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 Birmingham based Short Form Troupe – Box Of Frogs
Hello tell us about your troupe and three fun facts about it!
We are Box of Frogs. I have only one fun fact to tell you, which is that all members of Box of Frogs are actually frogs. We are the advance guard of an invading extra-terrestrial race, who take on human form to feed off the laughter of your easily-amused species.
How did you come up with the name?
With a pressing deadline to produce a flyer, employed the classic improv technique of making life simple by using the available and obvious. For whatever obscure unconscious reason, this was the first thing that came to mind.
Why did you chose to be a short form troupe?
Because shortform is fun and energized, and plays well to non-improviser audiences. We like to play non-improv spaces and comedy clubs. We feed on laughter.
What is your favourite short form game?
Every Frog clamours to be in Pan Left! It’s a chance to do great scene-work, compressed into short blips.
Best suggestion to be given?
It’s never about the suggestion, it’s how you use it.
Worst suggestion to be given?
We don’t believe there’s any such thing. We love to honour and subvert bad suggestions. Give us Gynaecologist, and it will be two medics chatting while fishing on their day off. Give us Dildo, and the scene will be set in a factory with great and very clear object work, but no-one talking about what they are doing. When we play the TV game and someone suggests “Babe Station”, we’ll present a programme on changing nappies, or something similar.
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?
Absolutely! Shortform is not only great fun for players and audience alike, it’s also a gateway drug into the seamy world of Longform! Most of the Frog players are also in Longform teams. They are complementary artforms, not mutually exclusive.
Obviously audiences with non improv backgrounds can relate more to short form but do you think there is going to be a time when these perceptions will change?
Why should they? As long as audiences are being presented with high quality work, there will be demand. The problem comes when teams play games they don’t really understand, and are simply following a format they have seen. It takes time and rehearsal to get under the skin of a shortform game, and to discover what makes it soar.
What are some of the important aspects of short form that you believe have a stronger element then long form?
Shortform demands instant high levels of commitment from players. Also encourages you find the heart of the scene super fast. It’s also mega accessible.
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?
Blow the whistle, or whatever else is your version of editing, and move on to the next thing. That said, a skilful MC can save a scene by interjecting or sidecoaching.
Other people argue that short form is hard to create strong characters in a small amount of time – what is your opinion on this?
Come and see a Box of Frogs show and learn otherwise!
Do you think there are ways you can make short form more challenging for the more advanced improviser?
Bring all your advanced skills to the game, and make it more challenging for yourself by working at the top of your intelligence. This sometimes means just playing the game skilfully, but other times means subverting it, or getting meta about it. All’s fair in love, war, and shortform.
What makes a bad short form scene?
When the game structure takes precedence over good character relationships and flow.
What makes a good one?
When there’s good improv going on, despite (or even because of) the constraints of the game. That means strong characters with perceptible POVs, and good and believable interaction between them. It also means failing joyfully, which is inevitable.
Are there any games that you don’t enjoy playing and why?
We don’t play any guessing games (Party Quirks et al.) They are fun, yes, and audiences like them, but they’re not improv. Instead of two or more players creating something new between them, one player is trying to get another player to say something. Not improv. For the same reason we also don’t play “185” or any of the other one-liner/punning games.
Do you think Short form works better when the audience is more involved?
We play a couple of games that uses audience members (e.g sound effects) but we carefully control their involvement, and work hard to make them supported and successful.
If people want to find out more about your group where can they find you om social media?
Facebook – @BoxOfFrogsImpro; Twitter:@BoxOfFrogsImpro; Insta: boxoffrogsimpro; www.boxoffrogsimpro.co.uk
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
If it’s not fun you’re doing it wrong!
What is the future of short form improv?
It will grow and thrive and eventually take over the world. Bwaaaahhaaaahaaaaaaaaa!!
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 smoke 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?
Me – Jon Trevor