It is duo’s month and so it is only right that we delve into the world of Twoprov this February. Over the next few weeks we are talking to a variation of improv acts up and down the country to find out the ins and outs of being part of a twoprov troupe. Today, I speak to Jodyanne and Monica of Derek’s MoJo, they decided to do their interview in a car and transcribe the chat. Here is just some of the talk and we will be releasing the actual audio in due course because it really is highly entertaining. Enjoy.
Transcript of recording done in Monica’s car on the way to a gig with Monica driving and Jodyanne reading the questions.
Hello tell us all about who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
Jodyanne : Hi, I’m Jodyanne Richardson
Monica : I’m Monica Gaga
Jodyanne & Monica: And we are… Derek’s MoJo!
(general whooping and crowd sfx)
Jodyanne: So we’ve been together for about, coming up two years.
Monica: Is it two years now? When was our birthday? We need to know.
Jodyanne: Or about a year and a half? We’ve done two Christmases.
Jodyanne: As Derek’s MoJo. Prior to that we were together in a troupe called Improvisers Anonymous, which was how we met. I was in Improvisers Anonymous anyway and then one day one of the other improvisers, Dave, says, ‘I’ve go this friend that I’m going to bring along and I think she’ll be really good.’ And we’re all like, ‘oh no we don’t like outsiders. No!’
Monica: What my weird thing is, I was in the mind of I was just finishing drama school, everyone is welcome to everything and then a guy that I was working with says, ‘Oh, I’ve got this improv troupe, do you want to come and play with us?’ so I just assumed that I was like the one making the decision if I wanted to play with you or not. I love the way that we’re both just like – we have the power here.
Jodyanne: Ah, no, we were very happy to have you.
Monica: No it was lovely.
Jodyanne: Dave was singing your praises before you came anyway. He was like, we’ve got to get this lady she’s amazing.
Monica: Oh, wow!
Jodyanne: And he was right because you are amazing.
Monica: It was literally him and another guy we used to work who would go out of their way to annoy me.
(Note from Editor – from now on Monica is M and Jodyanne is J)
What style of Improv do you do?
J: Mish-mash? Hybrid? Um, ooh, that’s a difficult question because it is still evolving.
M: No, yeah, definitely.
J: We started by basically just sitting down and saying what do we like about improv and the main thing is the storytelling. That is key. And that is what we always harp on about and come back to because improv is a bit like poker I suppose. In that you’ve got a five cards in combination to win or lose but it’s how you get to that five card hand – playing all the different variations like in a dealer’s choice. Improv is the same thing. You’re telling a story but how you tell the story is all the different layers of the games and the styles and everything that goes on top of it. It’s a way of mixing it all up.
M: Someone said we are kind of like a Harold. I’ve never done a Harold, well years and years ago. In that you have certain rules or games but I suppose maybe we’re a mish-mash Harold. Actually, do you know what, just take that out just because I don’t even know what it is so I can’t compare us to something else.
J: One of the comments we always get it, ‘I’ve never seen that before, that’s very different’
J: We tell stories. We do short improv games but we also tell a long form story. The short form games slip in and out adding layers. Also straight story telling, scene work and no fourth wall – coming down and talking to the audience.
M:To paraphrase, if you want to know what we do, come see us.
J: Yeah! ‘cause in all honesty we can’t even describe it.
M: It’s always evolving.
J: Yeah, we’re evolving. We’re changing all the time which is great because we like to keep our audience on their toes.
What sort of suggestions do you ask the audience for in your show?
M: Anything that comes up.
J: For example, we’ll be telling you a story about being stuck in traffic at Kings Cross –
As we are
J: As we are… and then we’ll turn to the audience and ask, ‘have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam? Where were you going?’ and get the ask for from that. Our ask fors are usually organic questions that come out of the story that we are telling once we’re up and running. When we first get on stage we like to start straight away as soon as we get on stage with something that has gone on before us coming on. Be that something the host has said, or that the people that were on before us have said or something that has just happened in the day that one us doesn’t know the other one has been up to. Yeah, just spring it on each other.
M: All of the things that you’ve just mentioned, defo.
J: I’m now doing all the talking because Monica is doing the driving. But that’s cool.
M: I’m trying not to crash. It’s team work isn’t it?
J: Yay! Well that fits in with the next question. Nice segue there Monica, I like what you did.
What is the best thing about being in a twoprov?
M: Oh, always just having someone that has got our back. It’s just like being in a relationship, if you don’t mind me saying. It’s always just having someone there. And at no point to do I feel like oh what if forget or what if I don’t… It doesn’t matter because I feel like Jodyanne’s always got my back. It means when you go on trips you’ve always got someone to go with. It’s an even number.
J: Logistically it’s a lot easier.
M: Oh, gosh. That should have been number one.
J: When we were in a big troupe it was great fun.
M: It was, I loved them.
J: But it can be difficult to organise things and get everyone together which how we ended up becoming just the two of us. Logistically it is easier to get two people together to do things. I think one of the things that I love about it is the intimacy. Which is what you were saying about it being like a relationship. Monica and I pretty much know everything about each other because you have to have that level of honesty.
M: I suppose, yeah.
J: Through openness and trust with each other you do develop a very strong bond and relationship in terms of knowing each other and how each other thinks and therefore trusting each other and trusting the other person to catch you. I’m going to say something really outrageous and horrible now but I know that you’re going to help me turn that around to being something acceptable and not just leave me standing on stage with egg on my face.
M: No, definitely.
J: So, yeah, the intimacy of it I suppose. The bond. The…
M&J (singing): Getting to know you, getting to know all about you… bubbeddy bubbeddy bumm.
What is the most challenging?
J: Oh the most challenging is how well I know Monica!
M Also there are only two of us so for example if one person is not free we’re not doing the gig. Unless you’re like a f***ing enormous group which is an awesome group like Amorphous Horse. They’ve got like six million. I feel like everyone is in it. I might be in Amorphous horse and not even realise. Then you can always get enough people together. With us it’s like, are you free? No. Well we’re not doing the gig then.
What will makes you different to other twoprov acts out there?
J: We are different in that we’re not them.
M: Yes, I suppose every two prov group has got something different about them.
M: It’s a beautiful thing. I suppose things that stand out as different about us is we’re female. But there are female twoprov groups that I really like. A Little Bit of Tender – they’re female. Maybe our ethnicities and our experience of where we grew up as well cause… Jodyanne tell them about your weirdness.
J: Oh, I’m Australian born Hong Kong bred now London living and so yeah, we’ve got very different cultural backgrounds but shared experiences.
M: And also the kind of cultural backgrounds and experiences that we have, not that you should judge a book by its cover, but just by looking at us sometimes you don’t realise that.
J: You see the two of us together and sometimes you’ll think that you know. I would say one of the main things that stands out about us, that makes us jump out when you see us compared to others, is that we are very very very energetic.
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an twoprov troupe themselves?
J&M: Do it! Do it, do it do it!
M: All you need is like a space. You don’t even need a space. Because when it’s sunny just go outside or just go in a coffee shop or somewhere.
J: Just do it. It’s amazing. You will bond, you will learn about other people, you will learn about yourself, you may fall out with other people, you may fall out with yourself but it’s all a growth, a learning, a lovely experience. Do it.
What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?
M: So many things have been said, have happened so far. Maybe I can remember not a certain scene but I can remember certain experiences. Like for example when we went to the Byline Festival.
M: Last summer.
J: That was amazing.
M: Just going there. Do it. Speak about the awesomeness.
J: So Byline Festival is this socialist left wing thought space festival –
M: About freedom of speech.
J: And fight the establishment and all of that. And it was just wonderful! We went along and because we were so surrounded by those ethics and the political awareness and everything else the improv that we were doing whilst there became very…
M: It was like wokeprov.
J: Yeah. We were totally. And it was wonderful and that started to feed into the improv that we were doing, and I feel we took more risks in respect of that as well. We were more willing to speak out and take risks and start doing and addressing issues and going there and that was really really wonderful. Having that license. We want to try and bring that into our performance but we also appreciate that sometimes an audience just wants to sit and have a laugh and not think politically so it’s judging your audience. But yes, I would say Byline as a whole would tick that box.
M: Yeah, it’s when you say something and you think oh my gosh I definitely spoke my truth. Like that is definitely us. So yes, experiences not scenes unfortunately.
What other twoprov groups are you a fan of and why?
J: You already mentioned one.
M: Yes, A Little Bit of Tender. They are so strong and they are also coached by Maria Peters. If I believe not. If I believe not? If I believe not I do. If I’m not mistaken. Um, yes, that’s a two prov group I love. Oh, the Ed and Bryn festival. They are beautiful because they are just it’s a slow burn beautifulness and it’s just like a hug of improv. It’s just so so beautiful.
J: I was going to say Bryn as well.
M: Oh, I just love him.
M: Find him on social media. Stalk him. And then talk to him in person. Oh, Dudes. I love the fact that they have just started off a night to celebrate twoprov. Dudes are a pairing that are also a couple. An improv couple but also a pairing that is a romantic pairing as well.
J: Like Mort Saga?
M: Yes, Mort Saga as well.
M: Yeah so Dudes are a great pairing. Maybe they are so intimate with each other not necessarily because it’s romantic but because they are that close. You know when there is a couple in improv but you don’t really believe that they are a couple but it doesn’t matter because the story is so great. You believe Dudes are a couple, you believe that they hate each other you believe that they are just friends. They are just dudes. Yeah, they’re great. And Mort Saga yes.
J: Mort Saga always excellent.
M: Scandi crime
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
M: Sometimes we just sit and chat if that is what we are feeling. And that is great when there is only two of you.
J: Yeah, sometimes we just sit and talk and chat. Especially if we haven’t seen each other for a while
M: Yeah, we’ve got to connect.
J: If there’s been a break and it’s our first rehearsal after that we will just be us sitting on the sofa gossiping. And that’s really good because it’s checking in, seeing where we are, seeing what’s happening – because it’s really important to have that.
M: No, definitely.
J: Otherwise we have kind of a format that we end up doing. We do a bit of a physical warm up and word association and games.
M: And also drilling things and usually sitting down and discussing. The discussion is usually a book mark of what we are doing. Yeah, just going over and over again.
J: Yes, exactly.
Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?
J: Rubber chicken?
M: Yeah, rubber chicken.
M&J: One two three four five meh mah meh
J: Yeah, rubber chicken
M: Going to the toilet?
M: Going, do I need to go to the toilet? Shall we just go toilet?
J: Yeah. And then the lights come down and it’s oh my god I need the toilet!
M: Oh that reminds me of when we was in Edinburgh last year and we walked up the steps to go and see a show and it was the guys from Bristol and they were just like, ‘Oh my gosh someone’s just dropped out can you do the show?’ and when we were just going to go and watch the show we didn’t need to go to the toilet but when we realised we were going to perform we were like we better go to the loo!
J: So we ran downstairs and did a warmup over the cubicle walls whilst both of us having a wee.
M: Which was a pre-show.
J: Which was a pre-show because the other ladies in the bathroom got to hear us doing improv over the top of the cubicles – but yeah it was Edinburgh so you know it was all cool. You know what people are like. Right, so shall we go in and we’ll finish this later?
What are your aims for your troupe for the improv in 2019?
M: Play more shows, that more people see us.
J: Yep. We very much see ourselves as work in progress and our format is changing. We’re developing a new format as well as the standard Derek’s MoJo show which, as we mentioned before, is always evolving and changing. We’re coming up with a new act. Would you call it an act?
M: Yeah, I suppose you… No. Yeah. I suppose. Yeah. A new act.
J: We’re going to be doing Derek’s MoJo Improv Bingo which is going to be improv games but with bingo cards
M: For everyone.
J: Everyone. And it’s just amazing. We’ve done it once already at the Hoopla Marathon.
M: Self-proclaimed amazing.
J: And we’re going to be carrying on at Hoopla because they very kindly given us some work in progress spaces to do it over a number of weeks. Doing a few shows in a row to really hone the product. The product. Ha!
M: What about reaching out beyond the improv circuit?
J: Yes, because we like to play outside. We do variety nights and comedy nights, which is where we are evolving our format, and also playing outside London. We love to play outside London and travel around.
M: I do love a road trip.
J: Yeah, we’re getting good into our road trips.
M: I don’t need a break! I don’t need a break!
J: And I’m like, yes you do! You do, you need a break. So yeah, playing outside London as well.
It’s the month of looooovveeeee so what things do you love about improv and why?
M: I like making stuff up. I like not preparing. I like not having to learn lines.
J: I like the surprises. I like the surprise that you never know what’s going to happen or where you are going to go and so I suppose it’s a feel the fear and do it anyway. But it is not really fearful, it’s exciting.
M: Also, I love watching other people. When people do something awesome and you’re like you did not f****** just make that up.
J: And sometimes it is just so organically beautiful you get drawn in and it’s lovely both for watching it and for performing it.
M: I love musical impro. I feel like it is black magic.
J: We just love improv. Making shit up, not having to practice. Though we do practice or rehearse or something like that.
M: Also bringing people into the cult. I like that.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
M: Derek’s MoJo
J: Dot com.
M: Website http://www.dereksmojo.com
In three words why should people come and see you perform?
M: For something different?
J: Come find out?
DUO QUICK FIRE SPECIAL
If you could be any famous duo from TV, Film or Music what would your twoprov be and why?
J: Have you got someone in mind because we can both say them at the same time but you have to get someone in mind first.
M: Um, so… What’s the question again?
If you could be any famous duo from TV, Film or Music what would your twoprov be and why?
J: Have you got someone in mind?
M: Maybe like Kylie Minogue and her hot pants. Her gold hot pants. Because I like her. The variety of Kylie Minogue. The fact that she is an actress and also a performer. The hot pants are iconic but thy are also a throw back to the nineties. I enjoyed the nineties because the Spice Girls were there. Were there? They’re also here. They’re not dead.
J: I don’t want to say what I thought now! That such was such a genius answer.
Who creates the craziest improv characters?
M: I would say you maybe because of you’re evil stuff. I’m very straight forward.
J: I would say they wouldn’t exist as who they are without each other because we have characters and they feed off each other.
M: You came up with the fetish babies tonight.
J: But you went with the fetish babies and put the hole in the front so we could vajazzle. So it’s layer upon layer like a cake.
(editor note from Derek’s Mojo – grown adults dressing up as babies – not real babies)
M: Mo and jo? Can we say that?
J: Yeah. Mo and Jo do.
M: On their own they are just ridiculous.
J: Yeah, it’s Mo and Jo. The characters that we play on stage.
What is your favourite thing about one another?
M: Oh. That you just know stuff. And you just bring things together. Cause I feel like I just shout random things.
J: I love how inclusive and warm and wonderful and friendly and approachable you are.
M: Do you like the way I just quoted slavery in our set. Did you enjoy that?
J: I was ready to go for it. I was ready to go with it and then you backed away and I was like aw.
What is the thing that the other would go viral for?
J: On the dark web or on the normal web?
M: Probably exposing myself?
J: I think you would just go viral for being awesome.
M: Oh, that is so nice. But I reckon my boob would fall out the bottom of my bra. If we’re realistic. You know when I make my own crop top I reckon my boob would fall out there.
J: And I think for me it would just be saying something total inappropriate and politically incorrect.
M: And being white while doing it. People don’t know your history.
J: I would just say that… I know that things that sometimes come out of my mouth are wrong anyway and yeah it would be saying it. Yeah, just saying the wrong thing from another century which is when I’m from anyway.
You have £50 in your pocket to buy the other a present – what would you get them and why?
J: Fifty quid! You’re spending fifty quid on me?!
M: I was just about to say I would just give you the fifty pounds.
J: I’d probably buy you ten pounds worth of scratch cards and take you out for a forty pound meal.
M: Scratch cards? Really?
J: No, I’d take you out for dinner.
M: Do you reckon?
J: Or to the theatre. Ah no, we’d go and see a west end show probably.
M: For fifty quid?
J: Well for fifty quid I could get you a ticket for a theatre show and I could buy my own ticket ‘cause I’m spending the fifty on you. So we could go and see a show.
M: Let’s go and see a show. But I always think of you and I connect you with not spending money.
J: Are you saying I’m a cheapskate?
M: I’m not saying you’re a cheapskate. I feel like I would not spend the money correctly. I feel like I want to give it t you so you can spend it in the best manner.
J: Okay. Yeah, I’d spend I on taking us out. Or I’d probably spend it on groceries.
M: Yeah, you would probably spend it on groceries.
If you had to release a duet – what would the song be and why?
J: We’d probably be singing different songs at the same time in non-harmony.
M: Yeah, definitely.
J: Okay, So we’re going to start singing a song. One, two, three…
*Jodyanne starts singing Girl From Ipanema whilst Monica sings What’s Love Got to Do With It.*
J: There we go. Just like that.
M: I should have known that was going to be your song.
J: Yeah, because it is my song. It’s the last one, Here we go.
The toughest question of all – last rolo – would you keep it or give it to your twoprov buddy?
M: None of us can eat Rolos. Can you eat chocolate with milk?
J: I don’t eat Rolos so I’d give it to you .
M: But then I wouldn’t have it either. I can’t have Rolos.
J: We’d give it away. And that’s the end of our lovely lovely questionnaire. Thank you very much for having us. And thank you very much for driving me home.