Welcome back to the world of improv corner – did you have a nice summer? We sure did as we got to interview so many acts that were heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Camden Fringe! Well, we are back this September with lots more improv articles and also something new as well.
Welcome to a brand new feature which we are going to feature ever so often as part of Improv Corner called Playing The Favourite. Ever so often. we are going to talk to improv acts about some of their favourite things about the comedy form. If you want to be part of this feature to promote an up and coming show, promote yourself as a team or even as a solo improviser, get in contact as I would love to promote you!
I thought to launch the article I would actually answer the questions myself to get the month going!
What is your favourite:
I have always been a huge fan of short form – I like the quick speed of it and that a story has to be concluded in a short amount of time. I am a video editor so I feel that I enjoy it more because I like ‘cutting’ out the middle bits that drag or may not make sense. Also I do find that sometimes long form improv is not explained very well to an audience and it can be hard to connect with.
Saying that, over the years there have been improv acts that have completely spun my opinion on its head and made me enjoy longer form improv. I have really admired the way that they have approached it and made it very interesting.
Short form game
I have a couple that are my favourites and today I am going to mention two – one musical and one short form game. I fell in love with musical improv when I did a course in it and I adore the games that I used to play with my old team Punderstandably where we used to have two presenters that would promote the new album by a band (both the name of album and band was made up by the audience). The presenters would make up a name of a song and then we would have to improvise a song. I loved that game so much, I spent hours one day going through Spotify finding loads of royalty free backing tracks of all genres that we could use and we had some cracking songs and dances. I have some of them recorded and they always make me smile when I look back at them.
Another game that I really like that is not a musical one is lines from a hat – I always forget about it but when I play it I remember how much I love it. We had a group of Spanish tourists in one of our shows that gave us loads of lines in Spanish and it weirdly worked so well. I adore the fact that you have no idea what lines are going to come out of the hat and they can really heighten the scene and sometimes perfectly fit – it is such a great game and the audience feels included as well.
This is such a difficult question! As an editor who has interviewed nearly (or probably over now) 500 acts that are improv it can be really hard to just choose one so I am going to discuss a few I have seen over the years that have really stood out to me.
Firstly Improvvisazione Teatrale Bugiardini, an improv troupe from Rome. I saw them a few years ago at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and they completely opened my eyes as to what improv can be. They did this show that was entirely improvised silent film and the way they approached it blew my mind. I have never seen an act do anything like that before and haven’t since – It made me realise that the creativity you can have with improv is endless.
One of my old teammates of Pundersandably and good friends James invited me to see his other team Banana Hut Gang perform Edinburgh Fringe previews for their show Choose Your Own a few years ago and I was so impressed as to how good it was. They took the concept of long form improv and made it engaging, exciting and really entertaining. That was one of the long form teams that really set the bar for me as to how long form should be done.
Whenever I write something like this I have to include The Noise Next Door, they were the first act to really introduce me to the world of improv (apart from Whose Line). The first time I saw them I left with my ribs physically hurting from laughing so much and I was so excited they used my suggestion of Mr Bean. I have seen them a few times since then and every time, even with the different line ups they are hilarious and polished.
I never knew dramatic long form was a thing until I saw Between Us at Brighton Fringe and was amazed at how a show that was so emotional was improvised on the spot. It was a really engaging show and the fact that it is completely different every night again blows my mind because it did not feel like improv.
Finally, I want to mention Abandoman, I saw him years ago before I was even performing improv and his show was so unique that it stood out for me. The way that he would get members of the audience to get things from their bags and then would rap about them was so impressive. I have seen him a few times since and he has taken that concept and heightened it so much in those years in between that it is absolutely amazing and like a real concert let alone a comedy show.
Film or television show
Like everyone, I have a lot of favourite television shows and films, some of my favourite television shows are Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, Gotham and Taskmaster to name a few. There are a few shows that I watched recently that I really have enjoyed including Only Murders In The Building, Obi Wan and Moonknight – I never thought I would like this Marvel show but I ended but becoming addicted as Oscar Isaacs is phenomenal in it.
As for films, I have a lot of favourites as well but the ones that are worth a mention include Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones Diary, Toy Story, Spiderman, Despicable Me, 500 Days Of Summer and City Lights just to name a few.
Venue to perform at
Out of all the venues that I have had a chance to perform on I think the one at Brighton Fringe stands out the most as it was the first time doing a festival and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a small stage and the fact we got to get a lot of people on it was pretty impressive. Another venue that I loved performing at was 2Northdown, James and I got invited to perform at City Impros show at Camden Fringe and it was so fun, it was a tiny stage but it meant that we had to creative how we approached it.
I think my dream venue would be the Comedy Store in London as so many iconic comedians have walked those floorboards such as Rik Mayall. Also another one I would love to perform at is the Stand in Newcastle because that is the room I learnt to improv in and wouldn’t that be a great full circle!
Way to wind down
I never really know how to wind down as I am always on an adrenaline rush but I guess the best way is to have a drink and celebrate with your team.
Way to warm up
Something I did from very early on was listen to Panic! At The Disco in my headphones full blast before a show on the journey to it and it ended up becoming a ritual. I found their music pumped me up to feel confident and energetic. When I have been part of a team it has been energetic warm up games such as King of the Jungle (we once played with 30 people at The Phoenix Remix Live! it was so fun!) Two Aubergines and other wordy games.
I always love suggestions where the audience deliberately try to catch you out and you end up spinning it on its head and creating something fun! There was a scene I did where me and the other player both understood the suggestion as something different and that made a really fun scene to do.
Show by another improv act
Shhhhhh! The Improvised Silent Movie – Improvvisazione Teatrale Bugiardini
Suki Webster Guest Speaker
Memory of a show
I have so many great memories here are a couple that stand out:
+ My first ever improv show in Newcastle, I will always remember the nerves, I will never remember the scene
+ Touring with City Impro’s Laugh Island, we went to Guildford and they wanted me to be a Tory MP….they didn’t know i worked in news and I had a ton of puns and jokes and knowledge that I could just roll off the tongue
+ At one of our Punders shows we did a song about a Donkey – that was so fun
+ At The Phoenix Live, we played as The Phoenix Players and did improv in a completely different way and split it up into 2 minute skit breaks throughout the show – people really enjoyed it and we got highly praised for it.
+ A time where James and I had to do a whole show as a twoprov and it went down a storm
Part of rehearsing a show
We used to have a game called Thunderdome to warm up, it started out as fun and got super competitive. That was incredibly fun. I love the laughter the silliness can bring and sometimes you can get some really great scenes in rehearsals.
Thing about performing
I love the adrenaline that you get from making an audience laugh, I love entertaining people, I love the whole excitement of it all.
Here are a few I love
“You’re semi-evil. You’re quasi-evil. You’re the margarine of evil. You’re the Diet Coke of evil. Just one calorie, not evil enough.” – Dr Evil, Austin Powers
“It goes to show everything you want in life you get and you can’t work for it, it just comes to you” Michael Scott – The Office (US)
“people have accused me of walking about in a dream world, seeing things around me others don’t see. But, you know what, I don’t care. I’ve never liked beige” – The Life of Lee (Evans)
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”- Miriam Beard (found via Amtrak California)
” A good cup of tea begins in delight and ends in wisdom”
“Shiitake Mushrooms! No more Mr Cute-and-Cuddly” – Madagascar Penguins
“Every good film starts with the script. As does a bad film. A really bad film starts with The Script” – Ayoade on Ayoade
Thing about the improv industry at the moment
I think that the lockdown meant that there are more ways that people are starting to integrate technology into their shows and they are still doing some online shows. Sometimes it is really difficult to find the time to go to a show and the fact that online is now an option is great.
Thing about this year so far?
That life is starting to feel like it is slowly returning to normal, the fact that festivals are back is exciting and there is still that weird moment when you meet up with people and realise that the last two years have been weird and that its been a long time since you have seen them!