This month we are welcoming in the new year by celebrating the world of short form improv! All this month we are talking to a number of different improv troupes about their favourite games, advice and also debates that have arisen over time around the comedy form. Today we speak to London based Short Form Troupe – Shoot From The Hip!
Hello Shoot From The Hip! Tell us about your troupe and three fun facts about it!
My Troop is Shoot From The Hip:
1. It was formed as a way to fundraise for a very serious play
2. We never rehearse
3. We’ve performed at Glastonbury
How did you come up with the name?
We were originally called “The Encompass Players” as Encompass was the name to the theatre company we were fundraising for… Shoot From The Hip came from a big drunken brainstorming session at a student bar.
Why did you chose to be a short form troupe?
This is a common misconception… we are not a short form group. In our standard show, we do a short from first half and then a long form second half.
What is your favourite short form game?
Change/New Choice. We’ve been opening the show with it since the beginning. Its a great warm up game for the players and the audience. It immediately removes any doubt that what they are seeing its actually improvised.
Best suggestion to be given?
The best suggestions are ones that inspire. I think we once asked for a tittle for a HOG and got ‘Queen Victoria’ and the ‘Vibrator’
Worst suggestion to be given?
Ones that don’t inspire. Cousins is my least favourite.
What is the future of short form improv?
Well Whose Line is still going strong in America and the British cast are selling out huge venues at the fringe every year. I’d love to see a modern British reboot of a short form improv panel show.
There is an ongoing debate about Short form improv – a lot of people, especially improvisers are not a fan. Do you think that there is still a place for this sort of comedy and why?
I never understood this. The longest running improv show in this country is the the (short form) Comedy Store Players. They fill out that club twice a week and have done for 40 years. I think that short form has the advantage of being cuttable. As things move more and more online, its going to be more and more important to put out clips of shows. It is going to be hard to snatch a piece of Long Form that makes sense to people who weren’t there, but a fun 2 minute short form game… that would work.
What are some of the important aspects of short form that you believe have a stronger element then long form?
Much more diversity. In the space of an hour you can jump about characters, genres, location, tones in a ways you simply can’t do with improv.
It allows for much more audience interaction as you are going back to them every 5 minutes of so.
It gives you more opportunities to adjust. So times you two scene in to a long form and thinking “they aren’t really going for this, its going to be a slog to get this working”. But in short form you can end a game and reset with a new one in seconds.
With short form it is all about the pace, what is your advice when you can see a scene is losing its energy and the audience are not responding?
Make an emotional shift.
Add a tilt.
Do one big random physical action. That will give everyone in the scene something to focus on.
Other people argue that short form is hard to create strong characters in a small amount of time – what is your opinion on this?
A good improviser should be able to create a strong character within a few sentences. People who argue that need to get better and improvising. Doing character development on the other of course is easier in Long Form due to its narrative nature.
Do you think there are ways you can make short form more challenging for the more advanced improviser?
I think that the vast majority of ‘advanced’ purely long form improvisers would find doing a short form show in a 100 seat Stand Up Comedy club with and audience who mainly has never seen improv before, plenty challenging
What makes a bad short form scene?
Trying to be funny
Not playing the game
Lack of platform
What makes a good one?
Trying to be truthful
Playing the game
Are there any games that you don’t enjoy playing and why?
Standing, sitting, bending: It doesn’t feel like an improv game, just a bit of a set physical comedy skit. Emotions: I think that this is just a less fun version of Genre
Do you think Short form works better when the audience is more involved?
Not necessarily, the thing about involving the audience is getting the balance right. Too little they become passive, too much you having non professionals playing a large role in a professional comedy show.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
“Don’t do it!” – Lee Simpson CSP – It’s good advice, particularly if you want to make money.
“Change is good” Don’t be scared of trying out new things in your show formula. You can always swap back and you might find a great new thing
Quick Fire Questions
Which member of your team is the most likely to:
Laugh mid scene?
Create a great character?
Sing an improvised song?
Pretend to eat on stage?
Become an animal in a scene?
Create the silliest line in a scene?
Dance on stage?
Commit to object work?
Make a reference to a film or tv show?
Talk to the audience and break the fourth wall?