Improv Diaries – Going It Alone…. [Case Study – Ed Helms]

This week there are two areas of improv I want to talk about and from both I feel different lessons were learnt. So lets jump right into the first part.

Hoopla Pre-Partry

This week, not only were Punderstandably performing at the Saturday Hoopla Pre-Party but I was hosting the night. I love hosting – it is really fun and every time I do hosting I always try and do something different with it. The last time I hosted at The Miller it was a completely full venue so you feel the buzz of the audience and the adrenaline sort of gets behind you and you amp it up even more.

Sometimes the Pre-party does not have many people in the audience – this time was one of those situations and a lot of the audience were sitting to the stage right with a big gap in the middle – whilst the lights were up quite high it can be a little off putting knowing there is a huge space but I tried to not let it bother me. The one this I like about hosting even when the venue isn’t full is that the challenge is to create the same buzz and ambience in the venue that you would expect if it was rammed. I made sure the audience gave every act a great cheer on and joked with the audience that I refused to leave the stage if they did not cheer.

The show this month we were a Punders down as James was on holiday, we have done a lot of rehearsals as a foursome and they have always gone right – however the actual set i personally felt it wasn’t the best one. This has to happen to a group, it cannot be all roses and rainbows – sometimes you have to have an off day and this was it.

Musical Improv

This week we delved into trying different areas of musical Improv that we haven’t really tried yet to help us to develop song structures and a solid chorus. The first thing that we did was a brand new musical warm up, so new in face that Phil had only invented it with a friend before. I won’t go into any details as it is his brand new baby but I will say that it was a great exercise to get used to singing verses with long lines.

This week was all about the Solo – yes that is right singing solo! This was to get us in the mind set of finding a pattern in a song that we sing to develop a chorus. This is a good exercise to do as a solo situation because it means that as a group you can collectively look at where the song structure comes from. The whole idea was the person gets given an emotional situation and then they have to sing a song about that said subject. The ‘audience’ then have to put their hand up when they hear a line that sounds like it should be the main concept of the song to make the chorus.

Initially, I was nervous to go into this exercise because even though I am not afraid to do a solo thing on stage, it was more about the actual getting the song concept correct. Once I watched people like Sam do the scene in a character I felt so much more at ease and knew how to approach it. Characters to me are a fun and easier way to approach something on stage instead of reacting like the ‘truth.’

Once we had all done a solo version of a song, we then did scenes in pairs where the song had to follow a similar concept but lead into a song with a chorus that you find together.

This was a fun lesson this week and I felt that musically and structurally I learnt a hell of a lot and that is what I really enjoyed, it was fun but also educational.

Case Study – Ed Helms

I knew what I wanted to talk about this week but actually finding a case study to prove my initial point was hard to find so i went to Google and searched quotes related to improv to try and make it and funnily enough, the quotes that stood out to me was by a comedic actor that I really enjoy watching and that was Ed Helms.

I am not a fan of that many films with Ed in it, however i still sometimes force myself to actually watch some of these because I have a lot of respect for Ed as a person. For starters he is an extremely talented individual – both comedic and musically and I have never really listened to folk style music until I came across his band The Lonesome Trio. Also, from watching interviews and even his adventure with Bear Grylls he comes across as a very wholesome person and genuinely down to earth and that is good to see in Hollywood.

This is a couple of the quotes I came across that Ed has said about improv and I am going to start with this one:


Music for me has always been something that has flooded through my veins and for me, musical improv allows me to both explore and expand on this even more. For me, I like musical improv more when I can add a character to it. I find it brings a fresh and new experience to the world of music to me.


Now, this quote I came across as well and I again agree with it and can relate to it in regards to any area of the comedy. Relating it to musical improv I feel that finding the silliest joke is something that I find is a forte I try and do. Poetry has been something that I have been quite good at since the age of 13 and can rhyme words very quickly – this means that I can come up with a joke pretty much on the spot. This is what I like about Musical Improv is that I can use my rhyming talents and create a musical line to a song that people may not expect. That is something I love about it – it makes me really improve my poetry but at the same time have a lot of fun.

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