Hello Pippa How did you get into improv?
I loved Whose Line Is It Anyway? and thought ‘How do you get that job?’ – then I forgot about it. Many years later I made friends with someone who was an improviser and they asked me to come and have a go. It was downstairs in a pub called The Polar Bear in Leicester Square (now Qu Bar). There was a small crowd and I had a blast. I was hooked. 14 years later, here I am making a living from it!
How are you feeling about performing at the first ever Newcastle Improv Festival?
I love Newcastle. I have worked there before at The Stand doing stand-up. I am pleased to return with some improv! Also – there are so many Greggs you never have to have a cold chicken slice.
You are joining the Suggestible for their show for one night? How did that come about and what are you looking forward to most about it?
I have know Ian and Bev (from The Suggestibles) for a long time – I stayed with them, in fact, when I was doing The Stand.
Ian I met doing an improv tour called Court in The Act – an improvised courtroom, in Nottingham. It was great fun and I thought Ian was one of the funniest people I had ever met. I have never got to share the stage with Bev so I am pleased we will finally get to be on stage together!
You are part of the award winning Showstoppers – how did you get into Improvised singing in the first place?
Josie Lawrence was my inspiration, and I was lucky enough to join an improv group with a pianist and players who recognised I could sing. My first teacher was a brilliant improviser called Alan Marriott and every 4th Sunday was musical improv class. We had such fun making up songs and making tunes. That was where I met Dylan Emery, who is one of the Artistic Directors of Showstopper. The rest is history!
What advice would you give to people who want to do musical improv? Do you have to be a good singer?
Being able to sing is a bonus, but you do not have to be a good singer. However, you should be able to perform a song. Say what? Rex Harrison was not tuneful, but he could perform the lyrics in a way that made them pop. A good sense of rhythm and a love of music is far more useful.
If you want to do musical improv:
1) Sing along to real songs and then make up your own lyrics
2) Always find a hook or something to return to, so that it sounds like a written song
3) Don’t be afraid to be simple – complex lyrics are great but remember ‘la la la’ and ‘Be bop’ are also total fine!
What’s the best advice you have been given about improv?
Enjoy doing it otherwise there is no point. Why get stressed about something so delightful?
You are also doing an improv masterclass at the festival tell us about that!
I love teaching. I teach as much as I can. This class is about connecting with your fellow players and yourself. So often we learn lots of rules and try to ‘do improv right’ when actually, the answer is in our partner’s eyes. Sounds ridiculous – but it is true. Do this workshop is encouraging people to trust themselves and each other to discover the show together, rather than say a lot of witty things in a row.
It is particularly aimed at people looking to do longform, narrative structures, but applies even to the shortest of short form.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing?
I won’t get to see anything cos I am straight up to Edinburgh festival with Showstopper. But if I could I would see Dragprov and Suki Webster’s Guest Speaker – because they will both be fabulous! I would also hop along to Stella Duffy’s masterclass, cos I love her. I just do!
What have been some of the most unique and different comedy shows you have seen this year and why?
I saw Garry Starr Performs Everything while at Det Andre Teatret Festival in Oslo, Norway. He was so hilarious – brilliant clowning, amazing script but also fabulous audience work and improv. If you get the chance do go see him. It was thrilling.
I spend most of my time seeing musicals, but one other show I loved was These Folk – an improvised folk song narrative performed by Susan Harrison and Justin Brett. It is delicious. Funny, but beautiful too.
What are the three things you are looking forward to most performing in Newcastle?
Playing with friends, doing a terrible Geordie accent and eating a sausage roll.
What is the most underrated form of improv and why?
I think short-form games are so underrated these days. When I started that was what you learnt (Whose Line style games) and now most new improvisers wouldn’t know how to play a 3 headed expert. But the skill needed to keep a scene going, to play and be funny and to follow the strand is really high. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a short-form revolution soon!
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
On Twitter @iampippaevans and Instagram @Iampippaevans and my website is pippaevans.com
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Because I Say