This month I chatted to over 30 female improvisers from all over the UK to celebrate the talent that we have – we also discuss some of the important debates surrounding this topic as well. Today I talk to an improviser that is a stand up comedian and part of Glitch The Improvised Puppet Show – Charle Vero-Martin
Hello Charlie how did you get into improv?
I auditioned for my university’s improv group, Blind Mirth, in my 1st year and I was with them for five years and never looked back!
What inspired you to start improv?
In 2007/8 when I was “revising” for my advanced hires, there were a lot of Whose Line reruns playing and I got sucked in. I’m also from Edinburgh so I also started watching improv at the fringe in my late teens.
What troupes are you are a part of?
Glitch – The Improvised Puppet Show, Boxed In and I often guest with other shows.
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
I generally do long form but I still love jumping into short form when I get the chance. I’m not a big fan of overly complicated formats. Good improv is good improv. It should be fun, smart and leave the audience feeling part of something.
Who are some Improvisers that you find inspiring and why?
There are so many! But I remember when I first moved to London five years ago watching Maria Peters and Lauren Shearing perform and thinking, that’s the kind of improv I want to do. It was funny, interesting and they looked like they were having fun together. I’m also a big fan of Sally Hodgkiss, she lights up the stage.
I have read many articles around the debate that it is harder to be a woman in improv – what are your thoughts on this and why?
I think it can be, especially when you’re starting out. And a lot of that is just as much to do with what’s going on off stage as it is on. I definitely look back at some of the difficulties I’ve faced and realised that it was because I was a woman I was put in a certain position.
It can be very hard for young female improvisers to understand and communicate what they’re feeling with young male performers who don’t want to know. I think/hope that’s changing and young men are starting to take more responsibility.
I’ve been doing improv for 10 years now so I think I’ve gone full circle. Now I’m starting to worry that I can be too confident/piratey but then again, what guy worries about that?! When I encounter sexism now in improv it’s usually because the men think they’re better improvisers than they are and I don’t care about proving myself to them anymore.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
Remember it’s meant to be fun. And it has to be fun for everyone. If you’re being made to feel uncomfortable then that’s on everyone, not just you. Also, your partner has the answers.
Do you find that being a female in an improv show that the suggestions you can get are traditional and stereotypical? How do you feel when you get given these?
Again, about five years ago I’d have said yes and had a rant. Now I take charge on stage when I’m not happy. To be honest, a lot of it is to do with whom I choose to work with. I work mainly with people I know or at least trust are not going to put up with that crap.
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
There are lots from all groups I’ve been with but I often find recounting improv shows is a bit like telling someone your dreams so I won’t go into detail! But generally, there’s nothing more lovely than doing something ridiculous and looking across to see your scene partner totally ready to get on it. I’ve been lucky to share many of those moments. Great object work is always a joy too.
What have been some of the worst and why?
Watching (often guys) get easy laughs to the detriment of good improv. Being on stage and no one coming forward to support. Also realising something I’ve said has come out offensive. One time I was one of only two women in a group and the other ran off stage crying. I think it says a lot about improv at the time that I was the only one who went to help her… And of course we all hate saying something that doesn’t get the laugh we expect but that’s just part of it!
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Just play. Perform a lot and do all kinds of art. It’s also ok to take a break and don’t subscribe to just one improv school of thought. Some things will work better for you at different points so be open.
What are three things you want to focus on this season with your own improv?
I’ve been doing a lot of solo work and when I have been doing improv it often involves puppets! So I guess, A) working with new people. B) getting back into “human?!” improv. C) focusing on game as much as character
What is the future of improv?
Hopefully more diverse, in all senses of the word. I personally believe the experience of women in improv has improved a great deal but that’s just a small part of the conversation.