This week for our Show Of The Week, we are heading all the way up to Leicester to celebrate a birthday! Yes that is right The Same Faces is celebrating their sixth anniversary of their first ever show! The troupe are performing at the Regent Club in Leicester on the 6th April from 20:30. I caught up with Director Tom Young to find out more about what they have in store…
Hello! Tell us all about who you are and a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Tom Young; I’m the director of The Same Faces, a Leicester-based improv troupe, though we also run shows & workshops in Northampton. I’ve been improvising for over a decade, and I’m also the co-founder of The British Improv Project. I like to keep busy!
How did your troupe form?
I’d been performing with another group in Leicester, who were very much – and very happily – at the amateur level, and I wanted to do something more professional and more regular. So in March 2013, I left that group in order to set up something new, took two of the other lads (Allan Smith & Mike Brown) with me, and we became The Same Faces. The group has expanded significantly since then (we’ve got over 30 active members), we added Dave Gotheridge as a regular about 18 months in, and Mike’s since moved to Edinburgh, but we’re ever growing!
How did the show come about?
At that point, we were only interested in doing short-form, so that was an easy decision to make, but as a trio we were also strong in other areas like music, puns/wordplay, and quick-fire games, so we built a show that emphasised those skills as much as scene work. The show has changed a little over the years, but I still think it creates a nice, well rounded short-form show, rather than just “two person scene” after “two person scene” for the whole performance.
The other key feature is that our short-form shows always have two guest players (to make up a team of five), so we get to play with lots of different people.
Tell us a little bit about the show that’s happening this week?
This week we’ll be celebrating the sixth anniversary of our first gig, which is quite a shock to the system, when I think about how quickly that time has gone. We’ve got a lot to celebrate, as we’ve just been award nominated for the second consecutive year at Leicester Comedy Festival. We’re going to do a special show where we try and feature as many of our past & present members as possible, in order to reflect our history and growth. Then, there’ll probably be a lot of drinking after…
What improv styles do you want to see more of this year and why?
Anything & everything! We’re constantly looking for new things to do. We’ve also been doing an Armando show for just over two years, and have started to assemble house teams that are capable of doing 30 minute sets (rather than our regular two hour gigs). This year, we’re starting to explore narrative for the first time, and hope to have a show ready to perform by the autumn.
But what I will say is, don’t just look for inspiration from other improv shows – be inspired by everything! In the last year I’ve taken inspiration from a theme park, professional wrestling, and kabuki theatre! Good ideas for your improv are all around you!
Also, we love The Committee – they’re a bunch of legends.
What festivals are you guys planning on heading to this year?
We’ve already done seven shows at Leicester Comedy Festival, and we’re set to open the Hoopla Improv Festival in London at the end of April. There’s a possibility that we’ll be doing the Coventry Comedy Festival in May and the Milton Keynes Comedy Festival again in July, though we’re waiting for confirmation of those, and we might even be running our own festival in Leicester in October, but there’s a few variables that might affect that. Wow, that’s actually more than I’d realised we were doing!
My next ambition is to start playing/teaching at some of the European festivals, and obviously Edinburgh, but – alas – that all boils down to money.
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe themselves?
My primary piece of advice is: don’t! If you can find another group to join, do that instead, because it’ll make you a better improviser. There’s nothing harder than being the best improviser in your troupe, as you won’t develop in that environment, so if you can find better people than you to work with and learn from, that’s the best solution.
If you can’t do that, or you’re relentlessly determined to set up your own, make sure you form it with people you want to spend time in the pub with, after shows. You’re not just forming a troupe – you’re building a community, and if you’re in charge of it, it’s up to you to set the tone, and make sure everyone else is enjoying it as much as you. You’ll also have to learn to love admin as much as performing.
My secondary piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to only put people on stage when they’re ready to play at your level. For me, the number one issue for improv groups is when they rush people on stage too soon (and sometimes those players rush themselves); you’d all be better served by allowing those players to develop in a workshop environment, before adding the pressure of an audience. Do a minimum of six months of weekly rehearsals/workshops before you even think about doing a gig!
What is the best thing about a night for the audience?
It’s unique, it’s funny, and it’s influenced by them!
My golden rule is “if you [the players] are enjoying it more than the audience, you’re doing something wrong”. In my opinion (and generally speaking, in the audience’s opinion too), the audience has to be enjoying it *at least* as much as the performers. I like to think that The Same Faces achieve this at 95% of our shows; we perform to entertain, so it’s very important to me that people have a good time, especially if you want those audience members to come back!
It is April – the month of fools! What is the silliest character you hae brought to a show and why?
Oh, it’s got to be Retired Prince Philip – we have him as a recurring character, trying out various new hobbies to fill his retirement. So far he’s discovered the joys of eBay, served as a tennis umpire, and had an awkward brush with accidental nudity.
If people want to find out more about you, where can they follow you on social media?
We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – either search for The Same Faces or @TheSameFaces and you should find us. I can also be found via @TomYoungComedy.
And finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Funny, consistent, delightful! (And if I may sneak a fourth, for this month only: CAKE!)
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
My words – what can I say, I didn’t think the internet would catch on…
If you could trade lives with anyone for a day who would it be and why?
Jeff Bezos, and I’d spend the day doing his tax return, since he doesn’t seem to have the time. As payment for my services, I’d transfer £20 million into the bank account of Tom Young. I’d then switch back, and use the money to open a state of the art improv theatre. Just for my own amusement, I’d call the venue “Improv Prime”.
If you could paint anything what would you paint?
An EXACT replica of the Mona Lisa. I would then sell it, and use the money to pay for the lawsuit I’d be fighting after using Amazon’s registered trademarks to promote my theatre. On reflection, I shouldn’t have used the same font on the theatre logo…
What is the most delightful word you can think of?
Bubbles – it can’t be said in anger.
That’ll be a four-way tie between these absolute bangers:
- Somebody to Love – Queen
- Oh What A Night! (December 1963) – Four Seasons
- Ain’t That A Kick In The Head – Dean Martin
- The Wheels On The Bus (Go Round & Round) – Anon.
Who is your comedy hero and why?
I cannot possibly answer that both comprehensively AND in a quick-fire way, but let’s say Colin Mochrie & Ryan Stiles. They’ve been consistently brilliant for years, and are still hilarious now.
What is your favourite movie quote?
“Try to blend in.” – Maggie Smith, Sister Act.
I will admit, it doesn’t work out of context…
Who is your favourite cartoon character and why?
Scooby Doo, and if anyone hasn’t said Scooby Doo, they’re a fool, and you should disregard everything else they’ve said.