INTERVIEW: The One Where Improv and Sitcoms Collide In Camden

If there is one show that is talk of the moment then that is none other than the nineties sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S with the reunion airing in the past month, a lot of us have been reminising about it and re-watching the show for the umpteenth time. Well, if you want a fresh and improvised approach to the world of American Sitcom then you are going to love this weeks Improv show by Mates. This week the group are heading to Ecterera Theatre in Camden for a couple of shows and could we be any more excited to find out more about it? I spoke to Alex to find out all about it.

Hello. Tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your troupe!

Hello! We are MATES: The Improvised ‘90s Sitcom and we are Alex Keen, Hugh Clark and Rachel E. Thorn. And three unknown facts? OK. One of us works in brain surgery. One of us works in aerospace. And one of us gets paid to watch TV. But you’ll have to guess which is which! 

How did your troupe form?

We all met several years ago at Shrimps, the Sheffield University improv society. We loved improvising together and when Hugh moved away we thought that was it. Luckily life had other plans!

How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?

We knew we wanted a name inspired by the classic sitcoms of the ‘90s. We played around with Friends Behaving Badly and How I Met Your Friends and Two Pints Of Friends… You get the idea. When we remembered that MATES is also a brand of condoms, we were sold!

How did you get into improv?

Alex and Hugh started improvising at Shrimps, which Rachel joined when she moved back oop north after drama school.

How has the last year in lockdown been for you?

How has anyone’s life been without IRL improv? Much less silly!

Have you managed to do many online shows?

Alex and Rachel also have a 2prov, the award-winning Sex, Lies & Improvisation, which they adapted for Edinburgh Fringe 2020 and the Dramatic Improv Fest in Chicago. Hugh has been working with the improvised podcast Space Base Mars.

And now you are returning to the stage!!! How exciting! What are you looking forward to the most?

The audiences! We’re so lucky to have had online options over the last year, but nothing beats that good-good in-real-life human connection. 

How are you adapting to social distancing rules?

The Etcetera Theatre in Camden have great rules in place – half capacity, masks, buckets of sanitiser, e-tickets. The works. 

How did the show come about?

Alex and Rachel were performing Sex, Lies & Improvisation at Edinburgh Fringe when inspiration struck. Edinburgh is a pretty inspirational place! Pretty much as soon as they got back home they booked in an R&D weekend with Hugh, and MATES was born!

Will you be watching the Friends reunion special at all for inspiration?

Of course we’ll be watching! Although probably not for inspiration. There’s plenty of that in the original 236 episodes!

Tell us a little bit about the show that are happening this week? 

 We’re performing live – yes, live! – at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden on 11th and 12th June at 9pm. Tickets are just a tenner.

What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?

All the 90s pop culture references, will-they-wont-they romances and just getting to laugh in a room with real live audience members again!

What is the time, date and price for your show? Ticket link please as well to promote.

11th and 12th June at 9pm at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. Tickets a tenner:

How do you warm up before a show? 

We love Seven Cows, which Rachel picked up at Improv Fest Ireland. We give one of us a category, such as “cows”, and that person has to physically embody seven different versions of that thing. A physical warm-up is a good way to get out of your head.

If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?

Find @matesimprov on Facebook and Twitter. And look at our shiny new website too!

Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show? 

Live sitcom chicanery


Favourite episode?

We love The One Where No One’s Ready, because it all takes place in real time and in one space. It’s so tightly scripted!

Favourite quote?

“You’re over me? You’re OVER me? When were you…under me?”

Chick or the Duck?


What drink would you order in Central Perk?

Something from a cup that might as well have nipples on it.

Favourite character to get inspiration for an improv character from?

Gunther! He silently steals every scene.

Favourite guest star on the show?

Brad Pitt was fun. Good and meta, which, as improvisers, we love.

Finally was Ross and Rachel on a Break?

I mean, if we’re still discussing that 20 years later, someone’s written a bloody good sitcom!

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