We’re called Derek’s MoJo. Derek’s MoJo is made up of myself and Jodyanne FR. It’s definitely our love child – we’ve put a lot of time and care into it. Laughs, sweat and tears – all of that. It’s definitely a labour of love. In terms of style we’re basically a long-form/short-form hybrid mash up on acid. And we’re always striving to tell stories that matter – that’s always at the core of what we do.
How did your troupe come about?
Jodyanne and I used to be in a group called Improvisers Anonymous. Often we were the only two people that were available to get together. So we were sitting in Jodyanne’s flat one day, the only two people that could make it to rehearsals, and we realised we always seemed to be free on the same day. And so we decided to do something together. We didn’t know it then but Derek’s MoJo was born.
How did you get into improv?
I was 11 years old. It was the summer before going into secondary school. My grandmother signed me up to drama classes – I didn’t want to go but no was not an option. Little did I know that most of the drama we were doing was improv. So I suppose it started there and then the youth theatre I went to was based a lot on improv. I had a break when I went to drama school and then after that I was working with someone on a kids show and they told me about an improv group they were in, Improviser Anonymous, and asked if I wanted to join. And then my love was rekindled, I found my way back to the light. I make it sound like a cult – it is, come join!
What are your plans improv wise for 2019?
Derek’s Mojo are going to apply for more festivals – we’ve already been booked to go to Byline in August 2019 which we did for the first time in August this year and loved. We are also going to carry on going back to the places we love. Shout out to The Nursery, Hoopla, Duck Duck Goose, House of Idiot and all those lovely gigs we’ve been welcomed to. If they keep asking we’ll keep playing. On top of that we’re going to push for the comedy/stand up circuit and other alternative gig circuits such as cabaret and quiz nights. And watch this space for DMJ bingo. Whatever we do and wherever we do it we’re just going to keep pushing to ensure that DMJ tells stories that matter
Individually, I’m going to be teaching the Hoopla beginners improv course which is new and very exciting and Jodyanne is going to be filming a lot of cool stuff.
What other improv acts are you looking forward to seeing to this year?
Dreamweaver Quartet. In my opinion they are one of the strongest musical improv groups on the scene and I love their twist. I’ve also seen the Hoopla house teams go from strength to strength this year. I remember seeing them at some of their early gigs. I’ve seen them at so many stages and each time they play they step it up, so I feel like 2019 is going to be great for them. And a personal favourite of mine – Jack Left Town, who I completely fan girl over. Great guys, great improv, great tech. I’ve only named three but there are so many other groups that have really wowed me this year. I’m really lucky to be part of putting on Duck Duck Goose on a Monday and hosting at Hoopla because it gives me a chance to see so many emerging groups and there’s been so many times I’ve gone: “Fuck, this is a good show.” The pre-parties at Hoopla are really stepping it up – love it. And it’s free, so come!
I’m also excited to see the things that places like Hoopla and The Nursery are investing in – they put time and money into so many original shows which is so important for the scene.
What styles do you hope to see more of in improv this year?
Topical styles. I suppose I mean a slice of the zeitgeist really. Also things that are pushing the boundaries a little bit. There have been a few gigs when I’ve seen of certain groups and pushing the boundaries, not always playing the good guys. I also want to see the integration of tech – tech are the unsung heroes of improv. They are coming to the front a little bit more but not as much as they should be. The people behind the scenes: the people that are putting costumes together, the people doing the tech, the musicians – they should all get the credit they could deserve.
And of course I’m looking forward to seeing more diversity – that’s women, BAME, LGBT, people of all abilities, people from all economic backgrounds – just other. I’m just looking forward to seeing the other. There’s a place for everyone in improv.
Do you have any new years resolutions? If so what are they?
I want to have a better balance between my improv life and personal life, even though at times they are merged into one. I think what’s difficult is the improv scene, and I speak mostly about London because that’s mostly my experience, although I’ve had very nice visits to places like Leeds, Bristol and Edinburgh, is that because the scene is so inclusive you want to spend lots of time with these people. You want to go to all of the events because people are putting out awesome stuff, they’re dedicating themselves to these ideas: putting in the time, going to rehearsals, putting stuff together.
Everyone is also so supportive. But on the other hand I can’t say yes to everything, and at times this year I have done that. I’m not giving all the things I do all the love and time and energy they truly deserve.
Are you on social media? If so how can people find out more about your troupe?
Yes! Firstly, visit our website dereksmojo.com – all of our stuff is on there. Jodyanne is the queen of that, I can take no credit for it at all. And if you want to go on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or even Snapchat find us @dereksmojo. We’re on YouTube as cartoon versions of ourselves – definitely check that out.
Three words why people should come and see you this year?
Fun. Fast. Feminist.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Once when I was younger I accidentally drank face toner. My friend had put some in a Panda Pop bottle and I just took a swig out of it. Luckily I didn’t swallow it but it wasn’t great – please don’t do this at home: kids, adults, animals – no one!
If you could trade lives with anyone for a day who would it be and why?
My auntie’s cat Tigger – he receives so much love. He’s got a great home. Goes out whenever he wants. Hardly has any responsibility. He could be like my holiday home – you know how people have holiday homes? I’m having a holiday body. Right guys, just gonna be a cat for a while.
If you could paint anything what would you paint?
My room. I’ve been needing to paint it for about a year now. This is why my new years resolution is to make sure I have a balance between improv and life-min.
What is the most delightful word you can think of?
Proud Mary by Tina Turner.
Who is your comedy hero and why?
I do like Tiffany Haddish. She’s overcome so much and is just killing it. She’s just a walking talking definition of smashing it. She really shows hard work pays off.
What is your favourite movie quote?
“You go, Glen Coco!” is the first thing that comes to mind but let’s pretend that isn’t the case. Really it’s “Why can’t I quit you?” from Brokeback Mountain. I also really like “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.” from The Help.
Who is your favourite cartoon character and why?
Ursula. She’s large and she’s sexy and she’s evil – sadly I only cover two of those things so, alas, I can never be her.