Welcome to a fortnightly article where we speak to different improvisers about their five top improvisers and why. Of course, there are many people that do improv that are fantastic that it may actually be a bit mean to just limit it to only five people but I wanted to create this article so that you can be introduced to players you may not of heard or maybe find out how some of the best known improvisers are inspiring others. Today, I sit down with – Liam Webber
Jeez, five?! Okay… I can definitely do this. The more I do improv the more amazing and inspiring improvisers I meet and the more difficult a task like this gets. I feel like my five on any given day will be completely different due to reasons I don’t fully understand (probably astrology – GODDAMMIT MERCURY, CHILL OUT)… But you asked me today, so here are today’s 5:
So I had the pleasure of doing the lights for The Maydays’ Happily Never After a few Edinburgh Fringes ago. Obviously you could take literally any name from their cast-list and justifiably put it on your list of top improvisers, but Jen steals the cake today! She, for me, embodies the supportive side of improv better than anyone else I’ve seen: every move makes her partners look incredible, she’s always exactly what the show needs her exactly when the show needs her to be it… and when the show needs her to take centre stage OH MY GOD she will blow you away. I still get flashbacks to a heart wrenching solo she did as a ghost on a train saying goodbye to a loved one. Brilliant.
[Full disclosure: This summer I did the 5 week intensive programme at iO and like the hipster b*stard I am, 2 of the people on this list I met there.] Stacey was my week two teacher at iO and she is hands down one of the best teachers/performers/improv humans I’ve ever met. What I loved most about her is how hard she practices what she preaches. On stage she’s a fireball of support and joy and absolute hilarity. A huge, warm, bundle of positive energy who’ll kick your ass when you need it too. I don’t think any single teacher has had the same impact on me as a performer – she makes you feel invincible on stage! Also, she runs Chicago Musical Improv Festival (WHAT?!?)
Magic space hippy Jorin Garguillo is the other Chicago-based improviser I couldn’t help but slip into this list. One of the teachers at CIC Theater (my favourite little space in all of the windy city), Jorin is the most hilarious and chaotic presence I think I’ve ever seen on an improv stage. I caught him both in Princeton New Money A$$clowns at CIC and Revolver at iO and both times laughed my ass clean off. What gets me is he’s just as fantastic a teacher as he is a performer. Similar to Stacey, he helps unlock you on stage, gets you out of your head, and has you playing with more freedom and joy than ever before. He’s also just about the nicest guy; he does it for the sheer love and joy of improv and always had time for a goofy british idiot – it’s such a refreshing and inspiring attitude!
Probably just about the least surprising answer for anyone who follows me/David on social media… Me and David met little over a year ago in Birmingham and he’s since cemented his place as one of my favourite improv people! Someone I love collaborating with onstage and off – a constant source of positivity, energy, and support that I really appreciate having in my life! As a performer he’s 100% support 100% of the time, as a teacher he’s knowledgable and inspiring, as an organiser of improv stuff he’s so active in pulling together communities, and as a friend he’s just awesome. So glad he chose to move over here from LA and when I found out he’s gonna be staying a few more years I literally jumped up and down!
I got to meet Monica on the International Ensemble at the Edinburgh International Festival earlier this year and I’ve been just about her biggest fan ever since. Everything she does on stage leaves me howling with laughter and she does so much awesome work off it. Whether hosting at Hoopla, running her awesome Wokeshop, or championing all things diversity with Do the Right Scene, I’m just in awe of her and the fabulous things she does for the art form!!
…Because 5 is never enough
I’m sorry – I know it breaks the rules, but I can’t at least mention a few others by name who have and continue to inspire me and my improv every day!
Katy Schutte is hands down one of the best, most favourite people I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a stage with (but I couldn’t put two whole Maydays on my “proper list”).
Bill Arnett the nerdy, quirky author of The Complete Improviser is fun, funny, welcoming, and just about the most wonderful teacher you can have [but I promised myself only 2 people from Chicago].
Jason Perez fills me with joy as a performer and pure inspiration cos… Oh I dunno… he RUNS A GODDAMN FESTIVAL.
The Spontaneous Players for their patented brand of ‘don’t give a f**k’ which is always a reminder of the joy improv should be filled with.
Adam Unwin and the whole Tiny Stories crew – the work they’re starting to do in the Midlands is so refreshing and fun!
Obviously, too my own frequent collaborators – Lloydie James Lloyd (balls! That’s 3 Maydays), Emily Brady, the folks at MissImp, and finally my wonderful Denise’s 50th family who have totally revitalised my improv!
God, there are just so many fantastic people doing this… I could (and am very tempted to) just keep writing til MS Word can take no more, but I feel like that’s probably not what your readership want… aren’t we lucky to be in an artform full of inspiring, wonderful humans!
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