All this month we are talking to Rhinoceros Improv about the world of comedy and shows. The team have been around for 3.5 years and this year they have got lots of shows planned including their Rhinoceros’ Big Friday monthly event at the North London Tavern, Kilburn. It happens every last Friday of the month and features improv, character comedy, sketch and clowning.
Today I speak to Philippa Peacock, the founder of the team to find out all about pre-show rituals, advice and dream guests.
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
Recently one thing in particular our coach advised us was to just get together and have a chat with each other, as a group. Sometimes that’s all you need, just to check in with each other and connect. I find warm up games a little frenetic and if I don’t quite ‘nail it’ then I tend to feel a bit despondent just before I go on. Also, our coach often reminds us to have one objective in mind to work on in the upcoming show, for example focus on ‘straight-person-ing’.
When you first start performing shows, what is your key advice to new troupes to finding the stage time and getting key slots?
Beg and keep on begging. Seriously, be persistent when asking for slots from other hosts, they’ve all been there.
just get together and chat with each other, as a group. Sometimes that’s all you need to check in with each other and connect.Philippa Peacock
Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?
I have to scratch both my ankles five times. No idea why.
Describe the feeling you have when you host a show and people specifically turn up to see your troupe?
Proud. Excited. Pumped. Windy.
Enjoy yourself. I think we forget we’re doing this for fun – bearing in mind how bad the pay is.Philippa Peacock
We all know that improv is not scripted but do you have some sort of ‘skeleton script ‘ or format in place that you work towards whilst getting ready for a show? Tell us about it?
We have no ‘skeleton script’ at all. But if we feel a bit stuck, one of us might say “you seem to be the kind of person who…” and that jolts someone into remembering what point of view they’re bringing to the scene. We also try to let early scenes play out for longer before tagging, and build up the pace towards the end, maybe leading to a group game or call back. But of course, it is different every time.
How do you warm up for a show?
Recently one thing in particular our coach advised us was to just get together and chat with each other, as a group. Sometimes that’s all you need to check in with each other and connect.
How do you wind down for a show?
Whilst eating and drinking in the pub post show, we talk about the set recalling the successful bits and laugh about the cringy bits. Sometimes when I get to bed that evening there is a bit of ‘I should have’, but hey ho another day another improv.
What has been some of the best advice you have ever been given about improv and comedy?
It takes years to get good.
Tell us about some unusual suggestions that you have had?
It’s interesting how often food comes up. But we had ‘ambidextrous’ once and let’s just say things got sexy. We also had ‘incest’ once and made sure things did not get sexy.
How do you rehearse a format such as your own?
We rehearse every week with our coach Jay Bennett. She tends to work on different aspects of improv each week, from character to being grounded, space work, different locations, then after a loo break and a cuppa we run a couple of shows trying to remember what we’ve just been taught.
Be persistent when asking for slots from other hosts, they’ve all been there.Philippa Peacock
What is YOUR favourite sets you have done this year and why?
It was wonderful performing our first ‘Rhinoceros’ Big Friday’ show following over a year of locked down Zoom rehearsals. The energy in the air was electric, warm and fuzzy; it just re-enforced how important live comedy (or any live art form!) is to humans and why we love IMPROV! (Cringe warning: high)
What is the best thing about being in Rhinoceros Improv?
Seeing how solid the team is. Sounds corny but we are a family and we really do have each other’s backs, in improv and life. This brings me much joy. We know each other so well now, so whoever steps out we all know we’re in safe hands. Also, if I’ve had a difficult or dreary week, I’m comforted to know that every Monday I’ll be mucking about like a big buffoon with six other buffoons.
What is the most challenging?
Not farting. Also not rushing, taking time and staying grounded and listening to myself. So often I don’t even hear or remember what I’ve said – weird.
Recently the improv scene has been very different – how have you adapted to doing shows online?
We continued rehearsing online during lockdown and then we came up with a brilliant format for an online improv show, but never got around to putting in on. What a bunch of twats we are. Maybe we’ll get round to it one day.
What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?
Getting ‘improv-naked’ or removing someone else’s clothes. Recently I shredded my scene partner’s clothes in a very accurate sword fight. I love how by simply miming removing clothes is so effective. Also, performing a scene where I’m a pilot speaking to my co-pilot. I love painting a cockpit scene and then, we take off (pardon the pun).
What have been the worst?
Getting naked. (It’s very cold).
Who would be your dream guest to appear at one of your shows and why?
My dream guest would be Pippa Evans, her improv is effortless and she brings such warmth and safety to the stage. Also George Clooney, I don’t care how bad he is at improv.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given about improv and why?
Enjoy yourself. I think we forget we’re doing this for fun – bearing in mind how bad the pay is.
What would you like to see happen to comedy over the next ten years?
Have me in everything. Also, more value given to improv as a comedy form. It’s gradually seeping in to some tv shows, but there needs to be more.