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Comedy Business - Roger Haskett: Improv, Pranks and Passion

Roger Haskett: Improv, Pranks and Passion
Photo:Fabrice Grover

Creating his own opportunities in a market which recently saw the closure of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre has been a hallmark of Roger Haskett’s career. Roger Haskett, a journeyman actor with television and film credits, is not a household name but it is one which any event organizer or party planner in proximity to Vancouver should hear about. Haskett is an actor, writer, producer and the driving force behind the two decades old Actors Unlimited Entertainment. Actors Unlimited Entertainment provides a host of truly unique entertainment services to corporations and individuals. In a city which, from an acting standpoint, is a branch office of Central Casting Haskett and his entrepreneurial entertainment exercise has survived and grown into a company that still does dinner parties while also doing events for giants like Toyota, Telus and Disney Cruises.

Roger started the company in 1992 just after leaving acting school and found that it was not easy to find work doing what he loved to do: performing his own work. He started by doing murder mysteries and other projects that just came out of his head. He focused on interactive entertainment and improv because he excelled at it and loved doing it.  He writes and produces almost everything Actors Unlimited does as well as branching out recently to write for television. Despite the trials and difficulties over the years learning to be a producer, entrepreneur, owner, employer as well as an actor Haskett still loves doing it all.

While most of Actors Unlimited work is in Vancouver it is not limited to Vancouver. Haskett has taken jobs in other parts of Canada and the U.S.A. but never outside of North America. Haskett remarks that Actors Unlimited actually serves “A huge international group because Vancouver has become a massive conference center.” Haskett has dealings with European and Asian clients as well as North American clients.

One of the advantages of being in Vancouver is that “It’s not that hard to find incredibly talented people to work with and to hire for my company because we have world class entertainers here.” Haskett’s Actors Unlimited was at Disney Studios in 2005 as part of the ASCAP workshop where they won the competition with their musical Franklin Falls. It was, to Haskett’s mind, a clear indication of the talent available in Vancouver that doesn’t have the outlet available other than American productions shooting in Vancouver.

Actors Unlimited Show
Photo:Rob Sondergaard

Actors Unlimited specializes in small entertainments while still serving large venues. Haskett says that about 60% of their work is for small groups in an intimate interactive performance. It isn’t stand-up comedy but it is comedy that is designed to make everyone involved, performer and audience feel special about the performance. Actors Unlimited offers game shows, improv shows, murder mysteries, celebrity spoof a likes, master commentators (who know nothing about which they are talking) and undercover prank division featuring undercover waiters, friends, couples, conference goers all of whom start things off normally and slowly devolve into the bizarre and ridiculous through the event. The most creative efforts are sometimes put out on custom jobs like one which Actors Unlimited undertook to explain the “Life of a File” for employees at a company and came up with a 30 minute sketch to explain the entire file life process in that particular company.  Acting is a field of endeavour which has a larger than normal share of the underemployed it is a condition which Haskett with his entrepreneurial passion has avoided and helped others avoid as well. Live improve, sketch and prank comedy has been a key part of Haskett’s career and going forward it may well be the key part of many other’s careers as the company keeps growing to meet the needs of a corporate and private public that is always seeking new ways to engage their clients and guests.

Denis Bernicky

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