Improv Community Heroes: Bobby Anderson!

We love touring Sex, Lies & Improvisation and teaching workshops round the country, especially when we get to visit other improv communities. We’ve noticed that improv scenes usually require someone to do all the boring bits so that the rest of us get to have fun. Let’s celebrate those people with this blog series. 

Everybody, these are…The Improv Community Heroes!

Hero Fact File

Name: Bobby Anderson

Location of Hero-ing: Sheffield

Jams: Sheffield Improv Jam, on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

Performances: Stürike Second Sunday, on the 2nd Sunday of the month, featuring my own troupe Sturike Comedy supporting a guest headline act.

Venue: DINA Venue, 6:30pm doors and 7pm start.

Rachel: As a fellow Sheffielder, I am very grateful to you for the hard work you do making the Sheffield improv scene happen. Tell everyone else what we’ve got going on. 

Bobby: Sheffield has had an improv scene of some sorts for a number of years with local groups going back many years. My first experience of it was open workshops run by The Shrimps, Sheffield University’s group, in 2008. For many years the scene was open workshops and occasional shows until Alex Keen and I start the Sheffield Improv Jam in 2016. People who have met at the jam have set up a number of troupes since then and shows and workshops have become more regular.

Rachel: The pandemic did a good job of breaking up communities, including improv scenes. How have you got your scene up and running again?

Bobby: In all honesty, we picked up where we left off! More practical advice? We knew a couple of prominent improvisers from other cities had moved here during the pandemic and had reached out to us, so we made sure to get them involved. In addition, MeetUp has done a great job of replacing… certain failing social media sites… and getting the word out to people who are interested.

Rachel: What’s the best way to get an improv community up and running?

Bobby: Set up a jam. Nothing has done a better job of pulling the scene together and allowing us to meet new people, pull new people into the scene, than just larking about for a couple of hours a month. 

Rachel: You’ve been running the Sheffield Improv jam for nearly seven years. You must have some top tips to share?

Bobby: I could talk for hours about the best way to run a jam depending what you want to achieve so I will just offer what I hope are a few helpful questions: 

  • Short form or long form? 
  • Supported by a troupe or just everyone up? (See the Box Of Frogs jam in Birmingham for a great example of the former.) 
  • Show-and-jam or just a jam? (Think about who would come along/take part if you have a show in the first half.) 
  • How do you create a safe space for everyone? We joke that “no slurs” is the lowest bar, but Owen Scrivens, who runs open workshops in Sheffield under SASS, uses the much better line “this is not the place to push the boundaries of taste in comedy.”

Rachel: That’s a great way of putting it! But it goes to show that running stuff comes with responsibilities. What’s difficult about being an improv community hero?

Bobby: Does everyone point out that “hero” is a big word? 

Rachel: Yeah… But I like it!

Bobby: Admin and representation is the worst. Everyone knows admin sucks, but those events need setting up. The stuff that keeps me up at night is stuff like our community is overwhelmingly white – is that my responsibility? (The answer is yes BTW.) What can I do? I just want to run a little event and people to have fun.

Rachel: And what’s awesome about being an improv community hero?

Just the sheer number of great people I have met. Not just great improvisers, but people who make comedy and run other events that we can get involved with. The sort of people who say “I saw this pop on my feed an hour ago and thought ‘why not?’ I’ve never done improv before.” These people are without fail amazing.

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