The Improv Diaries – Part 30- Gary Kitching & Jennifer Saunders

It is amazing to think that we have now hit the big number 30 in the improv diaries series! This means that I have had 30 weeks of training overall! Wow, it doesn’t feel like that many in truthfulness probably feels like more as I really enjoy doing it. This week, Ian couldn’t train us as he was ill (get well Ian!) so we had someone who is a friend of Ian and Bev who was a  member of The Suggestibles for ten years. He is an actor and writer and has toured a show this year called Me and Mr C which was a one man improvised show.


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Just like every week we started off doing warm up games with the beginners – this has only been happening for a few weeks and i prefer it as when we get into our groups we will then focus on the key stuff which is always fun. This weeks warm up was all about character building where you walk around and then change your movement according to what you are told to lead your walk with (similar to what we did with Tom Walton back in around February time).

We then broke off into groups to start focussing on the lesson. The thing I really enjoyed about Gary’s teaching right from the start was his sense of humour his rebel of breaking the rules of improv games to make them more fun, not really mattering and that made a great mix up in the whole lesson. It is the Rat Race this Sunday (my last show in Newcastle before heading back to London for work) so we focussed on the games getting both regulars and newbies ready to perform and feel relaxed.

We focussed on the normal games such as alliteration that we do for warm up at the show, the story game DIE  and freeze tag. We also looked at the Alphabet game. i am not sure whether it was the weather yesterday of tiredness bu words would not come to me yesterday doing this game and it is one of my favourite games to play. I felt yesterday was not a good day to play this but Gary gave some really interesting comments and help to everyone that did it that will help me even more when doing this game.

It was a really fun lesson and it is always really good fun to be taught by guest improvisers as it is really helpful and insightful to see how they perceive the world of improvisation and also their feedback can be different in relation to others as everyone has their own opinion and it is really helpful when you are training to have this.

Case Study – Jennifer Saunders

Now, I know I don’t tend to talk a lot about female comedians, nothing against them as there are a lot that I like, but usually when I need a case study to reflect on what I am talking about male comedians tend to make more of the point i was trying to reflect on because of the type of character that they play. I am currently reading Jennifer Saunders autobiography and when I started to read it I did think I wouldn’t probably discuss her anytime soon but she has made some interesting comments and I think its important, especially on show week to reflect on these.

“For me, comedy is about being allowed to be a child, to make things up and be silly. To play pretend and not to be embarrassed in front of the person that you’re playing pretend with.” – J. Saunders, Bonkers My Life In Laughs, pg 19, 2013

This is so important to remember when doing Improv as it really is just a lot of fun and this type of comedy is all about having fun. If you are not having fun, the audience can sense it and can create a hostile environment that is both uncomfortable for the player and the audience. French and Saunders are really iconic figures in the comedy circuit and their sketch shows really have produced some amazing comedy and some of the UKs best content, however, i feel it is only right that we reflect on this more as a whole topic and not a sub topic of Saunders.

I think when thinking about performing comedy, especially as a woman, it is important to look at these strong characters in the industry to see how they perfom and react to an audience and that is why I like reading the back story. That is not meant to sound at all sexist, but women do sometimes have different responses on stage to men and whilst it is not a thing to get hooked on or even really notice, it is important to look at strong women in the comedy circuit to see how they broke out at a time when it was even harder for them to stand on their won two feet. I find reading Jennifer Saunders autobiography inspiring as an improviser and hearing the creative process of what goes on behind the scene is really interesting and also makes you think of comedy in a different perspective.

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