INTERVIEW: Stealing The Show, The Improvised Heist Comedy

There are so many great comedy and improv shows on this week and whilst a lot of them are based around the theme of valentines Day or love, there are some that are completely different and ready to make you laugh your socks off. In Cambridge Stealing The Show Improv are performing at The Boathouse in Cambridge on the 25th all around the concept of a Heist. I caught up with the guys to find out all about it.

Hello Guys! Tell us about Stealing The Show Improv you all are and a little bit about yourselves?

We are Hugh, David, Sean and Mike and together we are Stealing The Show. STS is a long form narrative improv comedy show. In english, STS is an hour long show in which we pull off an “Oceans 11 style” heist, all based off audience suggestions. We’re a Cambridge based troupe formed in May 2017.

We all live in Cambridge, Sean has been improvising for about 5 years and started in Germany after a friend invited him to a show, where they announced a taster drop-in and classes which he quickly signed up for, and hasn’t stopped since. Mike started taking improv classes in Cambridge in January 2015 and has been regularly working with other Cambridge improvers ever since, David started out with the Oxford Imps before moving to Cambridge in 2014 and performing with Paper Planes. Hugh moved to Cambridge after getting into short form with The Shrimps in Sheffield, then cocreating Scriptless In Seattle with Rachel Thorn and Alex Keen of Crime Scene Impro (Rachel) and Between Us (Rachel and Alex).

How did you come up with the name of you troupe?

Hugh: As far as I can remember, we settled on Stealing The Show quite early. I know that we were definitely trying to avoid the trope of putting the word improv in the name, we felt that the show should stand on its own as an hour of entertainment and not just be impressive because it’s improvised. Our main point of contention was whether it should have a colon; Stealing: The Show. I was super pro-colon but I think I said it with the pause one too many times in rehearsals and we all agreed it should be one continuous phrase.

David: We had a group discussion on our facebook group, and ‘Stealing the Show’ was the least embarrassing title to emerge. Discarded ideas included ‘Heist Aches’ and ‘Super Funny Theftaganza’.

Sean: Well what happened there was, they’d been playing together for a while. Then they asked me to join the cast and said, this is what the group’s called.

Mike: We kicked around a few ideas but this one was my favourite. I can’t remember where I stood on the colon issue.

Tell us a little bit about the show you are performing on the 15th February?

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 16.37.57Our show on the 15th will be our second show for a live audience. We’ve been together since May but because Hugh’s a Muppet it took us ages to get the show on stage, but once we did we packed the venue out and everyone had a great time, us included! So the show in February is going to be more of the same. It’s upstairs at The Boathouse pub on Milton Road in Cambridge.

We open the show by getting a suggestion of something to steal and a location that it might be kept in, then we give our thieves a couple of skills to steal the object with. What follows is a rip roaring hour of big characters, criminal capers and desperately trying not to corpse. It’s just a great show to perform, we get to build characters, tell stories and finish off with a high energy heist.

What have been the highlights of the shows that you have performed previously?

Our last show focussed on Stabby Greg, Paul and Daniel, who banded together to steal Ghandi’s glasses from inside a crocodile in Scunthorpe. Obviously.

Hugh: My favourite part of the show was Mike’s character of Richard Dawkins. As the “Bad guy”, he had to come up with a nefarious reason to explain why he had Ghandi’s glasses inside a crocodile in Scunthorpe. He was coming up with great lines left and right. He was transporting the glasses to Scunthorpe by walking them up the hard shoulder of the motorway in crocodiles “To save on postage and packaging.” Lucky I was on the sideline at that point because I just died.

Sean: One of the heist crew, played by David, was a singer and used that skill to get the team past some guard bears. He started singing Teddy Bears Picnic which caused an impromptu waltz between the thieves and the bears, before Stabby Greg found a more permanent solution. RIP Bears.

Mike: The last show had a very strong opening with ‘Stabby’ Greg aggressively doing the knife between the fingers thing on a cafe table. My favourite bits were the flashbacks to Richard Dawkins visiting his family in prison who were deeply disappointed in his lack of stabbing skills. Good times.

David: Richard Dawkin’s justification for being in possession of Ghandi’s glasses: that he wanted “to see the change you want to be in the world”. Ridiculous.

You are based in Cambridge what’s the improv scene like?

Hugh: Cambridge is a quarter of the size of Sheffield so moving here was a bit of a step change as the scene reflects that, but once you’re in, you realise the scene is really live and kicking. We benefit from some great people who produce some great shows. Three night runs in theatre quality spaces aren’t uncommon and the variety of improv is massive. I think we really benefit from being 45 mins away from London by train as a lot of the knowledge being shared there makes its way here really quickly.

If people want to get into improv there where can they go to train?

Sean:Just do a web search for improv and the name of the place you live. You’ll probably find out if anything is happening there and if not then you’ll likely see the nearest place. Or you can find the UK Improv on Facebook and ask in there, everyone’s really kind. But you don’t need to go somewhere else to train, I know plenty of people who got some friends together, bought a book about performing Improv and just taught each other.

There are some great books too, the Upright Citizens Brigade Improvisation Manual is a book a lot of people used. Katy Schutte just put out a longform workbook called The Improviser’s Way which is also very good and worth checking out. Watch some improv too because that also helps, there are plenty of shows from UCB in New York and The Nursery in London, or TJ and Dave from Chicago have a series on Vimeo which is highly recommended.

If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?

You can find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @showtheft

What do you think 2018 holds for the world of improv – what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?

Sean: Improv is still growing with more people wanting to try all the time, so I think we’re going to see more of everything. There are more people joining in and playing, more people getting groups together and putting on shows, and more people getting creative and creating new shows. It’s only January and I’ve already seen a couple of cool, new and interesting shows, so just more in general.

Hugh: I just want to see more synergy across the UK improv scene. I’ve had the pleasure of working with groups all over the country and I’d like to keep up the momentum. I’m trying to make sure that I extended an invite to groups I perform with. We’re lucky enough to be able to be able to get to most major cities in a few hours so if we can build networks we can share the creativity and talent really easily. Things like the British Improv Project are going a long way to start these sort of networks and it’s great to see and support.

And Finally – in three words, why should people come and see you at the The Boathouse?

Sean: Picnic Bears Dancing
Mike: Stealing, Revealing, Appealing. Hugh: Cheek muscle workout.
David: Energetic, skillful, funny


Favourite sitcom?

Sean: Father Ted

Mike: Parks and Rec

Hugh: Brooklyn 99

David: Yes Minister

Favourite comedian?

David: Stewart Lee

Sean: Stewart Lee

Mike: Bill Bailey

Hugh: Ron Funches

Favourite short form game to play in improv?

David: Bust a Line

Sean: New Choice
Mike: two-headed expert

Hugh: Pan left

The last thing you liked on social media?

Sean: A stand-up comedian friend of mine shared where he was performing with another friend. I’m making more of an effort not to like things and write a comment instead.

Mike: A friend talking about her work’s annual party and how she had never seen so many people dancing in one room.

David: The Poetry of Ray Wilkins

Hugh: A well crafted joke aimed at Katie Hopkins.

What would your autobiography be called?

Hugh: “Improv, TV chefs and how to force one into the other.” Sean: “Supporting Character Number 3”
David: “He’s alright once you get to know him”

What is your favourite joke?

Sean: Two scientists walk into a bar. The first scientist says :”I’ll have an H2O.”
The second scientist says: “I’ll have an H2O, too.”
The bartender gives them both water because he is able to distinguish the boundary tones that dictate the grammatical function of homonyms in coda position as well as pragmatic context.

Hugh: My favourite electrician service to use is the bunch of German guys down the road, because many Hans make lights work.

Improv group you would love to collaborate with?

Sean: BIG NOW and The Glenda J Collective
Hugh: Damn Sean, you called it.
David: Shaken not Stirred, the Improvised James Bond Film

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