Killed to Death just launched its 300th podcast episode featuring Innisfil native, host and producer Giffin Toplitsky.
Born and raised Innisfil, Toplitsky is the writer and improvisational comedian who hosts the weekly true-crime podcast with zero script and improvised scenarios featuring live guest comedians.
Launched in 2015 with his friend and improv co-host Steve Cooke from Toronto, the Killed to Death series is run through the Sonar Network and has been nominated for several Canadian Podcast Awards, including outstanding comedy series, outstanding host, and the Canadian Comedy Award for best audio series.
The podcast has more than 1,300 listeners monthly and just celebrated its 300th episode, which is to be aired on Sept. 3. All episodes are Zoomed live from Toplitsky's basement, completely unrehearsed and improvised on the spot, with only a suggested topic to start the story off.
“It’s all improvised. Right before we hit record, we have a few examples of topics and allow guests to choose a topic, give a name for the character and start recording,” says Toplitsky. “It feels very legitimizing. It’s just something we’re doing for fun and putting it into the bowels of the internet.”
Toplitsky took note true crime's popularity in the podcast world and capitalized on it. With the podcast, he is able to mix his two passions of writing and comedy with every episode.
“It’s really cool to have a podcast,” he says. “If we see someone really funny on a stage, we invite them to be a part of our podcast for an hour – people are very generous with their time. Through that experience, over five to six years, we’ve become friends with people we were fans of.”
The podcast features comedians from all over North America and has graced the likes of famous improv actor, writer and comedian Colin Mochrie (featured on their 300th episode), and L.A.-based Canadian Comedy Award winner Lisa Gilroy, who was a guest actor on NBC’s television series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
“It was so generous of Collin to lend an hour to goof off with us,” he says with a laugh. “But my favourite was Lisa Gilroy. She plays a single father on our podcast, and with a full stampede scene.”
“We’re lucky we always have a plethora of amazing comedians. The Toronto comedy scene is one of the best in the world.”
Toplitsky and Cooke met at Ryerson while in the radio and television/media programs together. They became closer through the Ryerson Sketch Comedy Group, and by their third year of university were roommates.
“We had to audition,” he recalls about the comedy group. “I did not get in the first year, but Steve did.”
Toplitsky shares Cook enjoys more character-improv, but Toplitsky gravitates more toward hosting and story-telling.
“I love doing improv, but in the beginning, I did not like it,” he admits.
Toplitsky took improv classes at the Bad Dog Comedy Theatre in Toronto and devoted time to watching other improv performances at places like the Comedy Bar or Social Capitol. It was not until 2016 he says he became more serious about improv.
He attended improv festivals in Detroit and Montreal and performed 20-minute sets at both.
“The experience was both exciting and forgettable,” he jokes. “It’s not only great exercise in public speaking, but a good reminder that what you do and say is disposable. You make a mistake and shrug it off with more things to say. It’s about having fun.”
Toplitsky encourages everyone to take at least one improv class in their lifetime. He says you don’t need to be "funny," but rather let your words flow naturally.
“There’s always moments where you think, ‘crap, why did I say that?' but it’s there and you just have to deal with it,” he says. “Human instincts will make you want to panic, but improv is all abot not trying to correct things and accept what’s being said – you might feel like what you said was wrong, but it’s actually right. There are no mistakes!”
New episodes of Killed to Death air once a week on the Sonar Network's Killed to Death.