The Improv Diaries – The One Where We Compare Punderstandably to F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Happy New Year to all of our readers and welcome back to the Improv Diaries – we are back this year set to take you on another set of adventures with everything that I do in improv and also learn along the way. So lets start this years first article with a bit of a summary of things I know that are happening this year to just give you a bit of an insight as to what you can expect to read about for some of it.

Punderstandably vs the Show

This year we have set ourselves a huge task, but the thing I love about Punders is that we love to set a challenge and aim high because if you are going to leap then why not do it in full diving in the deep end.

In May we are hosting a whole show and our concept means that we are completely changing the dynamics and formats of a standard show night too so there is a lot of work involved but very exciting stuff! So we will be in rehearsal mode a lot of the first part of the year so expect reports about the developments.

We also have a show a month as a ten minute slot so I will be talking about that time to time as well.

Musical time returns!

I enjoyed doing the musical course with Phil Lunn so much at the end of last year that I have signed up to do his advanced course this year from March! I am so excited and can’t wait to have musical improv back in my life again it makes me so happy and I cannot wait to see what the advanced course has to hold.

Right, now i have told you just a few things that are coming up in the next few months lets focus a bit on the present!

Last week I sat down with Improv London to talk about all things improv, which will be published in the near future (and we will post a link for you if you want to listen to it) and from talking to him I made a realisation that I probably haven’t noticed about myself before and that is my reasons for doing certain types of improv.

We got onto the topic about why I prefer Short form over Long form – I honestly thought a lot of the time it was because I enjoy being wacky but from actually talking about it aloud I realise I think its a lot more then that and a lot deeper…

I am a Video Editor in the Television Industry – and I work in cutting down content – getting rid of the jiggly bits or the parts that go on too long and is not needed – cutting out the fluff or the boring bits that people don’t want to see. I suppose thinking about it, that is how I see Long Form a little bit – Sometimes you get a really good show that feels like it was created beautifully and comes together really well and then there are a few that feel like they should of been edited or cut earlier then they were.

As an Editor I like my cuts short, sharp and catchy and I think that’s why I like Short Form – there is that cut, if it isn’t for everyone it moves on to a new idea or concept, it is technically like a metaphorical format of a sitcom i suppose.

I am going to compare it to a sitcom because its my strongest topic and when you compare it to a sitcom you realise that a short form show sort of follows a similar dynamic. Our show as Punderstandably is part scripted so i think it sort of follows this dynamic a little bit.

The Dynamics of a Sitcom (based on the format of F.R.I.E.N.D.S) VS Punderstandably 


+ The One where you have different story each episode
Every sitcom will have a different story each week so a short story to keep the audience who only watches one of the season can still follow along and enjoy the show. (Examples from F.R.I.E.N.D.S – Phoebe and the Barn Yard songs at the school, Joey and his hand twin, Rachel smoking in the office to fit in, Monica becoming friends with the girl who is pretending to be Monica, Chandler and Ross get bullied at Central Perk)

Short form is sort of like this because the style of quick comedy and games creates quick laughs which is what these different stories are used for in Sitcoms. You don’t need to pay that much attention as an audience member you can sit back and just enjoy what is front of you and happening in the moment. You don’t need to pay attention to the structure you can just enjoy what is put in front of you. 

+ The One where you have a more core story that happens over a period of time. 

 Something that a lot of sitcoms have is more of a longer and continuous story thread so that regular watchers of the show can also see how that develops over time. Whilst it is not important to follow this to understand the show, it also makes regular watchers have a reason to turn on every week. (Examples – Chandler and Monica, Ross and Rachel, Phoebes Triplets etc).

With Punderstandably’s Improv Towers show concept whilst we try and make every show in the now we do try and mix it up for people who come and see us more then once. We always rotate the host and sometimes we will mention the past ‘dungeon members’ to create a sense of continuity and that the Towers are a real thing. 

+ The One where you have strong and definable characters

In Sitcoms each of the main characters will have a strong personality trait so that you remember them or can define them even if you don’t know their actual name. This is so that when an audience walks away whether they are regular or new audience members they can associate with one of the leads or remember them / choose the one they like.

In the Improv Towers show this is another thing that we tend to try and do and we really pride ourselves in amping up the characters between the games. We always wanted to create a show that was a gameshow style but was also sort of a narrative / fantasy. We decided right from the start that to do this we needed personas on stage in the scripted part. We all decided on the sort of character that we wanted to be and amped it up whenever we went on stage. So for example, one of us would be incredibly scared of the challenges ahead, another would be the cocky one, another the one that was flirty with the audience etc etc.

The Master of the Keys has the strongest personality of the show as they are the MASTER of the Keys and technically the host. The host was originally based on Richard O’Brian in Crystal Maze, but over time it has had different personas depending on who is hosting. 

+ The One where you have a intro teaser

In sitcoms, this is the part before the show actually starts to sort of set up the story and sort of introduces the audience to the world they are entering – its short its sweet and there is always a joke at hand (Any introduction part of Friends before the credits start)

In Improv Towers show we technically follow the same sort of format – The Master of the Keys will introduce the show and sort of welcome the audience into the Punderstandably “world”.


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