This month is there is a very special event taking place on the internet – London based troupe Extreme Improv are hosting the first ever Extreme Improv XStreamed World Championship. I caught up with David to find out all about this exciting competition.
Hello there tell us a little bit about Extreme Improv!
Certainly! Extreme Improv produce shows that have performed all over the UK and across the world from the US, to Japan, and all over Europe. Our shows are primarily competitive short form improv, but we started out doing long form and have done scripted sketch comedy and stand up shows as well.
As well as live shows, we also run the Extreme Improv Podcast Network which host several podcasts on improv and pop culture subjects. In the last year we’ve also produced several video series, and due to lockdown have moved to doing multiple live streaming virtual shows each week. Also during lockdown, I have written and published the Extreme Improv Big Book of Improv Games, which is the first book we have published.
Tell us all about the Extreme Improv XStreamed World Championship
The Extreme Improv XStreamed World Championship is the virtual improv festival which we will be hosting during August 2020. It will feature shows and acts (both improv and some non improv), improv jams, workshops, podcasts and much more. These will come from both Extreme Improv, and many guest companies and performers. The headlining event in the festival will be the titular World Championship, which will be a multi night tournament from August 10th to August 16th. There will be quarter and semi-finals where solo performers will progress through to the grand finale to crown the 2020 Extreme Improv XStreamed World Champion.
How did the idea of the festival come about?
At the end of 2019 I had announced that we’d be running a UK Championship, which itself was going to be a mini festival with workshops, guest acts and a multi night tournament. Of course, the plan for this was for it to take place in real life in London theatres, but that was before the pandemic put normal life on hold. Literally the week that lockdown began I had been emailing venues to accommodate the UK Championship, but it was not to be for this year.
Lockdown began in the UK on March 16th, and I was able to put together the first Extreme Improv XStreamed virtual show by March 23rd. It was a way to keep going, and we’ve now done well over 60 virtual shows since then. About May time I saw that the UK Championship wasn’t going to be an option in real life this year, so decided to host it as a bigger event online and upgrade it to a World Championship to reflect that we were already having regular players from all over Europe, the United States, Asia and beyond.
What times does it run throughout the day?
The will be events and activities happening at various times throughout the day (and even a few at night) Mostly there will be shows in the evening (UK Time), but we have all kinds of content happening throughout the entire month of August. The full line up is being confirmed at the time of writing and we’ll announce it all by the end of this week, so depending on when you read this I’d recommend you check out www.extremeimprov.co.uk to see what show will be on when.
How much does it cost , what platform etc?
The shows will be available to watch and interact with on Extreme Improv’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and Twitter pages, and we’ll also have behind the scenes and other fun content on Instagram and Twitter.
The shows will all be 100% free to watch and enjoy, although we do have a Patreon if anyone wants to support Extreme Improv. The only things that will be offered as paid events are workshops, and these aren’t planned to be broadcast publicly.
What do you have in store in the show? Any acts you can tell us that are taking part?
Certainly, in addition to the World Championship tournament, we are lining up some great acts including The Bromantic Duo, who are a twoprov from India, and Improv Chattanooga from Tennessee in the United States.
How difficult has it been to set up a virtual festival?
In ways it’s very difficult, but in other ways it’s been easier than the real life equivalent. I feel like I’ve got into my stride with virtual shows over the last few months, so in one sense a huge amount of the hard work in setting up streams, figuring out the software and working the tech has already been done. The big challenges for the festival are in the increase in shows per week, working with lots of new faces the added marketing that will be needed,
With sadly no comedy festivals happening this summer, what is the three things you are going to miss about them?
Meeting and playing on stage with performers in real life, having the energy of a live audience to feed off of and the opportunity to travel to new places in the UK and abroad.
With everything happening in the world at the moment, why is it so important to have activities like yours available?
It keeps people sane, and gives people hope. These have been some pretty dark times for the world, and it’d be very easy to feel defeated with how the industry has been affected. Virtual shows are a way to keep connected to other performers, express our creativity and even feel excited because we are a generation who are pioneering a new form of performance.
What is the most exciting thing about setting up an online festival?
Personally for me, it’s the World Championship element. I’ve had this idea buzzing in my head for a few years, and it’s really exciting to finally make it happen. I’m also really excited that it will literally be taking place simultaneously across the planet. Due to the online nature we will have scene partners who can be on different continents. Only an online festival can make this possible.
What is the most challenging?
I would say it’s tied between a couple of things. Firstly that tech issues being unpredictable. Each performer has their own PC, microphone, internet connection, software and lighting, and any of these can affect the quality of a stream.
Secondly, that sometimes people can let you down last minute. I try to super flexible, but if I have new guests on there’s always the unknown factor of will they cancel last minute or just no-show. It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s happened enough times that I’ve learned to book one extra performer then needed each time be safe rather than sorry.
If people want to find out more about you on social media where shall they visit?
OK here comes the list…
Finally why should people get involved?
Because it’s going to be huge amounts of fun, with some incredible acts in the pipeline, and it’s connecting people from all over the world who may never have crossed paths otherwise.
Also because, fingers crossed, this will be the only year where virtual theatre is the main form of theatre in the world. And that isn’t to say I don’t want virtual theatre to continue, because I’m loving it, I just hope that IRL theatre comes back stronger than ever next year. For this year though I’m really pleased to be part of keeping theatre alive and making it global online.