Welcome to this years Phoenix Remix Awards – every year as Editor I like to celebrate the talent that I have witnessed on stage and give that particular group extra promotion to introduce new audience members to them as well as also celebrate their talents.
It takes a lot for a brand new improv troupe to wow you after their first ever set but this is what happened to me when I saw Improv Troupe Blueberry perform. Their narrative skills and character tehniques makes them very unique and they are ones to watch in 2020. Whilst they class themselves as a twoprov there is three of them that are part of the troupe and they rotate cast.
Hello tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about Blueberry ?
Matt: Matt Stainsby, Mike Kunze, Carsten Young
Mike: Matt has webbed feet. I can sing the entire Star Spangled Banner backwards. Carsten can hold his breath for five minutes. If you combine us together into a super mecha-improviser we can do all these things at once. These are unknown facts in that it is unknown whether they are facts or not. But Matt seriously does have webbed feet. He’s very shy about it, but I’m hoping this will help force him to embrace his gifts for the good of all humanity.
How did your group form?
Mike: We were all born with golden necklaces around our fat baby necks and it was from these that we drew the source of our improv powers. Little did we know, though, that we each had a fragment, a fragment of a broken blueberry. When we met in London we connected the necklaces in an awkward three way almost kissing situation and our improv powers increased tenfold. That was when we knew.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?
Matt: One large handful (1/2 a cup) of juicy blueberries contains just 44 calories but has 2 grams of dietary fibre and 10% of your daily recommended vitamin C content.
How did the show come about?
Matt: We are super excited to try twoprov! It’s such a raw form of improv, no hiding on the backrow thinking of good ideas, you have to be front footed and spontaneous, it’s up to you to change the energy and pace of the show and it’s likely that you will have to play multiple and distinctive characters.
You have been awarded the Phoenix Remix ‘Best New Improv Troupe’ ’ award – how does this feel?
Mike: Amazing! We are so pleased to be receiving this award. To quote our good friend Prathap … “I feel like a banana sliding out of its peel”. I have a feeling I will be insufferable following this great boost to my ego, and my improv will suffer for it.
I saw you both perform your first set and I was amazed at how well you brought a scene and narrative to life when there was only two of you. There was about five characters in your scene!
Mike: Thank you, that’s very kind. Our first set was a lovely bit of luck that we will forever be trying to live up to. One day we hope to do a scene with sixty characters, but we’re working up to that.
How do you go about rehearsing?
Mike: We keep ourselves to a strict training regimen of half-chat half-improv that mainly consists of us asking ourselves “What would Breaking and Entering do?” and then trying to do that. We also act out scenes from my life, like the time I asked my girlfriend whilst in line at airport security if the security people had any craic (which I meant in the Irish way but regrettably came out sounding a lot like the crack-cocaine way DAMN YOU HOMOPHONES).
For those who have not seen your set – what suggestions do you ask for and what is your style of improv?
Matt: We want to continue experimenting and changing every show. We’ve seen a rap battle between two hurdle competitors, slow burn relationship driven scenes, and Jesus slapping God for insubordination. So it really could go anywhere.
We will likely experiment with audience interaction too! I recently read that Phoebe Waller-Bridge had the audience release heart shaped balloons into the air when they fell in love with a character, which goes to show there’s a lot of scope for messing around.
Mike: I want to add in magnets and lasers. Not sure how yet, but I’m working on it.
What is the best piece of advice you would give any improviser, experienced or new?
Matt: Learn about learning – Josh Waitzkin has some amazing content on his website. For example, write the most important question facing you in improv just before bed, let your subconscious process overnight and then journal on it first thing in the morning.
Mike: To go even further, capture a poisonous snake and use its venom to create a magic ink. Use that ink to write a list of goals, bury that list of goals in a field for a year, and then dig it up after a year and drink a gallon of milk. Works every time. But also like go see shows. Our shows, maybe.
How did you all get into improv? Which improvisers inspire you?
Matt: Breaking and Entering are a huge inspiration for this show. I always come away from their show with goosebumps, a little freaked out by how good they are.
Mike: I’d just moved to Ireland as an actor and they were all like “You’re not Irish!”, and I said, “Obviously!” and they said, “We don’t have any roles for you!” and I said “Ahh shite!” and they were like “Was that an attempt at an Irish accent?” and I said, “Maybe?”, and they shook their heads slowly and I slunk off and signed up for an improv class. So yeah, for me it was likely a desperate need for attention that wasn’t being satisfied! For inspiration, Breaking and Entering, yeah … also the Bear Pack are my faves.
How do you warm up before every show?
Matt: Unlike our show, our warm-up is a fully choreographed ritual. We start by putting headphones in and listening to Vivaldi’s four seasons, whilst pretending to serve cheese (the pre-show wine and cheese reception). We then move onto something that resembles the hacker, and finish by saluting the blueberry flag, which may or may not be an A4 sized picture of Bruce Willis.
When can people see your show? Will you be returning soon?
Mike: We are booking shows! If you have a night and are like, those guys are funny, or even if you don’t think so but maybe want to look good in comparison, please contact us. We have a few gigs lined up at Hoopla and the Free Association, but our hunger for gigs is insatiable. FEED US!
What are your plans in 2020?
Mike: World domination one improv gig at a time! We’d like to grow our audience, build our voice as an improv team, and then hopefully sell out and start doing ads for microwaved bean bags or something of that ilk. Can you help us find that sweet sweet improv gold that we keep hearing about? Where is it buried? Is it enough to help us realize our lifelong goal of owning a boat?
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
Mike: @BlueberryImprov on Twitter and Facebook
And Finally in three words – Why are Blueberry so unique?
Silly emotional men.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What makes your smile?
Mike: The day to day absurdity of this thing we call life.
Matt: Almond butter (other nuts are acceptable)
What is your biggest strength as an improviser?
Mike: My spot on American accent (please don’t tell anyone it’s not an accent).
Matt: Improvising without shoes.
What is the most delightful suggestion for a scene you can think of?
Mike: The other night we got a story of a real statue in Bologna that was of Luigi Galvani and his frog, in honor of Galvani’s contributions as an early electrical pioneer and his frog’s contributions as a body to shock! I loved that so much. Fun fact: Galvani’s frog would later become part of the real-life inspiration for Frankenstein, who I can only imagine was named Froggenstein in an early draft.
If you had to have a tattoo to represent improv what would you have and why?
Mike: I would have an infinity symbol ∞ to represent the infinite possibilities of the form, as well as something that could be turned on its side to represent one of my favorite warm up games, 8 things. Also it would be temporary so as to represent the impermanence of the form, and also to represent my wish to not have a permanent tattoo representing improv. Or of any kind. Or maybe I would just tattoo it on Matt. That’s a much better idea.
Who is your improv hero and why?
Mike: Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie of the Bear Pack. Such chemistry, such emotion, such silliness, such cello. Yes, much such.
Matt: Carsten. He is a perfect embodiment of the improv spirit.
What is the last thing you liked on social media?
Mike: The Pasta Grannies. I love the Pasta Grannies. All hail the Pasta Grannies.
Carsten: Turtle pics
Something on your bucket list
Mike: I want to play in an NBA basketball game. Don’t tell me it won’t happen.
Matt: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt