This month is a very exciting one as we are getting to know all about the brand new Improv Social media website The Improv Place. It is a website community where professional improvisers share their joy for the craft and the comedy form. Katy Schutte and Chris Mead are well know improvisers on the UK improv scene and between them they have really impressive improv CVs as well as performed all around the world. This week we are going to know Chris Mead one on one.
# Hello how long have you been improvising?
I was part of my high school’s Whose Line is it Anyway? team in the 90s and I started watching improv, as well as taking classes and producing shows in the early 2000s. But I didn’t actively start training and making it my life’s work until 2009. So about 10 years in real money.
#How did you get into improv?
I’ve been performing on stage since I was seven. I love scripted theatre but I came to realise it was the little bits I did differently every night that really spoke to me. When I first saw professional improvisers create a full-length show, I immediately recognised that everything I’d done previously was second-hand smoke.
#What is your favourite style of improv and why?
I adore playful, grounded, relationship-focussed improv.
# Who are your top 5 favourite improvisers and why?
Oh gosh. That’s a hard question. I don’t have a top 5. I have a huge pantheon of improvisers I admire for different reasons and they are all equally incredible. But here is a random selection of five of my improv gods.
IMPROV GOD OF EMOTIONAL CONNECTION: Emily Murphy, who I run Unmade Theatre Co. with, is the best improviser I’ve ever met at creating fully-rounded comic characters with real heart and anima.
IMPROV GOD OF GENEROSITY AND SUPPORT: Jon Nguyen is a genuinely wonderful human being who will support and elevate anyone he plays with. He is also a very astute and talented performer in his own right but will always make the choice to make his scene partner look good.
IMPROV GODS OF PERFORMANCE ART: I’m cheating a little here as I’m talking about a duo but Shweta Bhat and Kavya Srinivasan are doing such interesting work creating performance art – songs, poems, scenes, stories, moods – from the raw material of people’s memories and viewpoints. I love their show so much. It’s a magical synthesis of improv and playback theatre and the best example of our art form I’ve seen online in 2020.
IMPROV GOD OF MISCHIEF: Lucy Trodd has always been one of my favourite people to watch on stage. She’s a Showstopper – and that show is such a beautifully calibrated clockwork fancy. It’s so perfectly balanced and polished. And Lucy has got the chops – she can sing, dance and act with power and wit and charm. But she’s also an agent of chaos. You don’t know what she’ll do next. I adore that energy. She’s incredible.
IMPROV GOD OF WISDOM: Craig Cackowski is the perfect improv teacher. He’s sweet, he’s knowledgable, he’ll give you notes that make you better and he’s performed (and helped create) some of the best longform formats in existence. I am such a fan. He’s an absolute diamond.
# What is your favourite warm up game?
# Favourite short form game?
Two-headed expert. When it’s done at a break neck pace.
# What are the three top tips anyone has ever taught you in improv?
Again, these change weekly but currently:
- Feel something for your scene partner
- Assume knowledge – of your character, of your partner’s character, of the world around you
- Brevity & clarity > intelligence & wit
# What are some of your favourite new acts that you have come across this year and why?
This year has been extremely singular. But I got to see The Adamant Eves, The Words & Feeling Show, Ann + Bran, Death Blossom and The Long Shots for the first time. I should clarify that they were all new to me, not necessarily new to the world of improv. Closer to home, I particularly love Gämez and The Jess’s’s’s’s.
# In no more than 5 words, what advice would you give them?
You are doing improv right.
# How would you describe your personal sort of improv?
Small puppy accidentally drinks expresso and is set loose in a Forbidden Planet.
# Describe each Project2 member in one word
Katy: Hero. Fred: Genius.