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! Today we talk to an improv act based in Amsterdam – easylaughs!
Hello there tell me all about your group!
easylaughs are an Amsterdam based English language improv group who’ve been running since 2005 and run weekly shows, workshops and regular courses in improv, standup and more. We have a core cast of eight people, alongside a large number of others who cover everything from photography to promotion. We also have guest drop-ins from touring improvisers amongst others.
What are your favourite things about being in your troupe?
Ever since I first encountered easylaughs as an audience member, I’ve been impressed with the professionalism and high-quality bar they apply to everything that they do. It was an ambition since moving to the Netherlands to become part of their cast, and the fact that a few months ago I got that opportunity was just amazing. They’ve created an incredibly supportive, creative and inclusive community ecosystem which I think is really quite special and has helped me and so many others.
Describe each member of the improv act by describing their characters by what animal they would be?
Ashley Moore would be a bee, he’s just the most helpful supportive player who’s always adapting within the scene. We need to protect our bees!
Ben Silburn would be a dolphin, a great way with words, but with a real playfulness and flamboyance in his delivery too.
Huib Van Der Gaag is the mountain goat. It doesn’t matter what terrain he’s in, he’s not going to lose his balance.
Jenny Hasenack is our guinea pig, always throwing herself into new ideas and things and affectionately supporting everyone else.
Marith Venderbosch would be a hawk, always with great insight on what a scene needs or what direction will help something good become great.
Nicole Mischler is our lion, the one who everyone respects and perhaps even fears a little bit. She’s the one who you turn to when you want help or want something done.
Trista Mrema is a hyena, with her infectious smiles and laughter being dangerously contagious. Everything she does has a hint of hilarity to it no matter what.
What has been your favourite show so far?
I lived in Brisbane for three years which is where I started doing improv. Ashley is originally from Brisbane, so this was a nice bonding thing we had when I first moved here and met him. There was one scene where Ash & I were both playing bogan Australians living in a skate park where I was having so much fun leaning into my Australianisms with a bonafide Australian. There was something so mischievous about the whole thing, pretending to be Australian with this fellow Australian. The fun we were having was clear, and the audience was laughing so much I was desperately trying not to lose it myself. It was one of those joyous scenes were everything escalated so much that even microexpressions were becoming hilarious. There’s nothing quite like those moments.
How was your group founded?
easylaughs formed in the spring of 2005 from the ashes of another group called Problem Solved which formed out of the graduates of an improv course in 2000. They were joined by some other performers from other improv backgrounds and started performing at the Cameleon Theater in Amsterdam which evolved into a monthly thing which has since moved to the Crea and we haven’t looked back since.
What is your favourite thing about performing improv?
It taps into a part of my brain that just doesn’t get enough use elsewhere and feels so exhilarating. I work an office job during working hours, so if I didn’t have this outlet, I think I’d explode. It’s so different to other forms of performance, you’re just so in the moment with everything from your physical state to the words you’re saying being part of the equation. You feel so alive, and engaged in those moments, it’s like nothing else.
What is the most important skill you have learnt and why?
Improv brought out a real positivity within me that had been shrouded in cynicism in other aspects of my life. It made me realise the positive impact that positivity can have when responding to other ideas and people’s offers. It wasn’t just in jams and on stage that I started to notice a difference, but in multiple aspects of my life I was finding that I was becoming a less defensive and more open person. I started to notice that people behaved differently around me and responded to me in different ways that matched what I was giving them, and it just inspired me to embrace it even more. I realised how easy it was for me to blame others for my own shortcomings and how much I’d been doing it on a subconscious level. I think humility is an important thing, and I may still have a long way to go, but I think it’s helped point me in the right direction.
Describe your group for people who have not seen you live in 5 words beginning with the letter P?
Perpetually delivering the good stuff
You can only watch three other improv acts for the rest of your life – who would they be and why?
Land of Giants, for sure. Those guys are just so naturally talented and have such great chemistry they could just play forever. The same applies to The Ferocious Four, though to be honest, anything which involves Kiki Hohnen you know is going to be amazing. Looking abroad, I’d say that ImproMafia have done an incredible job of creating an improv community in Brisbane, and the quality of the shows they put on at the comedy festival are always so inventive and great. They have a real knack for coming up with formats that make you want to see what they’re about.
What makes a good improv scene?
When there’s an empathetic trust and respect between the players that encourages them to take risks. This doesn’t have to come from players who’ve played together for a long time, but when the complimentary spark is there and it’s clear, it becomes contagious to the audience. I also love it when offers aren’t taken literally, using them as an inspiration rather than a limiting frame on how the scene is going to play out. As long as the players are engaged and enjoying themselves, then you know you’ve got a solid foundation for whatever follows.
What has been the best suggestion you have been given by an audience?
It was a death-in-a-minute scene where an oddly melancholic relationship had played out between two next-door neighbours where one was on their deathbed and the other was looking after them. It was a really touching scene from a format that so often goes for the dramatic, and at the point where one character had died leaving me alone in the scene, an audience member shouted “Sing about it!”, a call-back to a game which had been played earlier. The cutting of the tension got some laughs, but the keyboardist launched straight into a dramatic melody where I sang a simple little melody in tribute to my neighbour. It ended up adding another level of poignancy to the scene which was probably not the motivation behind the suggestion. I love the fact that it became such a positive and unexpected addition to a beautiful little scene, confounding expectations at every step of the way.
Dream location to perform a show and why?
I’d love to play in the UK! As strange as it sounds, despite being British, I’ve only ever played in Australia and The Netherlands since I took all of this up after leaving the country. When you’re performing in a country whose cultural nuances you’re not familiar with, you become hyper-aware of what things you draw from that are specific to the country you’re from. I think it’s a good thing that I’ve had to develop without that crutch and think it’s helped make me a more considerate and universal performer but there’s a little part of me that would like to quite like to indulge just a little bit…
If people want to find out more about your group where can they go on the socials?
Finally, which improv group would you as a team love to do a collaboration with and why?
I can’t speak on behalf of the others, but as someone who has always loved doing character work which I get to indulge with my web series Real Power Talk (https://www.facebook.com/RealPowerTalk/), it’s been a long-term dream of mine to be a guest on Comedy Bang Bang. I’m a massive podcast nerd, and getting the opportunity to go head to head with Scott Auckerman would be a dream come true. The others can join in too, I guess 😉