It is nearing the end of 2018 and what we like to do here on The Phoenix Remix is celebrate the world of improv and what a year it has been! There has been so many great acts and shows this year and it has been really hard to decide who to interview for our mini awards that we hold at the end of the year. So on the run up to new year we will have a couple of exclusive interviews with some of the best acts that we have had the privilege of seeing or listening to this year.
It is always weird writing a site when you are also part of an improv troupe as you feel that you should not take advantage and promote your own shows. HOWEVER, saying that, there are seven other people in my troupe that work so hard to make our shows good that I felt that they deserved to gain some recognition in these awards.
We have a lot of shows already booked in next year and we have Improv Towers booked in at the Miller in London Bridge all the way through to October 2019. So whilst this may be a tad cheeky, ignore the fact that I am part of this troupe and really absorb the praise for everyone else.
The Show You Must See In 2019 is Improv Towers by Punderstandably. I caught up with one of the James’, or JBB as we call him to differentiate between the two James’ to discuss all things short form improv.
So JBB you have won the award for show to watch in 2019 How do you feel?
It feels great, to be honoured on such a prolific improv site such as Phoenix Remix. We really hope that we can keep delivering the high quality shows that our audiences expect.
How did the idea of Improv Towers come around?
We were in a room in London bridge kicking around ideas on how to give our show some form of structure. There was talk of an improv zoo and rotating wheels but when the gameshow element came up we all like it. From there it was a question of taking it a step further and making it competitive.
Who have been some of your favourite games this year?
I love Mirrors, where one person controls the action of the other with a 3rd person justifying everything. It’s hilarious as you’re completely at the mercy of the controlling person and you are constantly having to justify things that make no sense in the scene.
Aside from that I really like emotional squares where each corner of the stage is a different emotion. I love it as the emotions have the ability to flip a scene and randomly change it’s direction. You thought you were doing a romantic date scene and then BAM! one of the emotions is fear and you need to figure that out!
What are your plans for 2019?
Personally I want to keep improving, there are a few courses I’ve got my eye on and a few big shows in the pipeline.
From a broader sense I would like to make contact with Aliens and really apologise for Trump and Brexit. I’d hope they’d understand. Plus they could teach me how to stop killing all the plants I buy. Like how did I manage to kill a catcus?!?!
Why do you think people really enjoy Improv Towers?
The fact that we’re constantly developing and testing new stuff. Not everything works but by constantly trying stuff it’s led to a number of great new games that we’ve devised. Our audiences like to be surprised, especially other improvisers and doing that delivers real enjoyment. The competitive element is always fun and people really get behind their favourite improviser.
Tell us all about how 2018 has been for you?
As a team it’s been phenomenal. although we’ve had to say goodbye to a few friendly faces we’ve also welcomed in three new members who bring such energy and have helped direct the flow of the team. We’ve done 3 big nights and to have such an engaged audience at all of those was great.
What has been some of your highlights of the show of this year?
I think this was the year that Punderstandably went into adolescence. There were a few hiccups and bad shows. Namely when we’ve forgotten to get the right suggestions or how many of us need to be on stage but through it all we’ve stayed united as a team. That for me has really been the highlight. Having a group of people who are willing to try almost anything on stage and give it 100%.
What have been some of your favourite improv shows you have seen this year and why?
I’ve seen a lot more shows recently but it’s difficult to name names. Anything that brings creativity and passion has my vote.
What improv acts do you find inspiring and why?
I really like what B.R.A are doing by taking a traditionally short form format and turning into a long form scene. It’s great to see these things being challenged and they do it so well.
Also on that note the 20% less show Word Of Muff is great for giving acts a chance to come and perform at a female only night. It a comfortable space and showcases a lot of talent I’ve not seen elsewhere.
Where do you see Punderstandably n a years time.
I have no idea, given where we were a year ago having done our first small show it’s great to see the team expand and putting on our own nights. I’d hope we continue to improve and that we get to a point where the audience can suggest games for us to do and we get on and do those. A show for the audience, decided by the audience.