Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In Tribute to Uncle Steve

If you're a regular to our comedy nights, you might by now have noticed a few changes hither and thither. Not huge ones, merely a poster swap really. The Improvised Comedy show information up around The Miller pub has all become part of the bright red London Improv brand, and the familiar Hoopla! electric blue advertising is now focussed on impro workshops. If you're very keen of ear and have your Observational Switch set to 'on' you may have even noticed Steve shout out the London Improv website ( at the end of shows instead of

It was a subtle introduction, and purposefully so. As Steve wrote in this blog, things are remaining largely unchanged for you, dear dedicated audience. There will continue to be a high standard of comedy every Tuesday and Wednesday, concentrating very much on building the reputation and outreach of impro, and showing that it is live, vibrant and exciting. We will still be welcoming good quality, well-produced shows from all sorts of improvisers around and about. We continue to only charge £5 for an entire evening of brilliant entertainment. Lucky for you, faithful ones.

There's another reason, and Steve is too modest to acknowledge it, but it's a big reason.

Uncle Steve has almost single-handedly got these nights to be the success they are. The reason there is great value hilarity every week, the reason those performers have had a stage beneath them and an audience before them is because if the amount of work that Steven 'the imp' Roe has put into it. And believe me, after doing a fraction of it over the last few weeks, it is a helluva lot. Steve continues to pump that work in, and he's now joined by a few others; all under the London Improv banner. We could have had a big launch party, but that would have neutralised Steve's long and continuing dedication. No-one is working harder than this man to further impro in London, and for us to come bounding in with a big party would be grotesquely glory-seeking.

Steve is The Man; so next time you see him, tell him how awesome he is and how thankful you are for all the hard work he does.

And if you've ever had an inkling to be funnier or learn any new skill, get yourself down to a Hoopla! workshop or two, and learn from him. He's a chap who knows.

Thanks Steve.

Ooh, if you do want a big party, we'll be having a big send off to mark the end of the season on the 27th July. And if you're good boys and girls over summer, we might have a big one when we start up again in September.
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Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Maydays are auditioning for a new company member


The Maydays are looking for performers to join their award-winning improv comedy company.

We're looking for someone able to work (and with experience of working) within a range of improv styles including long form, short form and improvised singing.

We are seeking one or more improvisers, preferably living in the Brighton area, who have solid improvisation experience and a willingness to develop. A good singing voice and the confidence to use it are essential, as are a collaborative positive attitude, availability for shows (usually on weekend nights) and rehearsals (Monday evenings in Brighton).

Once a member of the company there are various (paid) possibilities through teaching improv and corporate performance work. If you'd like to apply, we need a brief performance/training CV, and a short covering email to tell us why you would like to join us, what you feel you can bring to the troupe, and what kind of past experience you have with improv.

Please email applications to:

*Deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 6th May 2011.*

Successful applicants will be invited to an audition to be held on the evening of Monday 16th May 2011.

This Week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 26th April
Fun Stuff is a regular show with a rolling cast hand-picked by Steve Roe. Together they have but one aim - to give the audience a good time. Lots of fast and fun improvised games with ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ and ‘Fast and Loose’ favourites.

Cast this week includes Steve Violich, Emily Howell, Tara Philips, Rhys Collier and Andrew Gentilli with Steve Roe directing.

They will be followed by one of Britain’s most established and experienced groups, Brighton’s award winning improv group The Maydays. Including John Cremer, Katy Schutte and that Steve Roe chap.

"*****" - Three Weeks

Wednesday 27th April
Wednesday opens with an improvised musical from London Improv favourite: Music Box, who perform an entire one-act musical based on just a few suggestions from the audience. Cast includes: Becca Gibson, Rhiannon Vivian, Maria Peters and Jonathan Funkhouse.

“Music Box - dynamic, original and captivating. I haven't laughed so much or felt so much a part of a performance... Would recommend their night to anyone who wants to have a good time!”

Then Remy Bertrand directs Friendly Fire's show ‘The Interruption of Dreams’ with a performing collective of improvisers, actors, dancers and an orchestra!

Friendly Fire ask members of the audience to tell them about their dreams. Real, genuine dreams they had. They then proceed to enter a state of semi-psychedelic trance in which each dream will be re-enacted, with all its details explained. Easy.

If you would like email updates, send a message to saying so.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Online Harold for Long-Form Improv Disparates

I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful teachers and improvisers from around the world. Sometimes we Maydays invite favourite teachers back over from Chicago (Bill Arnett, Nancy Howland Walker and Marshall Stern) and New York (Jay Rhoderick) to fine tune us and join in our shows in Brighton and London. And let’s not forget Tim Sniffen (Baby Wants Candy) who coached me and 8Bit at the end of last year.

When I was at iO and Second City, I met some great American, Canadian and Australian improvisers who I loved performing with. I also dearly miss Jason Delplanque from the Maydays who has moved to South Africa to take the improv world by storm over there. I was contemplating the international talent I have connections with and realised that – of course – we live in a world of vast media and communication opportunities. Why not make an online improv show where any of these people, and any of you, can add the next scene? London Improv have been kind enough to act as host and me (Katy Schutte) and Laura Mugridge are launching ‘Open Letters to P. W. Wiseman’.

Open Letters to P. W. Wiseman is an online Harold where we publish an improvised scene and ask the world to improvise the next one. There will be 9 scenes (or so), each inspired by the last and by the themes ‘organic’ and ‘rural’. Scenes must be one continuous shot with improvised dialogue and have a connection (i.e. to do with character, object or environment) with the scenes that have gone before. 'Open Letters to P. W. Wiseman' has three chapters and we encourage successful submitters to film second and third beats to their story or exploration. Each scene must be under 5 minutes and entered within a week of the previous one being published. To enter, publish your scene on youtube and send the link to including which scene number it is.

Scene 2 is due by Friday 30th April. As this is our trial show, guidance/rules may change as the project goes on… Good luck – let’s make some new comedy!

Scene 1:

Monday, 18 April 2011

The difficulty of things practiced...

Earlier this month I did Stand-Up for the First Time at the Miller, which as the name suggests was a stand-up night for people, like me, who had never done stand-up before. Although I've done a lot of Improv performance, and love the nerves you get before going on-stage, there was something about this night that was giving me a different kind of nervousness. But what was there to be nervous about? After all, it was just a 5 minute slot.

I think the answer lies in the fact that the stand-up set was something that I had written and put my actual thoughts down on a page. Being nervous about this is little odd, in that the real subconscious you is more likely to show itself during improvisation, and surely the threat of unveiling this is something that should be feared more? Having a script to rely on was in effect putting a curtain in front of the subconscious and taking back control of the destiny of the 5 minutes that you'd be on stage.

It was this control that was making me nervous and I was way more concerned about what the audience would think of my "set" because I had spent time writing it (admittedly not as much time as a should have) than if I was doing Improv. As late that 6pm that day I was still seriously contemplating chucking in what I had written and just Improving something up on stage. I thought better of it, after all, what's the points of challenging yourself to do stand-up if you just fall back on something that you're comfortable doing?

As it happened, my set went OK. Of course it would have better if I'd had the opportunity to test it in front of audiences beforehand, but that was the whole point of it being a first time. I do think I have the nugget of a very good and potentially funny idea (The Moment of Clarity), however it does need some work and the reference to Hitler invading Poland was probably taking it a little too far.

As for everyone else, I'm not going to name names, but having seen both nights of SUFTFT, I thought the overall quality of everyone performing was excellent. Would some of them have gotten booed or heckled at a normal comedy night? Probably - but it goes to show how much difference a positive outlook makes. If you close your ears and eyes to something new, it's only yourself that's missing out.

My next blog will be on the simularities and differences between Improv and Cricket. Focusing on the question of "form".

C Jam.

This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 19th April
Tuesday night at The Miller opens with an incredible improvised musical from the fabulous Music Box.
"That was f*cking incredible... I have no idea how you guys did that but it felt like magic... I'd pay good money to see that on the West End...
It was better than Avenue Q."

Followed by a brilliant show from the likes of Dan Attfield, Amy Bailey, Rhys Collier, Luke Courtenay-Smith, Tim Grewcock, Nick Oram and Matt Smith. Do Not Adjust Your Stage, the TV themed improv show.

Then on Wednesday 20th April
Shotgun Impro play out their energetic monthly show. Shotgun Impro perform "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" style fast-paced comedy improvisation, with no rehearsal, no preparation and no script. They take audience suggestions and ideas, and reveal their underlying magnificence.

Friday 22nd April
Featuring amazing guest Katy Schutte (News Revue, The Maydays, Music Box, all-round impro clever-clogs).
It's going to be a Gooood Friday when 8bit bring you the second of their two special shows at The Wilmington Arms, Clerkenwell. They present a night of comedy with some short-form games followed by a long-form play.

This Friday's show features a special announcement about a massive impro project that everyone can be a part of. Come to the show to hear about it before anyone else.
Oh yeah.
Oh... Yeah.

If you would like email updates, send a message to saying so.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A Long Time in the Works

Nathan Keates is a playful character and creator of Ludus Ludius in Cardiff. Pretty much every week he will cover the full width of the country to attend a workshop or show in London. That's enthusiasm you can't buy (or it is about the price of a return ticket to Wales).
"British improvisation has been developing for many years but it seems quite recent that more people are getting really excited about long-form. By watching the increasing list on the Crunchy Frog Collective site we can constantly see more groups, but predominantly these are short-form. We have had many short-form groups appear and develop and this will always be the case, and it seems like long-form is more of an American thing.

In my discussion with people from all over the world, from Mexico to Italy, I can be sure to say that there are wonderful formats being played – from one man with his suggestions stuck over him playing out the scenes on his own, to teams of hockey-style players playing Match Impro. There are varying competitive formats, from Scared Scriptless in Australia to TheatreSports in Canada (these are not solely played in these locations, but merely examples). The intended audience makes styles vary hugely, as we look at The Noise Next Door touring the UK comedy club circuit with their quick-fire short-form, and those that perform family shows like Crayons in Tulsa, America.

But what long-form is available to watch on our damp little island? There is a lot around. I recall coming back from Edinburgh Fringe ’10 and speaking to a friend who saw the same long-form show as I did. I loved it and he didn’t. The great differences in opinion is perhaps what drives the massive contrast in what this country has. In the UK we have seen only short-form on our television screens. However, over the last few years on the radio we have had some lovely long-form, including the recent Showstopper Improvised Musical on BBC Radio.

Variety can also be seen in the festivals we have had. The one-off Shifti, produced by Fluxx’s Chris Johnston, was probably the most diverse, collecting all sorts of improvised shows from around the world. We have had festivals in Bristol, Bristol Jam that’s now heading for it's third year. This year we saw the fourth 50-hour Improvathon by The Sticking Place, and Animo by Improbable. These were both long-form productions that were both fantastic. Even with our London festival, Slapdash [returning this year], we saw a large amount of long-form showing; like Music Box – musical stars who are residents at the London Improv Comedy Club.

The love of long-form has no doubt always been around. The growth of this style of the improv artform is therefore completely diverse. Formats that have sprung up like 'La Ronde', 'Beast', 'Harold', 'Henry', 'Rupert' and even 'Sybil' (that I have had a few attempts at) have each got their structures that make them different.

In America I noted that there are a lot of genre-based long-form productions, for example David Shore’s Monkey Toast talk-show. There have been looks at long-forming independent movies and now the UK has a murder mystery. Improbable’s Animo was in fact their first production, originally performed in 1996. The interest has been around for quite some time. Also, we have a lot of interest in musical improvisation, which can be seen by various groups performing it within shows, and some that only do music. We've already mentioned two groups that are devoted to musicals.

The influx of practitioners coming to the UK has always been useful and productive. Outside influence brings and creates new styles, and approaches that push and further the art form. Alan Marriott lived in London for a while and his mark is still frequently spotted. Each of his returns to the country signals some form of metaphorical parade. I have a massive personal investment in his current activities, as my aspirations to actively do applied improvisation for autism is an event that he is involved with in Canada at the moment. With visits from Montreal Improv and Jen Goodhue, amongst others, we have gained a lot of fantastic insight from their vast experience. Now we have the acclaimed David Shore from the Canadian lands regularly producing Harold shows with Hoopla!. And he is coaching regular groups in a traditional American long-form way. The are only a few of the practitioners we've met. These are indeed exciting times for long-form to emerge. Even British players have traveled for training and returned to share the wisdom and alternative focuses that give that marvelous new approach.

The fact is that we improvisers all have our different interests in the art of improvisation, be it long-form, short-form, contact improv or even the more dance or physical improvisation styles. However, long-form is one that I do really enjoy and wish to see and do more of. So with a huge impression from the outside influence, be it possible for it to settle and stay. With that - and those who are traveling for the training and bringing that joy back - we can be excited and happy about the possibility of more long-form."

Nathan Keates

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What makes makes people watch...?

For my first entry into this blog, I'm going to try and answer a question that I really don't know the answer to, or even know if there is an answer.

Anyone who's watched a lot of Improv will be able to tell you that there is some sort of indefinable quality that makes some improvisers more watchable on stage than others. This has nothing to do with talent or experience, but it's just a quality that's there that makes it difficult to take your eyes of someone.

I'm pretty sure Keith Johnstone (I can't find the exact reference in his books) said that an improvisor should try and make the audience want to take them home at the end of the evening. Whether this is for the same reason you'd adopt a kitten or for more morally corrupt reasons I can't recall, but I think this is a good aim.

We make snap judgements in everyday life, I know for one that when I meet someone I decide in the first 10 seconds or not whether I like them of not. Likewise with art, we often just know if something is good or if we like it, regardless of what sort of art background we have. Another example, would be looking at flats, from experience the worst flats I have lived in have been ones where my gut told me this wasn't right yet my analytical mind over-ruled this initial instinct. More often than not these instant judgements are correct, but why? I don't think anyone really knows, but millions of years of evolution probably has something to do with it.

But this doesn't answer the questions as to what makes some improvisers more watchable on stage than others? I've though about this a lot recently, and although I can't put my finger on it, and here are a few traits which I think more watchable improvisers have, you'll note that I'm more certain about some things rather than others:

  • Does not appear to dominate scenes, gives the other actors space;
  • Not afraid to make mistakes, constantly pushing themselves and getting themselves in trouble;
  • Plays slightly low status to the audience;
  • An egoless performer (conversely an ego driven performer is nigh on unwatchable), unaware of how good they are;
  • Happy to play furniture, make a small addition to the scene;
  • Never look like they are trying too hard, make things look effortless, as if they are not even thinking;
  • Emotionally honest with themselves, they allow a little peak into their or their character's soul;
  • Can see their enjoyment, they look like they want to be on stage.

By no means is this a full and thorough list, but I do think it answers a very small segment of the question (or at least serves as a useful list of performance skills). In fact I am probably more confused now as to what works than when I first started writing this what I like and what I don't. I also know that this doesn't even gets close to identifying what it the watchability factor actually is.

It should probably be pointed out that I don't want to give the impression that other improvisers are unwatchable. This certainly isn't the case, what I'm getting at, and I'm going to paraphrase Orwell - "All improvisors are watchable, but some are more watchable than others".

Perhaps we shouldn't think too hard as to why we like something and just accept it for what it is as some things just can't be answered.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jacob Banigan: a Lover of English

LondonImprov will be providing you with regular interviews with excellent people from the impro community, because we like you very much. To show you how serious we are about it we flew Jonathan to Vienna for our first one. Okay, that's not entirely true (he was out there for work) …

JACOB BANIGAN began improvising over 20 years ago in Edmonton, Canada, with the revered Rapid Fire Theatre. He's since moved to Austria, where he performs regularly with Theatre Im Bahnhof in Graz and The English Lovers in Vienna. He travels all over the world to teach and perform.

How did you discover improv?
JB: I first saw it when I was a teenager, when my sister told me to go see TheatreSports. I always knew I wanted to perform, and when I saw improv I realized the players were really enjoying themselves and the audience was with them the whole way. The world of stand-up looked pretty nasty from a distance, and when you're in the comedy world, you see that it really is.

What do you really love about improv?
With improv, the audience accepts all your ideas. If you say you’re 10 feet tall, they just go: “Okay”. And if you act a little bit that way they see it even more. We can paint the picture as fast as we want. What sustains it is the reality of these ridiculous situations: audiences come back for the true moments, instead of the comedy of it.

What was your favourite ever improv moment?
In 2006 I got to do a World Cup of TheatreSports in the Canadian team, with two very good friends of mine: Steve Sim and Derek Flores. That was a super highlight for me. But I’ve worked with so many great people. I go to Edmonton and we have fantastic shows. Sometimes just me and Mark (Meer), sometimes with others. And Jim (Libby) and I tootle around doing a lot of two-man shows. We created a board game show where you roll the dice and it tells you how long the scene is. We both play all the characters. It’s a mix of short- and long-form.

You were in the 50 hour Improvathon, and you’ve done ultra-long Soapathons. What’s the best thing about them?
The stories can take so long and get so complex, and when you try to back-track through one you realise it started two days ago! In the Improvathon, Ruth (Bratt) and Mark (Meer) had a funny little boob-poke right near the beginning. It was so early, but it paid off throughout, and at the very end created the most romantic, touching scene. There would be no way to predict that, or make that happen. You couldn't write that story, it would be ridiculous.

Did you have any out-of-body experiences?
I had some brain farts, yeah. Nothing that was transcendent, just embarrassing. Part way through a scene you think: “Am I still here? Am I still talking? Fuck!” There’s always a time in the Soapathon where everyone is flumping on stage. But everyone comes back.

Have you ever had a totally shit show?
Oh yes. In Wetaskiwin, Alberta, a small town. We did a fundraiser gig for The Wives of the Mounties. Full of small-town ladies with power issues (because they’re married to Mounties), all hammered. We got there and the place was already a riot. We couldn't wait to get off the stage. It felt like forever. They hated us. They threw pennies at us. They even came on stage and said: “SHUT UP AND GET OFF!” I got mad. I’ve promised myself never to get mad on stage again. We did maybe 10-15 minutes… We were supposed to do 40.

Do you perform in German when you do shows in Austria?
I perform in German sometimes, very bad German. My characters are usually foreigners or animals. Or objects.

Did you have to adapt your humour in any way?
Performing in another language allows you to simplify. You can’t be clever. You can’t make jokes. If I lose track of what’s going on in a show that’s mostly in German, it’s usually because people have started making jokes or doing wordplay. If you keep it to what’s real, and what’s here, it’s no problem. It can be really helpful for people to travel and perform in another country where you can’t just make references to your own pop culture.

How would you describe your own style?
I don’t mind giving life to objects or to dogs. Again, don’t play the dog like a crazy dog - just be a dog. The reality of that is interesting, too. I don’t mind looking stupid, because it’s not me, it’s the character. If I went out there and tried to be funny and charming I’d be dead. You don’t have to defend your ideas or sneak them in emotionally, you just have to bring them to the stage and connect them to the other people. People respect that. Sometimes people take the serious stuff too seriously, that’s bad theatre. It just needs to be alive.

What was your favourite improv show you ever saw?
The first time I saw Crumbs in Winnipeg they just blew my mind. Their style was so different from anything I’d seen before and I immediately wanted to steal from them. I was watching their show looking for a structure, and afterwards they told me they didn’t have one. They just start: no games and no hooks! They just kinda play. It was a revelation.

Do you have an improv hero?
Mark Meer. Everyone is just trying to catch up to him. Actually when I’m playing with him I’m not trying to catch up to him, I’m trying to knock him off his balance. I learned years ago not to try to play the same game he’s playing, because you won’t be able to. If you’re in his game, great, but if you’re not - don’t even try. My job now is like: “Okay, Mark seems to know what he’s doing, I’m going to try and make him trip.” But he totally glosses over, like that’s part of his world too! There’s nobody else like him. And he does it with pure joy.

Do you think improv works on TV?
It’s on in America occasionally, but I don’t think it’s exactly been done properly. ‘Whose Line’ is fantastic, for what it is. There was this show called ‘The Green Screen Show’ [where actors do a short-form show in front of a green screen, then environment and props are animated in before it’s broadcast]. I liked that it was about suggesting something that could then be put in afterwards. You can’t do that on stage. I think that’s the way to go, just without all the ‘funny-funny’.

Jacob is currently working on an improvised movie. At the moment he's not sure exactly how it will work.

If you would like to read the whole unabridged interview, you can: HERE

Sunday, 10 April 2011

This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 12th April
Another night to see some brilliant people try their hand at something new, and show-up all the professionals with how good they are. Loads of lovely improvisers doing stand up for the first time ever or doing brand new material.
Cast includes:
Debbie Syrop, Paul Foxcroft, Conor Jatter, Tome Webster, James from The Miller, Rob Grundel, Steve Roe, Jonny from The Miller, Emily Howell, Edgar Fernando, Paul Rice, Matt Thompson, Ryan Miller, Louie Christie, Geoff Marshall, Vikki Pipe, Luke Beahan and Nick Oram...
Compered by the delectable Becca Gibson of Music Box Improvised Musical.

Wednesday 13th April
Fun Stuff and The Guild of Angels

Fun Stuff have but one aim - to give the audience a good time. Lots of fast and fun improvised games with ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ and ‘Fast and Loose’ style favourites.
Cast includes Rhys Collier, Dylan Buckle, Nick Oram and Steve Violich
with Steve Roe directing.

followed by

The Guild of Angels. Expect something new and exhilarating with a brand new show from Jules Munns, the creator of the Slap Dash impro festival, and performer in Music Box and Friendly Fire.

Tuesday & Wednesday produced in association with Hoopla Impro Shows & Workshops.

Thursday 14th April
It's Jonathan's birthday, so feel free to send him large presents that are also incredibly valuable. And give him a hug.

Saturday 16th April
A really special show as 8bit bring you the first of two gigs at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell. They create an intricate adventure of stories and characters from a single word from the audience, and take you on a journey the likes of which has never been seen before or since. And in this show they will be trying out a whole new thing that they've never done on stage before. Ooooooh.

"The best British Harold I've ever seen" - Matt Andrews, Fingers on Buzzards

How often do you get to spend a Saturday eve watching brilliant improvised comedy & then party-ringing into the night with your mates, hanging those school-night consequences on the coat hook of mirth? Hardly ever, right?... then read the date. Oh yeah, Saturday fun-time.

If you would like email updates, send a message to saying so.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A New Generation Of Punk Rock

In a divorce settlement between me and sleep, I would cite the following three documentaries:
Westway To The World (2000) directed by Don Letts
Dogtown and Z-boys (2001) directed by Stacy Peralta
The Filth and The Fury (2000) directed by Julien Temple

Each one has struck me that a group of passionate individuals can come together and by sheer grit and determination will eventually find success, despite the world around them acting disinterested and/or aggressively negative.

I couldn't help but draw comparisons between the plight of early punk-rockers and skaters - struggling to have their art-form recognised - and the community of improvisers that surround me who are working hard on putting on brilliant shows while possible audience members wander unknowingly by.

Joe Strummer, the front-man for The Clash, was an intellectual and brilliant man with a passion that could rip a hole in parliament. Watch Westway To The World and you can't help but be struck by how focussed he was in achieving his goal. Hang the punk conventions on the wall, this guy avoided mind-limiting drugs and people who would lead him astray. Punk Rock was his addiction, his religion and his reason. I could list plenty of improvisers who feel the same about their art.

The Clash went on for longer than most bands have ever managed, and produced brilliant songs throughout their time; songs that everyone knows. A rare accolade for any band, and certainly one that won't be managed by any current popular television-age act I can think of.

There is footage of the Z-boys Skateboarding Team in Dogtown where they unleash their stunts on an unsuspecting crowd at a 1970's skateboarding competition. Until that moment skateboarding had been a balletic sport performed by pretty-boys in tight white vests and finely coiffed hair-dos, who did graceful handstands on their boards and balanced with stiff backs. Then the Z-boys appear from nowhere, hitting the deck with slides and skids and jumps, screeching round the park as close to the ground as they could with threadbare jeans and t-shirts that flapped in the wind. Skateboarding was suddenly exciting. No longer were the stars made up of people who could stand-up straight, they were those who took risks and flooded the competition with unpredictability. The Z-boys were pioneers, and despite the dejected looks from the skate-stars of the day, the crowd had now been subjected to the future of skating.

I couldn't help picturing Michael McIntyre in a tight white vest after that, much to the horror of my own sub-conscience.

You can see where I got my inspiration for the website design from. I genuinely believe improv is a new punk-rock. We are doing comedy our way, the way we believe it should be done. We do improv because it is exciting, new, ever-changing and not tied down by existing conventions. It worked for stand-up comedians twenty-five years ago, and now look.

We will do this whether we get an audience or whether we don't; but do you remember the names of the politicians that tried to get The Sex Pistols removed from the country, or do you know The Pistols as one of the most iconic bands in music history? Improvisers are passionate people who are doing good stuff. I take solace in believing that once it kicks off, impro will forever be a leviathan on the British comedy timeline. I know where I want to be when that happens.

God save the Queen.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Why Do You Improvise?

I know why I improvise, there are actually lots of specific reasons, but there is one fundamental thing that links it all together and keeps me coming back for more. It’s what makes me go to workshops and run them, and go to shows, and read about improv, and write about improv also.

To begin with the fundamental thing is that improvisation is very rewarding, and I mean that in the literal psychological sense. When we do things that help us survive, like find something tasty, solve a puzzle, meet a friendly person, etc, our brain releases dopamine which feels good and encourages us to keep doing those things.

Improv has a lot of different rewards for me. Working with people is social, telling stories is mentally and emotionally engaging, and getting up and performing in front of an audience is challenging and exhilarating. So it provides rewards in a lot of different areas. You might like to know that dopamine helps with creativity in certain parts of the brain, so doing something creative that you find rewarding makes you even more creative when doing it. So the more you enjoy something the more motivation and the more freedom of thought you gain.

To give an example of a specific reward, I was reminded of this whilst working in a very unrewarding and unengaging job. The reason boring jobs take so much out of you is that you aren’t releasing dopamine that much, so your motivation falters and you spend a lot of time treading water rather than running on ahead. That’s why I think it’s important to recognise what feeds your inner process and embrace it.

“Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.” – Confucius

I was interviewing a customer who had her daughter with her, and the daughter was drawing to stay occupied. The girl had drawn the clouds in the sky and the ground with a car and a house on it. Then she piped up and said:

“What should I draw next?”

I saw the huge blank expanse in the middle and said the first thing that came into my mind.

“How about the horizon?”

She looked at me quizzically and I said

“It’s where the ground meets the sky,” I said.

“So draw a straight line across the middle,” her mum said.

So the girl drew the line, stared at it for a second and then revelation struck.

“Oh, that’s!” and she pushed her hand out in front of her. She suddenly grasped perspective, she just didn’t have the words yet. Then she drew a road winding out from the house all the way up to the horizon. She had learned something. A fundamental building block in her understanding of 2D representations of 3D objects had just arrived, or in other words she suddenly got how to draw things Going Away.

I found that rewarding, because I love learning and understanding, I get a real buzz when I solve a puzzle or I learn something new from an improv game. So seeing that in another person is great, especially kids who are still open to that process. They go through revelations and paradigm shifts almost every day. And it was just an offhand comment I made, I wasn’t trying to be clever or instruct her, she had just grabbed what was in front of her then wrestled with it until she understood it. It was fun to accidently contribute to her learning.

So learning is very powerful for me. Learning for myself and also being around others and seeing that revelation when they get something new, I love that. I’m sure you do to, it’s fun to be around open minds. That’s why I treasure great teachers and appreciate how they let people discover new things. And it is also why I know that I will never stop learning about improvisation and myself, and that if I am working on a project it needs to be something I can learn from. I could never just churn out show after show if I didn’t feel like I was learning, I would have to hit up a workshop and get some new ideas.

The reason I share this, is because as I say above, knowing how you work is important to get the most out of your time. So as an improviser you might like to ask yourself the question.

“Why do I improvise?”

If you look at the things you do all through your life and pick out the ones that reward you the most, you might find a common thread. It could be being part of a team, it could be the atmosphere of shows, it could be singing improvised songs, it could be the joy of fucking around and getting away with it. Whatever it is, if you can identify it then you can make sure your projects fall into alignment with those rewards and what you do will become even more incredible to you. Or in other words, do what you love doing.

So that is why I improvise. In order to do what I love doing.

Why do you improvise?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 5th April
Music Box Improvised Musical open Tuesday evening with their fly-like-a-bird musical adventure. They take just a couple of audience suggestions and leap off into the unknown.

“A real improvised musical with narrative, genuinely good songs, sometimes moving, very funny songs and all that stuff that people work on for years writing a musical.”

They're followed by murder mystery courtesy of The Faux Pas.
A killing has taken place, the body has been chalked, evidence found and suspects gathered. Luckily Rosy Fordham is here to investigate.
Murder mystery themed improvised comedy with Rosy Fordham, Stephanie Ancell, Nick Bulleid and John Robert Davis.

Wednesday 6th April
After the resounding success of the first two Stand Up For The First Time nights, it would be silly not to let more improvisers have a go. A bunch of lovely people go up in front of an audience with their first ever solo routine and make it look so easy you'd wonder what all the fuss is about.
Line-up includes:
Alex Baines-Buffery, Chris Werren, Clive Moore, Matt Andrews, Jules Garnett, Roderick Millar, Lydia Nicholas, Marcel Katz, James Ross and Pete Edwards...
Compered by the mighty Steve Roe of Hoopla!

Friday 8th April
A special treat for everyone as YouTube stars The RH Experience take to the stage in a far-too-rare live show. If you've seen these guys online you'll know them as fresh-faced and boundlessly energetic.
Part-hoody, part electronic: expect a night of fast-paced, frustratingly youthful, fun-time-comedy.

"These pioneers of tomfoolery make us laugh to the point of exhaustion."
- thefourohfive

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