and everyone's always like "oh I just loved The Flower That Bloomed," and that's a made up name, and they're all like really serious, and I'm like "I just want Ted! I loved Just Friends with Ryan Reynolds."

Back to the improv stuff - how do you balance improv life and your personal life? When you're not improvising, what are you doing?

What am I doing? I'm studying to be a teacher, and I finish that mid-year. That got really hectic, it never used to be that hard because I used to go to the university, but I also do it online. I find that I'm not super-, I've always been good at school in a certain way but I've never been super academic. I find it really tricky to do it online and not have any support in that way. So I do that and I also do kids parties. I dress up as all the princesses and pirates and fairies and clowns.

Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Carribean! Get that beard on.

Yep! So I do that, I'm a great looking Snow White but I'm a terrible looking Cinderella, I'm like Cinderella from the ghetto. I have like these black eyebrows and this blonde wig. And then I'm always trying to find stuff filming and writing and stuff like that so.

Let's go back to the kids parties that you're doing. What's been your experience in terms of improving in those? Is it all improv?

Yeah kinda. Just like a Harold you have a structure but every kid's different, and they can be like a real shithead of a kid-

[scoffs, laughs]

And you're like "arggggg" but you have to be like "oh hey Simon come up and help me" and try and get him on your side. Or what I do is I have like this party parachute and I-

A party parachute.

Yeah and we all hold on to the sides and like "yay!" throw it up and down and I go under it, and as soon as I go under it I'm always like "Right! You, you behave!" because then no-one can see me telling the kid off. So yeah, there's always lot of improv in that because some of kids can't get into the game, are really like "oh I don't want to play," and then you gotta make 'em play.

What characters get requested the most?


Ahhhhh. Of course!

So I'm playing Elsa, and Princess Anna a lot! And also clown. When I say clown I don't look like a clown, I'm just myself in colourful clothes with no facepaint. 

Do you have a no photos policy for those gigs?

No it's company policy to get a photo with every one with the kids. So if you look on Facebook you'll see a lot of photos of me dressed up in a lot of things. Not that I put up, that my company puts up.

What's the last thing that you fanned out over?

Ok I'm really into Tom Fletcher, and Giovanna Fletcher, which is Tom from McFly, he does blogs and I just get crazy about that. And then I have to tell Toby my fiancé everything about them, and then I go on about how dreamy they are, like all of the boys are, and I'm going to fangirl real hard at the concert.

So they write blog posts?

Yeah and do vlogs, videos. Giovanna does a blog and a vlog, so I read her and they've just had a little boy called Buzz. And I just like, "this is great". And Tom does vlogs about his life and like with the band, and I just love them. Because, I'm not a party person and I love that these guys, they're a good band and they do very well in England, but they're still married with kids and have very chill lives, I feel like I can relate.

Yeah sound very grounded. You're talking to your fiance Toby, "we could learn from these guys."

And Toby, he does music, "we could be like them." So yeah I fangirl over anything McFly, and I'll fangirl at the concert. It's going to be the best.

I really hope you have a good concert.

Oh that reminds me, I also went to a Motley Crue concert and really fanned out over that. I got spat on by Nikki Sixx cause he drank out of his drink and sprayed it all over the crowd, I was really close, I thought I was going to die.

Oh you were in the pit?

Yeah me and Toby were in the pit, I thought I was going to die but I didn't.

What's a Motley Crue pit like?

It's insane. You're literally like this [tightens up body, covers face with arms], getting smushed. So Nikki spat his drink all over everyone and I was "I'm not washing this top ever!" I have a real broad musical range - I love Motley Crue and I love McFly.

Do you remember any particular scene or show where you felt personal growth with your improv? You were in a number of shows with your old team Foggy Windows, where you did some incredible things.

Thank you. We did this show once that was a back-to-front Harold.

So you started with the third beat?

We started with one scene as a group, and then we did three group games, and then a second beat scene and three group games and then like that. And I thought that was soooo much fun. Yeah I loved that. 

You know I probably have felt growth as well in this team I'm in now Shake-A-Stick, because in a way I was put out of my comfort zone and I had to step up a bit. Because I think in Foggy's I got really comfortable where I knew if I wasn't doing so well..

The more senior players would have your back?

Yeah that kind of thing. So I kinda guess I wasn't always stepping up to the plate. Because we're a new team and still finding each other, I find I'm being more on the ball. So I feel like I've done a lot of growth in this team because second beats and just getting out there more I guess.

You mentioned this reverse Harold. How important are you finding the structure now that you've been doing it for a year.

Every week you're learning more and more.

You experiment, things don't go the way you see them go in your head.

Exactly. Yeah and that's it, and I realise I've gotta stop planning in my head I guess. So I've learnt a lot.

What do you do to relax?

I love to read, and it's two things. I love reading like war books and stuff. When I say war books I mean partially true and partially made up like with fake characters, that kind of thing. I love watching really trashy TV. Like I'm a huge fan of Girls of the Playboy Mansion, [Keeping Up with] the Kardashians, The Hills, Kendra on Top, and I love reading Who Magazines but never believe anything until you read it in Who. That's because Who is the only magazine that's a trashy magazine but actually tells the truth.

Oh really?

Yeah every other magazine makes up stories before they hear it from the source.

When did you work this out? I'm curious, because this isn't something I know.

Well People magazine in America, and Who magazine, they are sister magazines. So People only tells when they have it from the source. I think my older sister told me because we both like to relax in the same way by reading Who magazine, so I guess I learnt that from my older sister. [laughs].

She was the one who-

Yeah she passed that wisdom on!

"I'm going to tell you the secrets of celebrity and it all starts with this Who magazine!"

I really wish all my academic stuff stayed in my head as well as all of my stuff about a celebrity. 

You'd find it more useable?

Yeah. I know so much about celebrities it's ridiculous. 

What's something you know about a celebrity that you don't think anyone else in the Conspiracy would know?

Let me think. One thing. 

Something very random.

I know like... I did a scene about Playboy and I know for a fact that Barbi Benton was Hugh Hefner's only brunette girlfriend.

[laughs] What!? Wow.

So that's something. And I know that they have a daughter and she lives in... Alaska?

Of course, because when you're hanging out at the Grotto nice and warm you want to go somewhere cold.

So I know that. I know heaps of celebrities birthdates, I know their children's names, I know where they were born, I sound like a crazy stalker. That's just stuff that I learn from Who. I know their baby's weights. 

Of course! Of course that's useful information.

It's actually really stupid what I know.

That's tremendous. Looking back to that day one of level one, Captain Courtnee. What's one thing you've learnt in doing this for the last fifteen, sixteen months that you could tell yourself of day one of Level 1?

Oh that's a good question. I have learnt I guess don't take yourself-, don't bash yourself up if you do a bad, if you feel like you've done a bad show, because you're always learning. No matter how long you've done it or how good you think you are at it, you're always going to have a bad show and learn from it, the bad things are what you learn from really. So I guess that, because I'd beat myself up about a lot of stuff back then.

One of the cool things is, no-one dies, tomorrow you wake up and then it's only six days until you do it again, or three days until you do it again.

Exactly. This week no-one will be, "oh she had a really bad show last week."

Yeah there's no continuity, you get to wipe the slate clean. It's kind of refreshing isn't it?

Exactly. And even if you had a bad show your teammates might not have.

You have to celebrate the successes as well.

That's exactly right. That's what I would probably tell myself, my year and a half self.

Would you tell them about the replay Harold? The infamous Foggy Windows replay Harold?

Yes. Oh my gosh that one was hilarious.

What do you remember of it?

So when we were like talking to the audience about everything?


All I remember is myself being confused, like "oh god am I supposed to talk," all I remember is being confused but I still had fun.

[both laugh]. I actually forgot about it until now.

Truth or dare?



Why? Um, because I guess I'm really good at talking, and I'll tell you anything, I'm not very private in that way, I'll just go on and on and on. But dare, I never want to bungee jump or skype or want to hurt someone or like make fun of someone to put them down, so I'd be scared that a dare would be that.

You don't sound so much scared of doing a dare unless it's something that you can't control.

Yeah, exactly. I like to be in control in a certain sense. Although I like driving fast cars. 

Oh really?

Not in like a road, on a race track or something like that. I like speed.

Is that something you have done?

Yeah well my dad used to be a dune buggy rider so we used to always do that, and he used to always take us go cart driving as well. We did that a lot when I was little.

Do you see that as a career path?

You know maybe, if I knew I was going to win [laughs].

If you got the guarantee that you were going to run first. "Oh yeah these go carts are great!"

I know. I would do very well when I used to race people, I would come first a lot. So... but I'm really good at saying that I'm good at something when I'm not that great. Toby tells me all the time, I'll be like "oh yeah I'll drive a boat!" 

I'll drive a boat! [laughs]

Because dad used to drive a boat and I held the wheel once, so in my head I'm a professional at it. So like I have to be careful because I'll say I'm good at things that I'm not necessarily great at. But I was pretty good at driving a go cart, I just haven't done it in quite a few years. So I shouldn't toot my own horn, if that's a saying.

Invite Courtnee out for a go cart race sometime soon.

Yeah Toby really wants to do it but I'm too scared of it, and I really want to believe that I'm really good at it. So yeah.

We always have a question from the Improv Conspiracy student group. Matt J asks: Why u do the prov? Why do you do improv?

I do it because I love it. I love to be put on the spot and see what my head comes up with, and I love to make people laugh. I think that's what- I've always grown up with Steve Carell and Martin Short and Steve Martin, and so all my favourite movies are with Steve Martin and Martin Short, so ever since I was little I wanted to like ah, they make people laugh and I just wanted to give that to someone. Whether it was one person, just that is what I want.

Have their been nights where you have came out of a show where you know that you have made someone laugh and felt like the greatest person in the world.

Yes. I love it, if one person laughs real hard, I've done it, I've done my part and I've made someone's night.

That's your personal dare, getting someone to laugh.

Either at me or with me, whichever one I don't mind.

We have a question from the last person interviewed, Tim Quabba. Tim asks: What was the last dream you can remember having?

The last dream I can remember having is a really good question because I haven't dreamt that well in the last few days. 

Are you a dreamer?

I am a dreamer, I do dream a lot, and I dream a lot when I can't remember when I wake up and then sometimes I can remember. Hmm, what's the last dream I had, let me think. Awww! I remember. It's about McFly and McBusted.

Of course! You're very excited about this concert.

I know, tell me about it. I was actually apart of the group, I was one of the girls, OH and I was like, k, because I gave one of the girls, I gave Giovanna which is Tom's wife some Nutella, because she loves Nutella and we have to be best friends. And then I woke up and I was so devastated. And I said to Toby "wouldn't it be amazing if I woke up with some Nutella in my hands and she woke up in London with Nutella in her hands, and we kind of found out that we were in that dream together and that dream was kind of real."

Can I ask you something.


Did you ask that to him with the same context that you gave me? 'Cause if you got up and were like "Hey Toby, wouldn't it be amazing if I woke up with Nutella in my hands?" I would be like "What are you talking about!?" [laughs]

Yeah, I pretty much said it exactly like that.

That's incredible. [laughs]

So that's the last one I can remember but I have crazy dreams.

We're getting signals hear to cut it off.

I know. [laughs]

So what question do you want to ask to the next person being interviewed?

I want to ask them, what's their pet peeve?

What's your pet peeve?

My pet peeve is when people drive really slow or don't indicate I get massive road rage, OR Toby does it all time, he clicks his nails when we are watching movies. That's all I hear and I'm like nuh, hate it.

Have you been trying to cut that out in the house?

Yeah I smack him every time.


He gets smacked every day. 

You just hit him!?

Yeah. So that's my pet peeve. They're mostly for everyone, but for everyone it's slow drivers or don't indicate. Or people who cut you off, who zoom in front of you and get in front of you and slow down. If you're going to do that, just speed.

Just speed.

Yeah. Idiot. 

That's your message to people - just speed.

Yeah. Speed, but the speed limit, but not too fast. But if you're going to be a dickhead and get in front of me just speed, don't piss me off. I get road rage. [laughs]

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