Welcome to 2021 and all this month we are celebrating acts, websites, content, musicians and everything in between that you should be looking out for this year! Today we talk to John Nguyen, throughout 2020 he hosted a regular 10 minutes live stream with other improvisers to talk all about the comedy art form. Will it continue in 2021? Well, there is only one way to find out….
Hello Jon tell us all about your improv troupe?
I belong to a number of troupes.
1. Comediasians the all Asian improv troupe. An amazing array of talent trained throughout the UK and the US. Witty, heartfelt and awfully close.
2. Wretched Hive Comedy. A star wars based comedy troupe. With three chapters. Denver, California and UK. I am a member of the UK chapter. Our UK show is Fridays online and is a comedy Quiz. The Uk Chapter is led by David Escobedo
3. Michelle. A Hoopla House Team which is an amazing team of diversely trained improvisers. We do scenes as well as work together on other projects like sketches and other comedy shorts. We were put together by Steve Roe4. Unbridled a Nursery Original. A funny narrative show based on making a new Jilly Cooper style novel every show. Ridiculously beautiful people in absurdly played sexy situations. Directed by the great Heather Urquhart5. The improvised Play. A theatrical show based on various playwrights and their work. This year we focused on Tennessee Williams. The Marvellous Stephen Davidson is our director6. Dogface improv. Is a company based in Norwich and one which I have formed many bonds with and played with multiple troupes which do shortform, long form and musical. Dogface is headed up by Chris Read.
Tell us how your 10 minutes that you host?
My 10 minutes came about after doing my first online scene with the incredible Jay Sukow of Today Improv. He is based in California. And after much encouragement from friends including the the ever amazing David Escobedo I started doing them on my own Facebook page. It’s an incredible experience. I get to meet and play with close friends and total strangers. I hold the concept of being able to improv with anyone very dear. I have even done a scene with someone who has never had any training in improv. I treat every guest with total respect, and only stream and publish those scenes they agree upon. And I always look at my partners eyes and see what would make them happy. This has brought a huge amount of diversity on the types of scenes we have produced. Some are hilarious, some are dramatic, some have singing others are close to a short form. It is unpredictable and a huge amount of fun.
Can people get involved? if so how do they apply?
Anyone can. They only need to ask me, I never say no. And I will work around the others schedule and time zone. If someone doesn’t want to do it live I have recorded them and uploaded them afterwards. And if someone just wants to play and not actually record, then I am also happy to play around privately in my Zoom account.
How did you get into improv?
I utilised improvisation when I was an amateur actor in my youth. Using practitioners such as Stanislavski, Brecht and Artaud to help me understand characters and how to involve or keep at a distance the audience depending on the type of show being used. Then I took a 17 year break from any sort of performance when I went to university, though I played a large amount of role playing games during that time. Then in 2017 I went to a jam run by Dogface Improv in Norwich in the UK. I remember getting my name pulled out of a hat and loving the scene and all the memories of performance flooded back. From there I took multiple courses with Dogface and then branched out to taking courses and classes with The Nursery, Hoopla and the Maydays in London.. in 2019 I started a mini tour of the UK to train with various different improv theatres to expand my knowledge. And throughout my time of course I joined most of my troupes in the earlier question
What are your plans improv wise for 2021?
I firmly believe online improv is going to stick around. I plan to continue to use my Improviser Facebook page to promote acts I have seen and enjoyed. Also to let anyone who pays attention the coaches and teachers I enjoy having. and of course do the 10 minute sets whenever someone asks. I have also recently been taken on as an online teacher for the Nursery and will be teaching the beginners course online in the new year as well as few elective type classes. I also taught a class with Stephen Davidson recently and hope if they remain popular we will continue to work together for a long time to come. As soon as I feel I can I will travel around and meet all the brilliant people I met online so we can do performances together in real life and and hug anyone who will let me.
What improv acts are you looking forward to seeing perform online or in person to this year?
I would love to watch the Maydays, they were among my first improv teachers and I love to watch them perform. The Adamant Eves, India’s first and so far only (at time of writing) all female improv troupe. I can only see them online but they are so heartfelt and greatly brilliant.I enjoy the energy of The Noise Next Door and they know how to make a crowd smile. The Just Us League were one of those hidden gems I found at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019 and love their brand of silliness. The Spontaneous Players are just pretty amazing and they are great. Pgrapgh are among my favourite thing to watch online, they use Zoom and online to great effect. I also love watching impromptu performances thrown together and would happily watch anything with Lauren Baumbauer, Lucy Fennell, Aree Witoelar, Michelle J Gilliam, Stephanie Rae, Jay Sukow, Patti Stiles, Monica Gaga, Inbal Lori, Maria Peters, Vera Chok, Andrew Pugsley as well as anyone from my troupes and the acts already named above.
What styles do you hope to see more of in improv this year?
I enjoy all sorts of improv, I want to watch more shows which try something new and fail. Watching people have fun playing is very satisfying to me and more often than not when I watch improv I am in the mood to laugh. I have missed musical improv as that is so difficult to do over Zoom, I would love to watch more of that in 2020. Whether it’s short form or a narrative piece I would enjoy them all .
Do you have any new years resolutions? If so what are they?
I have never been into resolutions, but I do live by the motto of do what you can to make yourself and others happy. Or at the very least do what I can to make the world a better place
Are you on social media?
Three words why people watch your 10 minute chat show?
Brilliant Improv guests
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
If you could trade lives with anyone for a day who would it be and why?
Someone who has not had an easy life as mine, so I could appreciate how they live and understand the privilege I have. And on the other side they could have an easier day.
If you could paint anything what would you paint?
A Mural of all the people I love and respect
What is the most delightful word you can think of?
My 12 year old sister giggling
When I grow by Tim Minchin from the Musical Matilda
Who is your comedy hero and why?
Donald Glover he has worked hard and his humour and style is mind blowing to me
What is your favourite movie quote?
From Ang Lee’s Eat Drink man Woman : “Life should not be like cooking: you need to wait until all ingredients are prepared”.
Who is your favourite cartoon character and why?
Uncle Chan from Jackie Chan Adventures. He reminds me of so many of my male elder family members and he’s just cool.