INTERVIEW: Patrick Poulin

I think I thought I was Ernie.

Patrick Poulin Patrick and I have been good friends since day one of my improv life. He is also incredibly talented- another thing I noticed the first day I met him. Over the course of this year, the more I got to know Patrick, the more I knew he’d make it some day and I wanted to make sure I was able to get in an official interview before he got even busier than he already is. Patrick and I met in the 3rd Beat Room of iO and chatted for a few minutes before a rehearsal one Sunday evening.

Has comedy always been part of your “grand scheme?”
No. Not at all. I’m really only a year and a half in. I never did drama or theatre and it was never even a thought of mine until after I’d left college. I did host this charity event in college for Make-A-Wish and for whatever reason, I decided I was going to be a British character. So I did and it went really well and afterwards, I was like “Wow, I wish I could do that all the time.” I kept remembering things from that and I realized that after that experience, I didn’t want to do anything else.

What was the turning point where you decided to pursue comedy and come to Chicago?
It was after college, when I had a full-time job as a sales rep for a wine company in New Hampshire. I had come to visit my cousin in Chicago, who wanted me to move anyways because no one from our family lived here. Right when I was going to visit, I got offered the sales rep job. So I decided I’d take an comedy class at Improv Boston and commute back and forth from New Hampshire and just try it out-which I did and it was horrible for months. Once I realized how much I didn’t like doing what I was doing and only wanted to do comedy, I got it in my head that I wanted to move to Chicago.

Now that you’re here, what do you hope to accomplish here?
Just experience. I just want to get better at acting and performing and anything in that realm, because that’s all I really want to do right now.

Where are you studying?
I am studying at Second City and iO.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Give everyone a chance. A lot of times you see someone and you never know if it’s an off night or they’re just starting or what’s going on and a lot of people are quick to criticize, and while sometimes it may be deserved, you never know if you’re going to end up on stage with them at some point or if they have some kind of weight in something you may be doing later.

Who are your greatest comedic influences?
From a young age, I liked to watch anything with Steve Martin in it. Mel Brooks. I was always a huge  Bill Murray fan. Dan Akroid. Early stuff from Saturday Night Live- Gilda Radner. I was always big into the puppet shows, so both The Muppets and Seasame Street. I always really liked Ernie. Ernie was a big one of mine. For some reason, I think I thought I was Ernie. I was Ernie for Halloween once- recently.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome so far? 
While I’ve always been a competitive person, I’ve never really enjoyed the other side where it’s almost mean-hearted or mean-spirited. Sometimes I feel like that happens in this area, and I feel like balancing being competitive but not alienating anyone is a tough challenge. You want to get ahead and do good work, but you also want to make friends. Or at least I do.

And what are some of the anticipated challenges you foresee in the future?
I think getting more performance time is always going to be a big challenge.

What do you believe are your comedic strengths?
Ohhhh, I don’t know. Maybe that I don’t think that anything is impossible. I’m not saying that I can do anything, I’m just saying I think if I see someone do something, I think I can do it too. I think a lot of people doubt themselves but for me, if I know someone can do it, I think maybe I can do it too.

What are some of the areas you are working to improve upon as an improviser?
Not caring what other people think on stage. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing as I’m doing it and I’d like to let that go and just act completely instinctually.

Outside of general interest, do you have any personal reasons/influential people or event that have led you to pursue acting and comedy?
My grandfather was never involved in entertainment or anything but he has always been a big inspiration to me. His life is so improbable in the way that it came about, and from the things that he has told me, it gives me hope for any shred of a career in this business. He was a fighter pilot that got shot down twice, became the founder of a college, married my grandmother, had six children and 23 grandchildren. Hearing him say things like, “My dad wanted me to be something else,” and thinking of him as anything but my grandfather and the life he has lived, just makes me think differently about myself and the things I could do.

What a guy. If you had to give a “theatre trailer” of one of the craziest things that has ever happened to you, without giving away the ending, what would it be?
Early on, moving to Chicago, I took a Craigslist job for voice over work for what ended up being a private investigator in Milwaukee…and I met him in an Applebees. He paid me half of the money before and half of the money afterwards and that’s all I’ll say…

Interesting…outside of improv and acting, what else do you spend your limited free time doing?

Haha, eating? That’s it? That’s all you got?
I don’t know. I cook, read, write, watch movies. I don’t have cable, so I watch the channels that I’m provided with, you know, with the antennas. I like to explore a lot, especially in the city.

You’re from Boston, any sports affiliations?
All Boston sports. I love all Boston sports.

Where and with who are you currently performing?
I am currently working on two shows that are going up at Donny’s Skybox at Second City. One of which is called Texting in Cursive, which I c0-wrote and am performing in. The other is called Goddamn, Mitt, which I’m performing in right now. A few friends of mine wrote it. I’m also in a two-man improv team called Mandate.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I hope to see myself without a 9-5 job.

What is the greatest insight that you have discovered about life and comedy?
They go hand in hand. I don’t think you can have one without the other…or you shouldn’t.


Patrick Poulin is a Boston native and a Chicago transplant. He is studying and performing at Second City and iO. When he isn’t rehearsing, writing or performing, you can find him giving guided segway tours of the Windy City or cheering on any Boston sport team. Patrick is currently performing with two-man improv team, Mandate, as well as Second City shows at Donny’s Skybox. Befriend Patrick on Facebook.

 Interview conducted on September 23, 2012.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Interviews