The Improv Diaries – Part 16 – James Acaster and Spencer Jones

This week was another great week of improv which lead to my whole persona as an improviser change. I didn’t realise it at first it was only when i walked away from the class that i realised where my strongest areas of improv are starting to show.

This week Ian was back to get us back into action and get us prepared for the Rat Race performance on Sunday. There was only 6 of us this week which meant that we could rotate partners alot and get a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time.

The first thing that we focussed on was different word and emotion games (which is great as these tend to come up a lot in the rat race and other small shows.) The first one we did was about alliteration and going round the circle thinking of as many words we could with a certain letter. This was really fun to do as it made you think alot, especially when words were getting thin and worked your brain out. The next word related game we did was the alphabet game and played two variations of it – one where we just spoke to each other in a scenario and the next where we had to make actions happen like landing a plane, playing a trick on someone etc. What i have learnt from playing this game alot is i seriously need to learn some more words beginning  with Z and X!

The next set of games that we did in partners are called rollercoasters. These are games that start off just plain and boring and ever so often someone would shout out different emotions, themes or accents and the style would automatically change.  We tried emotional rollercoasters and also accents which i have never done before and noticed even more so how bad my accents are but it was funny watching the other person with you fail as well.

After these games we then played 2 minute theatre; this is when someone starts a scene by doing a random action and someone jumps into it and you have 2 minutes to create a scene. There was some great ones – a guy who thought he was a dictator when actually he was in a care home, a teacher and a pupil, rivalry between an understudy and an actress behind the scene and a cat that the vets accidentally killed. The scene that i started was of me doing crazy excercise stretches which lead to the scene being about me determined to do an exercise video for Lean 4 Beanz (as i was pretending to hold cans of beans whilst i worked out) Jill was trying to get me to do even more embarrassing work outs as she was going to post it online and the character i played was oblivious that she was taking the mick. It got lots of laughs which was good.

After doing this we then cut it down to one minute theatre where we found it harder to build up a scene in that quickness but was fun all the same. We had someone picking flowers they were not meant to, me trying to burst an awful spot before going on stage,  a holiday rep interviewed and a game of hide and seek.

This week was a great lesson as i felt as a group we sort of molded closer together and it was obvious that we are all very comfortable in working together and creating silly scenes and going bigger when it was needed. I felt a change in myself this week as well as i feel that my strengths are becoming more and more visible in physical comedy and i felt that this week i just let that come out of me. It is something i am definitely going to focus on in the future.

There are two comedians I am going to talk about in this blog as i feel they are apt for what i have been discussing. One of them is amongst my favourite stand ups and the other i came across for the first time when i went to watch the first comedian on the BBC show Live From The BBC. They are very different end of the richter scales in styles and feel that they really contrast each other. James Acaster and Spencer Jones

James Acaster

If you have read previous blog posts on The Phoenix, you will realise that I am a fan of Acaster and his stand up as its quite different to a lot of stuff out there. If you haven’t seen him before i would say that he approaches the stage in a very different way to a lot of comedians, a lot come on stage with high energy and smiles galore (McIntyre Skips, Russell Howard Shouts, Lee Evans… well…is Lee Evans) where as a lot of the time (you may not see this a lot on TV as they tend to cut down shows) he comes on just like a normal person, lacking the enthusiasm, which sounds weird but as a show its very funny as its not really what you are expecting and his facial and vocal expressions that go with it are very funny.

His quirky type of humour is the reason why i like him and wanted to use him as an example in these blogs. It is at one end of the scale to show that even the simplest characters can really have an impact on the audience and this can be proven more with his online show called – Sweet Home Ketteringa which is a inside look at his home town.

From watching these you realise that James has a very simple approach to onlookers to humour and it really works. If you were on stage doing improv, these sort of characters would work really well, depending on the scene but it shows that sometimes you don’t need to have a huge action to  create a strong character. Here is a video of the kickstarter video that was used to raise funding for season 2 and again worked so well humour wise that they reached the goal amount.

Spencer Jones

Now, i saw Spencer perform stand up for the first time when i downloaded the BBC show Live From the BBC to watch James Acasters routine whilst i was cooking one day. The support act was him and he is one of those comedians that i couldn’t figure out at first. The character that he has created called the Herbert, when i first started watching i felt like this was going to be a marmite situation; i was either going to love his humour or hate it. When i started to watch I had no idea how to react and then when he got into his routine it was so silly I actually started to find him very funny.

His character that he has created is so good that at first i really wasn’t sure if it was a character or not. It is the little things like the voice, the facial expressions and the silly voices that really emphasise this character and make it very strong. Even at times when he can be borderline, the audience don’t find it offensive (like Improv) because of the character he has created and produced.

It is completely the different end of the scale compared to James as it is all about the character creating the identity of the comedian not the other way round and all these factors that both James and Spencer have are very important when producing strong characters on stage for Improv.



1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s