The Improv Diaries – Part 13 – Piff the Magic Dragon & Ryan Stiles

This week has been another roller coaster ride for both improv and life and going to split this post into two – both by experiences and comedians / case studies as I have tried long and hard to think of one person that covers both areas and it’s not that simple.

This week I helped out again with the beginners improv lessons – as it was the last week it was mainly games to have fun with improv to show the techniques in action. Unlike last week, I was joined at the course with fellow intermediate improvisers as well as a couple of the advanced ones too.

The first time I did improv with an advanced person in our class (a member who shall rename nameless from spontaneous wrecks) I felt off my game and couldn’t focus feeling extremely silly with anything that I did. When I went up on stage I would freeze and think of THE worst suggestions.
However with the couple of advanced members this Saturday I felt relaxed and comfortable to perform around them (maybe because I knew them before and met them at rat race when they were team leaders – who knows!) Some of the games I felt I was in my element – I discovered I feel comfortable doing the alphabet game and the game where everything has to be a question.
Halfway through the Saturday I had to deal with a very stressful situation I was having away from improv and when I snuck back into the training I felt really fed up and that if I got called up on stage I would not be able to perform as I just felt really stressed and like I wanted to run away from it all. Our mentor Ian, not sure if he picked up in this but pushed me back on stage straight away. When I went up I felt really fed up as I wasn’t sure I was going to be competent or in the right frame of mind to perform.

However, when I was put in a scene and started it, we got a lot of laughs and it automatically raised me up. Every scene I did after the stress and fed up feeling I felt myself pushing me to be better to be stronger and to forget about everything on stage and use it in the performance.
When I was thinking about how to write this case study my first thought was about those comedians that I have read autobiographies about that suffer depression in their own time and put everything into their performance. I felt this was unfair to compare as i don’t suffer from depression and was just having a bad day – i am usually a very optimistic and out going person. So i felt i would use a case study of an act that is energetic on the stage and uses everything to entertain and that i am a fan of.

Piff The Magic Dragon

Now whilst this isn’t relevant as a case study i felt he was a great case study to use as he is a very unique comedian that has mixed two genres of entertainment together to produce one hilarious output. The one thing i have learnt from writing about comedy is that unique and having a ‘thing’ is a great way to stand out.

Piff, real name John Van der Put has been on the comedy circuit since 2008 and throughout his career has had quite a bit of success including recently getting to the finals of America’s Got Talent and now hving a solo show in Las Vegas.

The reason why I like Piff is because whilst his magic is great to watch its the comedy that runs alongside it that really makes him stand out. You think it’s going to be the fact that he wears a silly outfit but it’s not his way that he breaks down the barriers of magic and intertwine it with comedy is very interesting to watch. From an improv perspective he is an interesting case study as it allows you to think further how this can be established with the comedy form


Yesterday was the last improv lesson of the month and it was all about endowing and guessing the character in which you are. There were a couple of games that we played this week adn they were all based around someone going out the room then one of two people playing a scene with that person to let in subtle hints to let them guess what character they actually are.

The first time we played this was with one person going out the room and one person helping, then it developed that two people were interviewing someone in a police investigation room to find out what has happened. This scene then developed to a different style of game where an invisible man beats up the suspect as he tries and guesses what he has done.

This week the lessons were really helpful as it was an area of improv we haven’t really covered yet and it was interesting to do. I found when you are the one helping with the hints it was easier then being the person guessing what they had done. I hope its a an area that we cover again in future weeks as I feel there is a lot more to train and learn in this area.

Ryan Styles

Now when we started to play this game a certain show came to mind and that show was of course, Whose Line Is It Anyway. The game is the Party Quirks game and the improviser that came to mind first, was the guy who was my favourite even as a kid, Ryan Styles.

The aim of the game is for the host of the party to guess what quirks each of the members of the party have that they have been given by members of the audience. The reason why Ryan is a great case study for this is because he is a very physical comedian with his voices / facial expressions and persona and I think whilst developing for the game in the future i think he will be a great person to look at for inspiration.



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