The Next Step -part 6 – Russell Howard and Matthew Bratton

This week was my first lesson of my 8 week course of advanced short form improv and boy it was so much fun! It felt like such an adrenaline rush to be back doing Short Form. It was really nice knowing that the 12 people in the room i would get to know over the next 8 weeks and would be performing a show with them at the end (yay 8 weeks until back on a stage woo). Our leader for the next 8 weeks would be Stephen Davidson, the Director of Improvable but more about him another time as I am sure I will be using him as a case study in the due future.

The first thing that we did was a warm up to get used to everyones names and to feel comfortable around each other. We started off with a basic and turned it advance to warm our brains up. We went round the circle where everyone said their name with an action and then we went round the circle doing it with no audio and just acting out each others actions.

The next warm up we did was go round the circle with a clap which you can only pass on when the person next to you claps at the same time as you that you pick up a rhythm. Whist this is happening word associations were going round the other direction of the circle. So someone can say any word and then the person next to them has to pass it on with a word that is associated with the prior. Whilst all this is going on someone is nominated to make eye contact across the circle and when someone says yes they can move across to that place and then the person who says yes has to wait to make eye contact with someone – all going on at the same time.

The next warm up game was one where someone would stand in the middle of the circle and start singing a song and then someone would tag them out if the song reminds them of and then go into the circle an sing that and so forth. The final warm up game was where someone stands in the middle and says they are an item and then two more will go in and say two different objects to create a picture.

The first two weeks of lessons was to be focussed on the short form games that we already know and building on them. The first mini games we did was split into teams so one group did two mini games and we switched over and the other group would do other mini games. The first group of six split into three and stood opposite each others to play games of only talking in questions and then the alphabet game.

We then switched over and it was my groups go. The first game we played was the number 5 game. This is when you have a conversation with the person in the scene and have to answer with only one word first, then two, then three, then four, then five and then back down again.  The next game we played was that you can only talk in lyrics and song titles of songs.

The next game was the game where 4 improvisers are in a car and then each has a different emotion and when they enter the car the emotions of the car change to mirror that emotion, which was funny to watch the results.

After this game we played the most epic game of Die i have ever played before! First off I was up against 11 others (yikes!!) so that was the first scary part making sure you listened very carefully and lead the story on in a swift manner. When it had whittled down to about 8 Stephan got us to tell a story in variou accents such as South American, Canadian and South African. When it whittled down again we had to do the story in rhyming pairs WHILST doing an accent. This was such an adrenalin rush and also i think it is the most my brain has concentrated in such a long time so much so that when we finished (came in joint first woooooooo) i actually felt shaky and like i had just finished an exam!

The last game of the night was similar to the thing they do at the end of Mock the Week where Dara O Brien gives the comedians a topic and then people jump out and say something – the only difference with improv is you act it out a bit too. Which had some really funny results.

Case Study 1 – Matthew Bratton, Spontaneous Wrecks.


There is a only one time I have used lyrics used in improv and that was at one of the first shows I saw of the Newcastle based improv group, Spontaneous Wrecks. It was at their Christmas show of last year and they wanted to try out a long for game where the whole story was based on a song lyric and the choice for this show was Last Christmas by Wham.

I don’t remember much about it but I do remember one thing as it sort of came to my mind when the lyrics game came up and that was that there was one Wrecks that was dishing out the lyrics as conversation on the stage and that was Matthew. I remember laughing at it and thinking it was funny to use lyrics in this way and from playing this game yesterday i remember why i loved seeing this style of humour.


It works on many different layers – the first is in the angle of the improviser, they are constantly trying to work out lyrics that would work in the conversation that they are having with the other improviser in the scene. The second level it works on is the audience part one – this is the audience watching the improvisers struggle trying to come up with the lyrics that create the comedy factor and the laughs. Finally the third level the audience part two – they are constantly guessing where the lyrics the person has said has come from.

Case Study 2 – Russell Howard


Russell Howard is a great example to use in this weeks case study for a few reasons, lets look at the most obvious reason first, The game like Mock The Week. One of the reasons I originally liked Mock the Week and went back every week for more was because of Russell Howards comedy, he is very outside the box and really gives everything his all and the round at the end with the topics was the best one to watch when he was in the show as he came up with the most random of ideas that people would not think of using for that suggestion.

When playing the final game, this is the sort of energy i was trying to channel as sometimes the most random are the most funniest and the most expected are not. By applying the “Howard” to the game made it a challenge but also fun to do and luckily i got some really good laughs.

I have had the chance to see Russell perform in intimate venues and one thing that he is great at is coming back from messing up. He is very good at improvising last minute and also accidentally put his foot in it (I saw him accidentally end up buying the penis prop from Good News He was trying to auction off for charity because he outbid the bidder who had the top price because he thought if he did that he would raise loads for the charity but it backfired as he went up too much). Looking at him from this perspective is a fantastic thing in improv – don’t be afraid to make an idiot of yourself because you can always fight back!


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