The year 2020 has been a very unusual one and the fact that a lot of festivals have been postponed this summer we wanted to do things a bit different. Due to the fact we cannot use this time to interview and promote acts heading to the fringe, we thought we would use this time to celebrate all forms of comedy! So over the next month we are interviewing an array of acts with some fun questions so you can get to know them a little bit more! If you are a fan of sitcoms you are going to love todays troupe – MATES
Hello there. Tell me all about your group!
MATES is an improvised ‘90s sitcom. We play three friends living together and getting into the kinds of wacky situations you’d recognise from shows like Will & Grace, Men Behaving Badly or Seinfeld—and of course, Friends. We’re made up of three people, Alex Keen, Rachel E. Thorn and Hugh Clark; you might know us from our other work like Sex, Lies and Improvisation, Stealing The Show, CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation, Between Us, Scriptless In Seattle and Sturike Comedy.
What are your favourite things about being in your troupe?
We all love sitcoms. The combination of wacky self-contained stories with more serious ongoing storylines make for a great mix of fun and drama that really suits our styles of play. We’re also all really driven and comfortable being direct with each other, pushing the show to be as good as it can be. Finally, we’ve been really lucky to have some help developing the show from a pro sitcom writer and producer, Declan Hill, who has this incredible insight into how sitcoms work and has really helped us capture what we’re aiming for.
Describe each member of the improv act by describing their characters by what animal they would be?
Hugh is a flamingo, he’s always striking a weird and fantastic pose. Rachel is more like a heron, she’s precise, focused and a little formidable. Alex is a duck, because he likes to quack a pun out. I guess that makes us all birds!
What has been your favourite show so far?
Our show at the University Arms in Sheffield was a riot. We had so many good moments in our show and some great responses from the audience, but what topped it off for Alex and Hugh was getting to dabble in scripted comedy with the other act on the bill, Rachel’s own sketch troupe Sketch Up!
How was your group founded?
We’ve all known each other for years and worked together in various troupes, and we kept overlapping at festivals and events. Rachel was the one who floated the idea of developing a show together, partly as an excuse to hang out more (with Hugh living in Cambridge and Alex and Rachel living in Sheffield, we don’t get to spend nearly as much time together as we’d like) and from our pool of ideas, sitcom jumped out as an ideal choice.Because we can only meet every few months, we had to move quickly; we pulled the format together over three rehearsal sessions, which just wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable wisdom of Declan. That was last year, and now we’re waiting for the improv world to return to some semblance of normality so we can get gigging!
What is your favourite thing about performing improv?
The magical moment where the really smart, funny, talented friends you’re onstage with totally get the wavelength you’re on and make you feel really smart and funny and talented.
What is the most important skill you have learnt and why?
Rhythm and pacing. A sitcom episode has to establish a status quo, threaten it and return to normality all in 22 minutes plus ads, and we have three characters with their own storylines to follow. At one point in the development process, we did get out a calculator to work out the ideal length of each scene!
Describe your group for people who have not seen you live in 5 words beginning with the letter D?
Dynamic, dumb, (over)dramatic, definitive and downright funny.
You can only watch three other improv acts for the rest of your life – who would they be and why?
Showstopper! are so consistently fantastic that you won’t even mind having to watch a musical. Racing Minds have all these different elements in their shows that shouldn’t work together, but they do because the cast all trust each other and just go with the flow. The RH Experience are lovely guys who make us laugh every time.
What makes a good improv scene?
In our show, a good improv scene is one where we establish just enough so that the audience gets a glimpse of where the scene is going, then running with it like mad hatters.
What has been the best suggestion you have been given by an audience?
The one with all the birds!
Dream location to perform a show and why?
If you visit WB studios in Burbank, California, you can actually go to the set for Central Perk coffee shop. You know that one episode where they all walk in to find a completely different group occupying their sofa and chairs and just shrug and walk out? It would be hilarious to improvise the story of that other group…
If people want to find out more about your group, where can they go on the socials?
We’re @matesimprov on twitter, and also on http://www.facebook.com/matesimprov.
Finally, which improv group would you as a team love to do a collaboration with and why?
The Delight Collective live up to the name: they’re a delightful bunch both on and off-stage, and their blend of heart-warming, sincere character moments and brilliantly funny scenarios would be such a joy to work with. Plus, we’d probably have to visit Bristol and stop off at Gloucester Services, the best service station in the world.