The Second City couple putting on an improv show from their home

How actors Paul Bates and Christy Bruce met, married and now isolate together

In times of despair, a little bit of comic relief tends to bring some much-needed happiness. Thankfully, The Second City is doing just that. All three locations are coming together (Toronto, Chicago and L.A.) for a live-streamed improv show called Improv House Party. The first show streams tonight.

The improv show will feature teams of married couples (who also happen to be Second City alumni) that are isolated together who will take suggestions online and create a Second City improv set. Some of the familiar Toronto faces you’ll see on the show are host Sandy Jobin Bevans, and couple Aurora Browne and Kris Siddiqi.

The other local couple in the show is Paul Bates, known for CTV’s Dan for Mayor, and Christy Bruce, known for The Handmaid’s Tale. We caught up with the pair to find out their backstory.

How they met

Paul: I’m not sure when Christy and I first met. But the first time I can remember us talking is when she was in Second City’s Touring Company and I was directing her for a corporate show. I am not above using my status for my own gain.

Christy: It was Second City, maybe 2001? The first time I remember seeing Paul was after I got hired for the touring company and snuck in to watch the mainstage show. Paul was doing a scene where he was playing Stephen Hawking and I thought to myself, “Who’s that smart, hilarious guy?” I don’t remember him directing me — I must have blocked that out of my memory for some reason. Bates, we need to talk about that!

The first date

Paul: It would have been around 2002. I think we saw Men With Brooms? It could only get better.

The courtship

Christy: It’s funny, we had all these locations downtown around Second City that were memories of our courtship but one by one they have all been torn down or changed hands. I think Wayne Gretzky’s is the only one left standing and that will be gone soon too. Oh, and the island of Corfu is still there. We took a trip to Corfu very early on in our relationship, it was a crash course in who we were. As they say, if you want to get to know someone — travel with them. You’re kind of forced to trust someone when you’re on the back of a scooter while they drive up a very narrow, very winding road to a house halfway up a mountain surrounded by people who don’t speak English.

The proposal

Paul: It was on a beach in Cuba! I had a ring, Christy had a kidney infection. Very romantic. Actually I thought it was going to be really romantic, because Christy had just lost her favourite ring in the ocean, and I was ready to swoop in with a replacement. Then she found her ring again, in the ocean!

Christy: I’m very good at finding things. And I highly recommend getting engaged when you have a super high fever. It makes everything very surreal.

The wedding

Paul: We got married at the Old Mill in Toronto. Honeymooned in Monte Carlo and Rome.

Christy: That makes us sound super fancy! We lucked out and got a Second City corporate gig that took us to Monte Carlo soon after we got married, so we stayed on after the gig. We are also very fancy.

The offspring

Paul: We have one 10-year-old son. We’re still deciding on a name.

Balancing careers and marriage

Paul: We used to balance our careers and marriage by helping each other with auditions and self-tapes. Also, when one person is on set or on tour, the other picks up the slack at home. Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we balance our careers and marriage by not having careers.

Christy: Being with someone who understands the stress and difficulty of being an actor helps when you need some understanding and support. Knowing that there will be times where I’m working more, times when he’s working more, times that neither of us will be working, and times when we will both be working has been something we’ve learned to adapt to. To let the other’s success be a joint success.

Shared interests

Paul: We both like board games! Except Christy doesn’t like super nerdy board games as much as I do. Luckily I have a son who I’ve convinced to play Star Wars games with me.

Christy: Who knew having a child would save you from the boredom of four-hour Star Wars games!

The home

We have lived near Christie Pits in the Bickford Park/Koreatown part of Toronto for 12 years.

Secret of success

Paul: We apply the lessons we’ve learned from life, acting and improv. We listen. We say yes. We support each other. Counselling has helped too.

Christy: I agree, the skills of improv are definitely tools for a good relationship. Learning how to put the other person first sometimes, or at least pausing your agenda to try and understand where the other person is coming from. Laughter is super important too. And yes, therapy!

Improv House Party will stream every Thursday night at 8 p.m., basically until the pandemic is fixed. Any donations will go to The Second City Alumni Fund.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO