In the last few weeks C3? have become regular writers for The Phoenix Remix for a few weeks now, so its only mandatory that we welcome them on board with an interview to introduce them to you properly! So ladies and gentlemen, readers new and old, Meet Carleen Macdermid, Keith Malda and Shem Pennent of C3?
Welcome to the Phoenix Remix as writers! For those who don’t know who you guys are please introduce yourself to our readers!
CM: I’m Carleen Macdermid, I’m a Taurus who likes long walks to weak punchlines. I bring the most penis jokes in the team whilst, ironically, bringing the least penises.
KM: I’m Keith Malda, the youngest member of C3?, although sadly not in years.
SP:I’m Shem. The note I hear most often is “you look so sad and angry on the back line”. That’s a joke. I don’t listen to notes.
“…Letters. Mostly made up into words. Gjlirxjhsb. Mostly…” – Carleen Macdermid
How did you all get into improv?
CM: It’s a tragic tale of being offered a little Comedy Sports at a Theatre Festival when I was just 17. People told me it was a gateway art form but my object work was poor then so I couldn’t visualise the doorway they described. Now, 21 years later, I’m un/self-employed hanging around the back room of pubs every night trying to score cheap laughs from even cheaper audiences. It’s a travesty.
KM: I used to do Stand Up. I broke my leg pretty badly in a roller disco incident in Miami and was a long time away from the stage. When I had recovered I didn’t really relate to my material anymore and I needed something to give me a kick up the arse to get back doing stand up. I figured I’d do some sort of course and found Hoopla’s old “Improv for Stand Ups” course and went along for a weekend. I fell in love with improv and moved to the dork side and haven’t looked back since.
SP: I’m still not really into improv. I just like comedy and used to watch and listen to a tonne of it and noticed more of the people I enjoyed – Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling mentioned UCB in interviews. So I checked them out, flew to NYC to train and became immersed that way. I think if I’d just seen “improv” I wouldn’t have gotten so involved as I’m not super into white people half-pretending to be dinosaurs.
For any of our readers who want to get into doing improv – where do they start?
CM: Start by taking a good, hard look at yourself and realising you’re better than that. After that, come to the C3? Drop-In. All the skills but none of the commitment. Like prostitution, but more awkward. http://c3something.com/#improv-drop-ins
KM: There are so many access points now in London. I would say go along to a beginners class and you’ll no doubt find it welcoming and exhilarating at the same time. We run classes on Tuesday nights and there are many informal drop in classes all over London as well as beginners classes run by all of London’s improv schools. Aside from the classes, we love nothing more at C3? when we have people in the audience at our shows who have never done improv before and they get up on our stage and try it for the first time in our audience jam. We have a jam at every C3? show that we do and it’s something that we’re all passionate about in giving stage time and opportunities to all people, irrespective of experience. We promise we’ll look after you and make you look like the star that you are!
SP: Honestly. Look deep down and think “do I really want to do this?” Comedy is so hard and unrewarding. And studying improv will temporarily ruin your enjoyment of comedy – like learning a magic trick. But if all this negativity can’t put you off, then congratulations – come to a class.
“I got into Improv not because I wanted to create magical worlds and weave clever stories, I got into Improv because I was funny…” – Keith Malda
What sort of events and lessons do you hold across london?
CM: My life is a constant event. Follow me and the lessons you learn will change you forever.
KM: We run two weekly classes at the moment. Tuesday nights in dedicated to core improve skills and there is usually a particular technique or skill area that we focus on from week to week. It’s engineered to cater to beginners and to experienced improvisers alike and I really believe that anyone of any level of experience can benefit from coming along to practice. The analogy that I like to give is that Muhammed Ali didn’t stop training and working on how to throw a punch after he won the Heavyweight title of the year. Improv is no different. You need to regularly work those muscles otherwise dystrophy will set in. So take a class or come and jam!
SP: Loads of classes and shows. I’m one of the best improv teachers in London and Carleen and Keith aren’t bad either. We also run a lot of diversity events and workshops across London and have helped change the conversation a little.
“…Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling mentioned UCB in interviews. So I checked them out, flew to NYC to train…” – Shem Pennant
You have a partnership with UCB – tell us about that any why it’s important to be trained by teachers from the states
CM: “To be old and wise you must first be young and stupid.” Improv in the US is way older and far more established than it is here so why not borrow a bit of well-earned wisdom?
If I want to climb Everest, do I try blindly blundering my way up, just to prove a point, or do I prepare the way thousands before me have proved I should and then ask a Sherpa for guidance? Sure, Everest can still be fatal but I’ve seen way more people die on improv stages.
KM: I make no secret about my respect and admiration for the teachers from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in both L.A. and New York that we are always proud to bring over. These guys are the best. The very best and you simply won’t learn from anyone better. The level of consistency shown in the shows at UCB are a testament to how their philosophy works on stage and is funny. I got into Improv not because I wanted to create magical worlds and weave clever stories, I got into Improv because I was funny, I wanted to learn techniques how to be funnier or to channel my humour and the way that UCB focuses on the comedy side of Improv makes it the best school for me. That isn’t to say that I now don’t also want to weave magical worlds and such, but that was never my focus and I remain true to my original goal. I want to be funny and the UCB style of Improv helps me to do that. (I say this with a caveat that UCB or any other school will never teach you HOW to be funny, but that’s a whole different tangent.)
SP: Well. I don’t think every teacher with an American accent is good. But in my early days in London I got trained (ripped off) by so many English people who were bad and would charge you £100 to walk around the room and do a silly voice. One coach once said “I can’t do those fast, funny UCB style improv techniques, but what I can do” and I stopped listening as that’s what I wanted “why the hell am I wasting time with you”. Anyone in London can teach a class and say something unsubstantiated like “I’m the best improv teacher in London”. We work with great teachers from UCB with a proven track record, teacher training experience and the ability to inspire.
What comedians inspire you and why?
CM: I try not to use comedians for inspiration, I try to use them for entertainment. A comedian’s job, I feel, is to provoke thought and push boundaries through laughter. A great comedian can draw laughter by showing established concepts in new lights which in turn broadens how we view these concepts and potentially gives us the think room to inspire ourselves.
Or, Maria Bamford. Perfect balance of unique, talented and hardworking.
KM: Louis CK. He is so authentic and has such truthful viewpoints that you just know that they come from his cold, dark, bitter, twisted heart. And he couples that with being a complete absurdist. It’s beautiful to watch and something to aspire to.
Anthony Atamanuik. He is so smart and above all funny. He is passionate and again, he speaks so truthfully and you can always see flavours of himself in every character that he plays in his improv sets. Every time I watch him, I think, “This is the Atamanuik version of this character.”
Eddie Murphy. Aside from some of the subject material from his 80’s Raw and Delirious shows which now in 2017 is uncomfortable to watch, the charisma and self-assuredness that Eddie had when doing stand up is second to none. The stage was Eddie’s stage. And watching him act in his successful comedic movies was just master class after master class.
Larry David. If ever there was an example of someone who has found his comedic voice, it’s Larry. He is a master at writing and playing out premises and taking them to absurd lengths whilst still keeping it grounded. And if you want to learn about connections for your third beats, just watch Curb and Seinfeld.
SP: Keith Malda and Carleen Macdermid. I perform with them every week and they challenge me to do best work.
The London improv scene is dramatically getting bigger – why do you think this is?
CM: I think it’s the damning indictment of an increasingly sedentary society, conditioned by a combination of smart technology and social media to believe everything they say and do warrants instant attention and adulation despite the complete lack of effort required to produce it. Improv!
KM: There has been a boom in Improv in London in the past couple of years and I think it’s because there are now more good improv shows in London and people like variety. I still love stand up and always will, but there is just something about watching good live improve that is intangible and the audience lose their shit and can’t believe that it’s made up. I think the variety of schools and classes that London has now is a good thing and honestly, doing Improv is good for life. People have realised that they can turn up to an Improv class and learn some basic principles and guidelines and that these principles and guidelines are interchangeable and that they can use them to enhance their home, work and love lives. Improv is a trip!
SP: Lots of Americans have come over and raised the bar for good improv.
Tell us about your podcast Two Up.
CM: It’s named after an ancient Australian gambling game where two coins are flung in the air simultaneously and people bet on if they will land heads up, tails up or one of each.
Our podcast operates the same way. Each episodes listeners bet whether the host and guest will be talking about improv with their brains, out their arse or one of each. It’s a gamble.
KM: This is more of a Shem and Carleen question but as a fan and listener I can say that I love it.
SP: We interview American guests.
What sort of things can our readers expect to read from you guys on this blog?
CM: Letters. Mostly made up into words. Gjlirxjhsb. Mostly.
KM: I would like to write about things that I am really passionate about in the moment, much in the spirit of improvisation. Also general musings and lessons learned. Honestly, I don’t know yet. And I’m as comfortable with that as I am prior to the start of an Improv set where I have no idea what’s going to happen. And much like that what I can say to the reader is that I hope that it will be funny and informative and thought provoking but at the very least I can promise you that it’ll be one hell of a journey! I’m going to be using Will Hines’ Improv Nonsense blog as inspiration for how to do an Improv blog properly
SP: Carleen will post improv wisdom. Keith will tie things back to Prince. I will throw shade.
Anything else you want to add!
CM: Yeah. 9,604 + 776 = 10,380. Phew! I’ve been wanting to add those for ages. I feel better, thanks.
KM: Thanks for reading this far and please please please go along to shows and get on stage and jam. Don’t listen to that voice telling you that you’re not ready, trust me…. you are!
SP: Holly is great!
Finally sum up in three words why people should give improv a try.
CM: Turbo Fart Monkey.
KM: It’s fucking fun
SP: Easier than comedy