Alex and I have a new show: Sex, Lies & Improvisation, a dark comedy about lying together. We’re taking it on tour, but we can only do that thanks to a network of awesome improvisers who make things happen in their improv communities. It’s time to celebrate those people!
Ladies and gentlemen, these are…The Improv Community Heroes!
Hero Fact File
Name: Jess O’Neill
Location of Hero-ing: Wigan
Community events: Bailaugh, The Something New Show, and all-ability drop-ins at The Old Courts.
Rachel: How did you get into improvisation?
Jess: I had a drama teacher, Elizabeth Grubb, who wore a lot of velvet and taught short-form and classic theatre sports. Our class would pile into a van and drive two hours to Christchurch to watch the house team of the Court Theatre. I also loved watching blooper reels from old comedy tours and sitcoms.
Rachel: What do you love about improvisation?
Jess: The trust involved. Not just between the improvisors, but also trust between the audience and the cast.
Rachel: What drives you to do good things for the improv community?
Jess: I’m a very anxious person who is always concerned about my ability to properly express myself. So, at the risk of sounding too evangelical, I think that improv is such an important tool for people to differentiate between communication and performance. I also just genuinely want people to love improv because I am such a big gross fan of it. We’re lucky to have amazing improvisors in the North West so I want people to discover and support these fantastic companies and shows.
Rachel: Tell us about the improv community in the North West.
Jess: Wigan has a really lovely community of writers and poets. I love when they get involved because they make shows, workshops and discussions more creative and diverse. I also love that between Liverpool and Wigan, there are a few groups who are just being bold and trying new things. I’ve been in situations in which productivity is stunted by doubt, so to see people just fill the space is really nice.
Rachel: We’re bringing Sex, Lies & Improvisation to Bailaugh on 6th February. Tell us about the nights you run.
Jess: Bailaugh is programmed with visiting guests and is completely improvised. The Something New Show is a monthly cabaret that has an open mic, featured slots for comics and spoken word artists and is hosted by Casino Improv. If anyone In the open mic is really inspiring, regular and interested in going further, they can eventually be offered one of the featured slots or asked to come and play with Casino.
Rachel: What advice can you offer about growing an improv community?
Jess: Find your resources, not everyone is a performer but everyone has insight. You need support and patience to thrive. And engage more people by making it accessible to younger people.
Rachel: What’s challenging about being an improv community hero?
Jess: Empty rooms. Whether its a performance or a class, it feels like we’re constantly competing with sports, drinking or even more mainstream stand-up.
Rachel: What have you learned about life in general from being an improv community hero?
Jess: Find your people. The Casino Improv cast have so much collective experience and we’ve become really close. It’s easy to be inspired by people who you love who just so happen to have a lot of talent.