This month is a very exciting one for fans of improv and comedy because every Friday in June you can go to the Museum Of Comedy in Central London to see the show Suki’s Webster Guest Speaker where she will be joined by some of the biggest names in the comedy scene including Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence and Lee Simpson.
Over the coming month, we will be sharing lots of photos on our social media channels (so like us over on our Facebook Page or Twitter) to get you in the mood for the up and coming shows. As well as that, we have an exclusive set of interview’s with the main lady herself – Suki Webster! In our second interview we delve into the world of her improv troupe Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Radio 4 and Improv advice…..
As well as hosting Guest Speaker you are also a member of Paul Merton’s Impro Chums – what have been some of the highlights of some of the shows that you have performed in the past?
Back in 2004 the Comedy Store Players were invited to go and do a tour in India. The Impro Chums team came out of that tour with the original members being Paul Merton, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch, Jim Sweeney and myself. The wonderful Jim Sweeney has now sadly retired due to ill health but that Indian tour was amazing. We played several nights in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. Each night we got a standing ovation. We asked the promoter if this was normal and he said that no that only happens when people really love the show. I think the Indians just love improvisation and it was all new to them which made it even more exciting.
In the second half they would write down suggestions of scenes for us to do. Often they gave us suggestions like “Starring in a Bollywood Movie” or “Taking a took-took ride.” I think they loved seeing us trying to replicate their culture as best we could and pay tribute to that amazing country. Every night was a joy and so that’s why we decided to continue as a team. We were the people who happened to be available and something magical happened during those shows. Since then again there have been so many highlights it’s a really happy fun show.
“…I love the teamwork of Impro and the instant gratification you get from audience laughter. However what’s great about writing is being able to perfect an idea, to write it then re draft it until it’s as polished as possible…” – Suki Webster
You have also at the beginning of this year recorded a play for Radio 4 called ‘My Obsession’ – can you tell us a little bit about it.
Yes I am so excited about “My Obsession.” We recorded it in February and it was one of those nights where everything worked and the recording felt electric. If anybody reading this came along a HUGE THANK YOU you were an amazing audience. I went home buzzing and couldn’t sleep all night! Since then Liz Anstee my producer allowed me a huge say in the edit which was great.
I’m in danger of sounding really gushy because all the questions are about things I love and I am a bit like a 6 year old in that I get pretty excitable about stuff. So just to even the score here’s something I don’t like: Cheese! There! Keeping it real people! Who am I kidding “My Obsession” was bloody exciting, woohoo!!!!
Do you prefer writing comedy or improvising? What are the pro and cons of both?
I definitely find writing much harder, I love the teamwork of Impro and the instant gratification you get from audience laughter. However what’s great about writing is being able to perfect an idea, to write it then re draft it until it’s as polished as possible. Then when it does work the satisfaction is huge. When I write I often improvise with myself for the first draft then tighten my ideas up, so I don’t think I’d be able to write without my years of improvisation experience. And like I say I’ve been around for a while in fact I think I might have been mentioned in the bible: “And thus Jesus and Suki did ask for a household object and verily the audience did shout spatula,”
“…it’s a really exciting time to be a part of the community and I don’t really know where it’s all going to head….” – Suki Webster
You also appear regularly at the comedy store with the comedy store players do you find yourself upping your game when you are playing in such an iconic venue?
I love playing with the Comedy Store Players it is one of my favourite shows to do, in some ways it is the tree that many of the other shows I do have branched from. I feel really privileged to get to do that show however I like to try and do my best at every show, I think no matter how big or small the show is you need to turn up and bring your best game.
I have done shows to 30 people in rooms above pubs recently to 80 people when I do my Suki Webster’s Guest Speakers show and Last summer we did a Paul Merton is Impro Chums show at Hampton Court Palace to 4000 people. So no matter the size or prestige of the venue I think it’s important to give it your best.
The Improv community is at a point where a lot of things are constantly evolving – with the introduction of more advanced concepts / technology – where would you like to see the future of improv heading?
Improvisation certainly seems to be going through a Renaissance, lots of new shows and new formats are popping up. it’s a really exciting time to be a part of the community and I don’t really know where it’s all going to head. However, one thing I would really like to see is a few less free shows. I think if you build up the skills and put the time to have an expertise in this art form it’s worth the audience paying for it and that makes it more legitimate.
I would really like to see improvisation become as respected and well attended as stand-up comedy, West End theatre and dance. That would be my dream for its future.
What have been some of the highlights of playing past Edinburgh Fringes with your troupes?
The funny thing about doing improvised shows is that you are so in the moment often after the show you have no idea what you’ve just said. it’s like tickertape that runs through your head, once it’s out the other side it’s gone. it’s one of the joys of a spontaneous show it’s different every time but you can’t recall a lot of the moments from it.
For anyone thinking of heading up there this year – what advice would you give them?
Many years ago I did a show in the West End with Eddie Izzard called One Word Impro and during that show I had apparently sang a song. About two years later I was in a toilet at a pub and somebody came up to me and said I recognise you, you did a show with Eddie Izzard and you sang a song and they sang the song back to me I had absolutely no memory of it until they sang it and was amazed that they had remembered. It is such a fun job we do we are so lucky.
For anyone thinking of heading up the Edinburgh Fringe this year – what advice would you give them?
Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a fantastic thing – you get to work hard and often play hard too! There are so many shows to see and so many people to run in to, it is fun fun fun. My advice to anybody who is going up for the first time is to be prepared. make sure your show is as good as it can possibly be before you get there, be happy with your advertising material and then relax and enjoy.
Often new shows play to very few people in the first few days, there is absolutely no shame doing your show to 5 or 6 people so don’t let that throw you. just enjoy the ride because it can be one hell of a ride!
See Suki Webster’s Guest Speaker at the Leicester Square Museum of Comedy every Friday in June starting this Friday with Suki Webster, Paul Merton, Ruth Bratt and Lee Simpson. Tickets are £10 and can be bought by clicking here