The Next Step – Part 4 – BUMPER EDITION- Tom Houghton, Sam Pacelli and Hoopla

This week there is loads to get through and talk about and before we go onto his weeks lesson and the case study i want to take a side step to Impro related news first this week.

A Salute to the Great – Tom Houghton


Whilst everyone was mourning the loss of Soggy Bottoms and baking, i was mourning the news that my favorite improv troupe the Noise Next Door announced on the same days as Berrys departure. The troupe announced that their musically talented improviser Tom Houghton is leaving the group to develop his stand up career. On one hand this is a good thing, i have seen some of his material and if he has time to develop it more and do it full time there is no doubt that he will be high flying in the Edinburgh Fringe going up against the likes of James Acaster and Nish Kumar for the Fosters award.

Whilst i was going to wait until I studied musical improv before using Tom as a case study, i feel the best way of using him as a case study  /  a nod of appreciation his way is to write about him before he leaves the improv scene for the next step. Back in 2012 I was introduced to the world of Noise Next Door because fo editing for ComComedy as I have mentioned time and time again on this blog. I remember the first time I saw them live as at St James Theatre and i was really nervous about seeing them live. The main reason was I had watched their fringe show over and over for the edit I was doing and was worried that a group i found funny on an edit may not be as funny in reality and was nervous when i saw them pottering about the audience before the show started.

The first time I saw them live i walked away ribs hurting so much and over the past few years havent had a lot of time to see them live because of the deadlines with the work I do and also from moving hundreds of miles up north for my job as well. This year I was lucky enough to see them not once, but twice and one of those times was definitely one of the best shows I have seen them perform and also probably in general with improv as it had so many dynamics that made it so much more then an improv show.The space themed Fringe show brought props, technology and animation to the forefront and really worked as a show concept and also proved that improv, especially short form which i love more then long form, really can have some fantastic visual values.

Tom to me has always been a huge inspiration and is definitely one of my top of many reasons why i fell in love with improv and wanted to do it. I have seen many improv groups now but back in the day Tom was a bit like magic to me  – he fascinated me with the guitar and how he was using it for improvising and seemed like a whole different ball game to me that I was unaware was even possible. The fact that music is my biggest love apart from comedy really made me realize that there are ways of molding it together in fantastic ways.

Whilst i am looking forward to seeing what the Noise Next Door are going to do with shows after Tom’s Departure, for me as a fan of the group for 4 years will sorely miss them having the fifth member. Not because I don’t think they can carry on without him as they can as they are all so talented, but because to me he has really inspired me to break into training in improv and really take a leap of being an idiot on stage with hope to eventually use either my guitar or keyboard in the process. So i salute you Tom and wave you into your stand up career with the highest of optism that you are going to ace the next chapter of your life and thank you for everything!


This weeks lesson was all about physical related improv, which I absolutely love! After last weeks lesson it was definitely the sort of week i wanted! it was all about interacting in a scene and building up the visual even when there is nothing there you have to make it believable to the audience.

The warm up for this week was we went round the circle and had to say an adjective that began with the same letter of our name then our name and then an action. So for example, mine was ‘Happy Holly *jazz hands*’ We would then call names across the circle repeating the action and the words in which they had used to describe themselves. So we had names such as ‘Vague Vasheq *big emphasized shrug’ and ‘Merciful Mike *click click clickety click* After we had done this a few times we then would communicate by only using the persons noise or movement.

The second part of the lesson was about interacting and creating a scene. Half of the group sat down and the other half which happened to be my group had to interact with the stage like we were going into a room with things in it. So we each built up the room adding different objects, creating an idea of what the room looks like to the other group of people.

Once we built up an environment which included a wooden cabinet with swords in, a computer in the corner, and a mat on the floor, the other group had to create scenes with it. Each scene had to be different to each other one group used it as a new Japanese Restaurant opening, another as an army base and another as a speed dating specialists.

The next part if the lesson we rotated the roles so the other half of the group built up a scene visually of us to play with. They built up a scene that had a lift in the corner, a op and bucket, revolving doors, vending machine and a self service checkout.

Our group came up with three separate scenes in the location that was different, one was two robbers trying to rob a bank and got stuck, another was about a vending machine and a fight and the one that I was part of was about a supermarket at closing time and the cleaner reveals that the freezer leads to Narnia.

The final part of the lesson was to do with scene work, we were given a location by the audience and we would just play a scene in relation to where we were located and interact with the scene.

Case Study – Sam Pacelli


Now firstly, my idea of using Sam Pacelli as a case study came to me before everything with the Tom announcement came this week, in fact it came to me in the lesson in a really random way. I was watching a couple doing scene work and all of a sudden Sam popped into my head acting all street saying ‘Sam bitchessssssss’ which if you have seen The Noise Next Door live this is a common thing that ends up coming up.

Everytime I have seen The Noise Next Door there is always some part where he becomes like this Kanye West of improv and its nothing I now relate to him and thats why that random image popped into my head.

I instantly thought of Sam when it comes to creating a scene out of nothing because boy, he really can make a scene. I have spoken about Matt Grant before and how he creates a scene through constant physicality but Sam takes it to a different level and different depths. The way that he takes it to different paths mean that it can create some comedy gold.

Sam knows how to build up an environment in improv, he may not interact with the made up things around him all the time, but when he does he goes insane and really goes big as he puts exaggeration into it and brings it to life in his characters.

A great example of this is the clip below, they play a game called Rescue Me. One of the group is Stuck to something silly and then they go through silly situations on the route of rescuing their mate. They go through each location twice and on the way back Sam has a fantastic skill of changing the scene and also building up the environment. So check out the video below to see him in action.


 Other Improv News – Hoopla


This week I also went to Hoopla head quarters to train in helping with the tech, presenting and front of door at shows. I felt that this was a good option to learn these skills as I love watching improv shows and wanted to meet more people in the industry and also wanted to do more improv related things! As i have said before, improv is like an addiction you can never have enough.

I also got the chance to meet the man, the myth, the legend that everyone raves about in the improv scene in  London, Steve Roe. It was great to meet such an iconic person and to now be under the wing of Hoopla to help out with future shows to come. I am very excited to extend my improv activities and really look forward to spending a lot of time doing improv relating stuff and getting to do more stuff with Hoopla in the future!



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