Welcome to our first podcast interview for podcast month, with none other then Stuart from Improv London. He is jumping on board the Phoenix ship from now on to bring you all improv related news on Thursdays so what a great way to start off the month with the man himself, so you the reader can get to know him a bit better!
So, hello Stuart, welcome to The Phoenix Remix team, firstly why don’t you tell us about yourself and how you got into the improv scene in the first place.
I’ve been improvising for three years. I started with Hoopla’s Beginners Course, which I did three times as I loved what we were doing, but I was terrified of performing on stage in front of an audience. I eventually progressed to the Hoopla Performance Course, but I couldn’t perform with the rest of the group at The Miller due to an accident involving a mobile phone and spiral staircase. Despite missing the performance, I joined a short-form group called The Saturday Mornings, which formed out of that Hoopla course. I’m currently performing long-form as part of Improvzine and a twoprov group inspired by Doctor Who, with Bryn Salisbury.
What is your podcast Improv London all about?
Improv London is a weekly podcast which seeks to document and develop the improv scene in London. In each episode I interview one or more guests, try to discover what they love about improv, and explore ways in which the listeners and I can learn from their skills, expertise and experience.
Why did you decide to start a podcast?
I’ve always loved radio. I feel guilty watching TV, films or playing video games, as I feel like I’m wasting time, but radio is a blame-free medium. I can be educated, entertained and get the washing-up done at the same time.
Who has been your favourite guest and why?
I can’t choose a favourite. Currently, the most popular guest is Chris Mead, who has over 400 listens on Soundcloud alone.
What’s the most fun thing about doing the podcast?
Having an excuse to sit down with people I had met, or wanted to meet, to talk about improv. It was these conversations that were the important thing, though I’m gratified that so many people want to listen. I can’t take the credit for that though, it’s the guest who is the star. By doing this, I wanted to become a better improviser, though I’ve probably only become a better podcaster, but that’s fine.
What’s the most challenging thing about setting up a podcast?
I found the process straightforward, but then I listen to a lot of podcasts so I had already decided on the format before I began.
What advice would you give to people wanting to set up a podcast?
Just go for it. I’m eternally grateful that I live in an age in which it’s possible to record audio or video cheaply and share it on-line easily. Also, don’t worry about perfection. Recording on your phone is a perfectly acceptable way to start. The best way to get good at podcasting is to podcast.
The London Improv scene is constantly growing, why do you think it has had a spurt of growth?
We’ve had very visible entertainment stars, such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Cariad Lloyd acting as ambassadors for improv. Also, with websites such as Meet Up, it’s increasingly easy to discover what’s happening in London.
For someone who doesn’t know much about improv in London, could they still enjoy your podcast?
I try to make my podcast accessible, regardless of your level of experience or knowledge of improv in London or elsewhere. I try to get guests to define any technical terms they use, as often terms can be interpreted in many different ways. I deliberately adopt the role of ‘naive interviewer’ in that I’ll downplay my knowledge or understanding because I want the interviewee to explain something they have mentioned from their perspective – and just because I know something I won’t presume that anyone else will have the same understanding.
“radio is a blame-free medium. I can be educated, entertained and get the washing-up done at the same time.” – Stuart
My three favourite podcasts are:
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review – traditionally, I’d always go to a gig in preference to going to the cinema, but this podcast has taught me there are films I might like too. Weirdly, I don’t feel guilty watching films at the cinema. I love the sense of community that the contribution of listeners brings. Considering this is a podcast about films, it makes me laugh and cry on a surprising number of occasions.
HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast – this podcast started by examining the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, in an insightful and hilarious manner. Hosts Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey have gone on to tackle weird fiction in general, including authors such as M.R James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert E Howard. Despite the chilling nature of some of the fiction I find Chad and Chris’ company warms my cold dark heart.
Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff – game designers Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws cover a range of subjects including tabletop roleplaying, which I played a lot before I started improvising. I wanted to get better at being able to make stuff up, and thought some training would help. It did, and while the group I was roleplaying with has disbanded, I’m still improvising. This podcast keeps me in touch with the hobby.
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