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 a twoprov troupe that are also part of the fantastic troupe the DNAYS as well as being Award Nominated filmmakers! I caught up with Shaun and Tim of The Homunculus to find out all about them.
Hello tell us all about who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
We’re Tim Grewcock and Shaun Lowthian. As a twoprov we’re The Homunculus, but you can also see both of us perform in Do Not Adjust Your Stage across London and beyond. Shaun also performs at The Free Association with The Wilsons and Uncle Glens Menagerie. Much to our surprise, we’re also a Writers’ Guild Award-nominated film-makers, for our comedy short Spokke (https://vimeo.com/268629790), which features a host of brilliant London improvisers in cast and crew.
What style of Improv do you do?
Shaun: We perform character and relationship-driven long-form improv comedy. In the last couple of years we’ve been working with a format called The Detour.
Tim: Yep, that’s what I hoped we were doing.
What sort of suggestions do you ask the audience for in your show?
Shaun: A single word gets us going, and we can virtually guarantee we’ll have forgotten it 25 mins later.
Tim: Almost certainly.
What is the best thing about being in a twoprov?
Shaun: Its nice to have a bit more time with the characters you create. There’s no over-excitable backline tagging in, so we get the chance to see some fully formed people, rather than a guy who eats only cheese, lives in a postbox or whatever (disclaimer: these are fun character choices and I insist on seeing them in every improv show)
Tim: It’s similar for me too. I really love getting to play characters for that bit longer, and being able to play more patiently. It really forces you to double down on your choices and pay attention to your partner.
What is the most challenging?
Shaun: Sounds obvious, but there’s only two of us. You’re in every scene from the start. Getting enough variety in shows and across different ones is a fun challenge.
Tim: The format that we’re currently doing (The Detour) is pretty challenging as it uses a repeated scene at it’s core. So it means we have to almost memorise the first scene as we’re improvising it.
What will makes you different to other twoprov acts out there?
Shaun: We’ve been performing together for 12 years now that I hope that bond comes across. Longevity is a selling-point right?
Tim: Indeed. 12 excellent years. Also we are now putting our improv skills to good use as a writing partnership.
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an twoprov troupe themselves?
Shaun: However hard your brain is working, make this scene you’re in 20% more stupid than it is.
Tim: This probably applies to improv that’s being performed at comedy nights: Try to vary your set lengths. We started off doing quite long sets (30mins) which is great, but you don’t often get that long on stage. So we found it’s useful to be able to do a really tight 15/20minute set as well as a longer 30 minute one.
What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?
Shaun: Hard to remember too many specifics, but we had a fun one at the UCB’s Del Close Marathon about a couple falling out over one’s obsession with retro-indie band The Verve. It turns out New Yorkers either (a) know more than you think about retro-indie band The Verve or (b) enjoy watching a marriage breakdown from the inside.
Tim: At Copenhagen Improv Fest last year we had great fun as a couple of brothers escaping to a summerhouse to relive their youth. I can only remember this one because it was filmed.
What other twoprov groups are you a fan of and why?
Shaun: No doubt everyone will say this, but TJ and Dave are the masters. Vulnerable and human characters, played in really committed and grounded way. No cheap laughs. They’re an inspiration really.
Tim: So many! Love TJ and Dave. Also Dummy are brilliant too, they are coming to the UK soon and we’re going to see them at Edinburgh Improv Festival which is super exciting. Also Cariad and Paul are always brilliant. Recently DNAYS were on with Beings at the Miller and their set was simply wonderful, Andrew and Susan are two of the most awesome folks on the scene so check them out.
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
Shaun: We’re improvising together a lot already with DNAYS , but we’re always sharper in shows after a couple of Homunculus-specific rehearsals. The main challenge is finding a good timeslot for us both, and then avoiding burning through that timeslot talking about 90s footballers.
Tim: Mainly just doing reps of scenes and The Detour structure to make sure we know it. Exercise wise a bit of mind-meld and sometimes scenes nose to nose and far away from each other to focus on the scene partner.
Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?
Shaun: If there’s better prep for us than yelling ‘For helvede, Kasper’ at each other (thanks Borgen), we haven’t found it yet.
Tim: When we’re not doing the best bits from Borgen we warm up as dumb Wisconsin cops trying to pin everything on the Avery boys (see Making a Murderer).
What are your aims for your troupe for the improv in 2019?
Shaun: We’ll be popping up around London’s improv venues as much as possible in between our DNAYS commitments (BOOK US PLEASE AND THANK YOU) and hopefully getting around the UK and abroad a bit. We’ve had a stonking time in Copenhagen and at UCB NY in the last couple of years.
Tim: We’re also working on out next short film projects. 2018 was a great year for us in terms of our first short film, so now we’re moving on to our next ones. We’ve got some exciting plans and hope to be shooting again soon. There’s such a lot of talented folks in the UK improv scene at the moment and we hope to be able to call on some of them to help us make some more stuff!
It’s the month of looooovveeeee so what things do you love about improv and why?
Shaun: A bunch of people gather in a room. Something funny, moving and interesting gets created out of nothing. Then those people head off back to their lives knowing that same experience will never be repeated again. It’s pretty magical really. That’s my pretentious way of saying ‘You had to be there’
Tim: Improv still continually surprises me, in rehearsal, on stage and in workshops. It still gets me laughing like nothing else. It also has at it’s core communities of really good, generous people who have established welcoming places, courses and festivals for people to come to and learn, perform and meet new people.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
thehomunculus.co.uk or @homunculusimpro for us as a pair
@shaunlowthian and @tgrewcock to show us some solo love.
In three words why should people come and see you perform?
Shaun: We crave approval
Tim: Shaun’s very sick
DUO QUICK FIRE SPECIAL
If you could be any famous duo from TV, Film or Music what would your twoprov be and why?
Shaun: We both love Inside No. 9, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are heroes. If not them, then probably…
Tim: Susan and Karl Kennedy from Neighbours. Supportive partners even when faced with ludicrous circumstances.
Who creates the craziest improv characters?
Shaun: I don’t know between us, but there’s no rarer pleasure than the absolute chaos of an international improv jam. It’s a genuine delight watching everyone adjust to totally different improv cultures and some very strong character choices.
Tim: I’m not too sure! Probably me, but I think we stay more grounded than we used too.
What is your favourite thing about one another?
Shaun: I’ve never known a man be so enthusiastic about the latest international greasy spoon – Tim’s your man if you need recommendations on Lebanese, Ethiocuban or Norwegian-Turkish restaurants. It’s absolutely joyful. He’s also one of the best character improvisers I’ve ever encountered, can eke a laugh out of a flared nostril.
Tim: Shaun is a top guy and masterful improviser. As anyone in the London scene will know he’s also an incredibly good coach. He’s put a lot of hard work into really understanding how improv works and it shows. He’s the Brian Kidd of improv. However my favourite thing about Shaun is that he’s a fiercely proud Mancunian who can demonstrate the 10 to 2 walking gait at a moments notice.
What is the thing that the other would go viral for?
Tim: An incredible volley into the top corner at the Free Association weekly 5-aside game. Sadly, I’d probably go viral for a comical knee injury at the same game.
You have £50 in your pocket to buy the other a present – what would you get them and why?
Shaun: A gold-plated pickle
Tim: 50 goes on the NBA Jam arcade game.
If you had to release a duet – what would the song be and why?
Shaun: Fog on the Tyne. Why? Because we’d never get the rights to World In Motion.
The toughest question of all – last rolo – would you keep it or give it to your twoprov buddy?
Shaun: Sorry, but I’m having that rolo.
Tim: It’s ok mate. I’ve got another pack in the bottom of my rucksack.