Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Improvised Film Challenge - The RH Experience Video

As promised (well, not a promise really, more of a suggestion) we are making attempts to put all of the videos from the Improvised Film Challenge up, so that the 9 billion people of earth who weren't there can get to see them. Today, please enjoy the offering from the wonderful Team RH Experience, created in just one hour from the audience suggestion: "The Return Of The Reject (12a)"

The RH Experience are already YouTube superstars in their own right. If you haven't checked out their YouTube channel before, I encourage you to do so. They're lovely lads who have been putting out regular improv videos for ages. We like that they hang around, and we like this video. Here you go!

We'll put up the rest when we can. If you would like to receive updates (never more than once a week), let us know at

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Not exactly a holiday

That's it. London Improv is truly on a break from doing London-based shows (for about 6 weeks).

Music Box had their last London outing last night, at their regular summer gig as part of the Zoo Lates at London Zoo. That was fun. The impro-gods were smiling down on us and provided us with the best audience of the entire run; about 80 people standing in the London Zoo aquarium, watching us dick about for 15 minutes. We'd found that people who had paid for penguins and meerkats weren't hugely enamoured by a 15-minute version of our musical, so we've been doing more short-form stuff and it's been going down really well. They much preferred monkey-gags to musical character journeys. Gibbon-knobs.

Speaking of short-form, the Great Big Send-Off was a blast. About 30 improvisers ended up being in the show, all adding their own little bit of brilliance, all playing together in a supportive and friendly way. Everyone was in high spirits and there to have a really good time. Which we all did. The main thing I was worried about was anyone who came who wasn't an improviser, that all they would experience would be a big cliquey in-joke that they couldn't be a part of.

Not so, it turned out. I was constantly keeping an eye out, and saw them laughing a lot. When in a game of 185, a call-out ended up being "185 improvisers walk into a bar..." they seemed to appreciate that I made reference to how geeky most of the jokes were:
"185 improvisers all walk into a bar at the same time, and Keith Johnstone shouts NO BLOCKING"
"185 improvisers walk into a bar, and one says "hey Dave" and other says "Hey Mike" and then they establish that they're in a pub, before working out what to do next before some sort of platform shift upsets it."
"185 improvisers walk into a bar and alienate everyone else in the room."
I chatted to some of the non-improvisers afterwards and they said they wanted us to go on for another hour, so that's a pretty good sign.

So this season is over now. Over with audience wanting more, which is very pleasing. They will get it, we will be back on the 13th September with an even more exciting line-up of improv, comedy and more. Until then, it's all about Edinburgh and the biggest arts festival in the world. I will be up there with Music Box (get your tickets quick, they're selling!!), and running tech for the fabulous Cariad Lloyd (FREE GIG... come!). In my spare time, I will be on the hunt for new acts for the London Improv comedy nights at The Miller, and if that all doesn't take my life I hope to be providing you with reviews of as many EdFringe impro shows as possible.


In the meantime, I should be washing some clothes and generally having a bit of a think about what I take to Edinburgh in three days time. Three days time. Three days time. Three days time. Three days time. Gulp.

Hope to see you there, as long as I'm not crying.

- Jonathan Monkhouse, editor.

Aaaaaahhh! Edinburgh!

There it is, beating away on the horizon. This time next week I would have done three Edinburgh shows already. In the build up my mood constantly changes from terror to complacency to excitement to nerves to just stupid giggling, all in the time it takes me to finish my cornflakes.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is all entirely self-inflicted. I don’t have to do this, nobody tells you to take shows to Edinburgh, which is why it’s beautiful, and incredibly personal.

It’s strange being producer and performer; you have to have split personalities and keep trying to sell the show even when you really feel like wrapping yourself in a duvet and being a hermit for a few days.

For instance I’ve spent the last couple of days putting together a promoter pack about the show, which is all the technical, cast and show information a possible promoter/booker would need to book the show after Edinburgh for performances and tours etc.
In the eyes of a performer most promoters are mysterious people that hang around bars like ninjas of the night. They don’t seem to have names, and nobody seems to know who they are, only that ‘some promoters are floating about’. It’s not even clear what they’re actually promoting. I wonder if they even exist.

I might turn up in Edinburgh wearing a sheepskin jacket with a big sign above my head saying “I am a promoter”. Perhaps they are shy creatures, like the wild haggis that live on Arthur’s seat.

We’ve also been sending our flyers and posters to print. One of our cast, Jonathan Monkhouse, has done an amazing job on the design so I’m really happy about that.

I’ve also been allocating lots of random odd jobs by text like “can you buy a step ladder/make a sandwich board please?” I feel like I’ve become the Mr. Boring of the group who sends people a trickle of dull shopping lists. As one of the cast is also my girlfriend I have developed the persona of Formal Steve so we don’t get these roles muddled up.

These odd jobs include buying things in London as if Edinburgh doesn’t have any shops. I found myself thinking ‘better get some razor blades before I go’, as if nobody in Scotland shaves. I’m sure they have a Boots, BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T???? The horror.

The cast also had a pre-Edinburgh discussion that revolved around what they thought they would be like to live with. Turns out half the cast are early risers, half the cast are night owls, and Jonathan doesn’t like it if someone is in the toilet too long in the morning.

Other jobs this week have included sending out a second wave of press releases. The first batch were done at the time of the programme release so I was hoping this batch were going to have a new angle, or some piece of news. Actually this didn’t happen, so in the end reading between the lines of our second batch of press releases they basically said “Errrr, hello, me again, remember me? Ha ha ha, aren’t we such good friends! Remember me? Anyway, nothing’s really changed, same show thing going on, if you fancy it.”

It’s a bit of a paradox writing to reviewers when you’re also one of the performers. My producer side of me knows I have to do it for the sake of the show and use reviews however I can to sell to tickets, whereas the performer side of me is like a frightened little slow loris that wants to hide underneath a table. A similar paradox happens with acting sometimes, where you want to act but don’t want to be seen, and a huge leap comes from opening yourself and making yourself available.

In previous Edinburgh shows I’ve had everything from 1 star to 5 star reviews for various shows I’ve been in. One show I was in got a 1 star and 4 star review from the same publication in the same week. This feels likes having your ego used as a football. Eventually what seems to happen in Edinburgh though is that the performer’s ego just takes a holiday, which is when the really interesting stuff happens.

I’ve been fanatically checking ticket sales. We’ve actually sold some in advance which we really weren’t expecting as we’re a new group, and it’s done wonders for our morale. Not loads, but some, and that feels good.

To chill out a bit George (girlfriend) and I went to see Wicked last night. Being readers of you’ve probably seen it about five times already, so I won’t have to tell you how amazing it was, although it was amazing. It did however make me realize that maybe I should change our flyer copy from “everything you could want from a musical” to “everything you could want from a musical, apart from a fire breathing dragon, flying monkeys, full orchestra and frightening talking wizard head”.

See you soon!

- by Steve Roe, blogging for

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen, Drew Leavy (applause)

It is with immense regret that I hear of the passing away of Drew Leavy. For a long while I have considered Drew to be my favourite improviser of all time; totally fearless on stage, elegantly dark-humoured and in possession of a wit-speed you can only dream of keeping up with. Drew was a truly brilliant improviser, and you could see him truly improvising when he performed. You could actually witness him starting to speak without knowing where he was heading. Every sentence was as much a journey for him as the audience he traveled with, but he took you along with generosity and warmth.

The only line I have ever remembered from an impro show belonged to Drew. During a Grand Theft Impro show at The Wheatsheaf last year the guys were creating a story about a maypole dancer. Drew was monologising in character about when he first found maypole dancing, "... and there I was," he said, the words falling into place before us as building blocks of the perfect sentence,

"dancing like a bitch on a prison dick."

Everything I find funny about improv happened in that sentence, and I remember the minute detail of his stance gazing into the middle-distance as if in dream-like recollection, totally committed. People don't often laugh as hard as that room-full of people did right then.

Drew's battle for health was extraordinary. While others looked on as horrific things were happening to his body, Drew outwardly treated his sickness in the same way as his impro, like a journey of discovery. Never can anyone have seen such a funny side of soiling yourself, or used such frightening body scars to lighten the mood, or turned astonishing weight-gain into the happiest cartoon character. And do it all with a warmth of spirit that spread for miles.

I knew him very briefly and admired him from a distance, but I was touched by his positivity, humanity and grace. Everything I work at being better at as an improviser, Drew had built in as part of his nature. Drew was the ultimate clown, the ultimate improviser. He was a magician, a nut-case and we can only ever learn from his exploration of the nonsense and wonder of our world.

Drew, you were magnificent. Thank you for making me laugh.

- Jonathan

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Improvised Film Challenge - Glitch Video

Last night we saw some amazing videos from teams of improvisers who were given just one hour to make a short film based on an audience title suggestion. In the time it took Music Box to perform their last improvised musical before they go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the teams had to take their suggestion, come up with an idea, film AND edit; to show it to the audience. We saw videos of human airplanes, rejected beast-women on internet dates and a hunt for a stolen zebra on a council estate.

Team Glitch (Jinni, Dave and Mike) were given the title "Obama's Brain (Not)", and here is their fabulous video featuring a fight sequence and soundtrack:

We'll be putting the other videos up as soon as we work out how.

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

Agent Music Box Reporting For Duty


I’m Steve Roe, producer of Music Box Improvised Musical. That’s my funny face staring back at you. Of all the headshots I’ve got, that’s the most normal looking! I had to go into comedy as my big head is unsuitable for any other style of acting. I once performed in an impro show with the mantra ‘natural natural natural’ only for someone to come up and say "wow I loved your massive cartoon characters, you pull such weird faces!", and I thought "no, that’s just my face".

I’m here to give you a behind the scenes look of our show building up to Edinburgh, then doing Edinburgh, and then after Edinburgh.

At first this will probably take the form of thinly disguised attempts to market my show at you while I attempt to write witty anecdotes about “flyering on the royal mile” or such Edinburgh things.

At some point though I’ll write a blog while drunk at 3am in the morning after spending the night dancing badly in C Venues. And then all hell will break loose, and I might actually be interesting to read. I predict this will happen on the fifth day of the first week, based on previous experiences.

Until that point, here’s some background and what I’ve been up to:

Taking an improvised musical to Edinburgh is quite a foolhardy endeavour, as there are already some well established improvised musicals in Edinburgh (Showstopper, Baby Wants Candy, No Shoes). We could have made a children’s version, or found a niche, or a unique selling point, but we thought we might as well just go about it in a headlong gung-ho fashion.

So instead we’re hoping to somehow subtly grow a reputation as the free-flowing young British upstarts, with different musical styles and character acting away from the normal musical theatre styles.

To assist this message I’ve recently been investigating and purchasing advertising. I came up with an advertising master plan, but when faced with the actual costs we’re now carrying out about 1% of this plan. I now feel like all I’ve done is stick two postage stamp sized music box logos on the internet, and an A4 piece of paper on a lamppost somewhere in Leith. In the future I’m instead going to save up to buy a big Music Box airship to fly around in.

I’m now looking at other ways to advertise for free or cheap. High impact low cost, blah blah blah blah, in fact it’s hard not to turn into some kind of late 1980s marketing yuppy. This included investigating out how illegal it would be to make a massive banner and hang it on the cliffs near Arthur’s Seat overlooking The Pleasance.

Other than that we’re putting the show together. Being improvised it’s not “rehearsed” as such, more practiced similarly to how a football team practices various skills so you’re ready to use them in a match. If anything we’re match fit, as we’ve been doing a huge amount of shows this year, in fact far more than is sane or normal. It’s more normal to just rehearse a show from scratch in the 1/2/3 weeks building up to Edinburgh. Instead we’ve been performing about 3 times a week for a year in the build up, and have actually had to take a rest in the 3 week build up to prevent madness. We’ll find out if this approach works.

At some point however I know I’ll be stood in front of an audience and reviewers, in Edinburgh, about to improvise a musical I know nothing about. At the moment that feels terrifying. Luckily our last London show last night at The Miller seemed to go down well, which has calmed my wildly fluctuating pre-Edinburgh moods.

We’ve also been sorting out lots of promo gigs. One of these has been the Virgin Money street stage. I initially wrote to them with a list of all our available dates, thinking I’d get some of them, and they wrote back offering us all of them. As impro is based on saying yes we’re now having to become street performers too, which we haven’t done before. I like the challenge of that though; if we’re no good the audience can just walk away. I find it fascinating how the venue and audience can alter the actual show, especially in improvisation.

Although the nervous butterflies are still there I’m now looking forward to Edinburgh. It’s where I got together with my lovely girlfriend two years ago, and we’re now going to be performing together, AND I get to stay up late with friends without having to worry about getting the Northern Line home. Talking of which I’m up for meeting new people at the Fringe so if you bump into me say ‘hello Steve, I liked your blog’, and we’ll have a drink, my round.

- by Steve Roe, blogging for

Monday, 25 July 2011

this Week at the London Improv Comedy Theatre

It's the last week of the season. Where did the time go? Can you tell me? Can YOU?

Tuesday 26th July
A little bit of magick happens tomorrow. Firstly, four teams of improvisers are issued with a challenge, a title of a short film. Then they rush out with televisual camera devices and Oyster cards in hand, and start filming with only a tight deadline before them.

While they are filming, Music Box give you their last musical story at The Miller before they fly (train) off to Edinburgh for their Ed Fest Debut. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is exciting them no-end, so expect them to come out all guns a-blazing and give you a totally awesome show.

After an interval, the impro-film-makers run back in as fast as their little legs will carry them and we show all the films. The last time we did this, it was amazing how good the films ended up being. Come along, it's retardly good.

Tuesday 26th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 27th July
It's the last London Improv night before Edinburgh takes over the world and removes nearly every improviser from the rest of the planet. We're having a party and you're invited.

Everyone is welcome to the show, and everyone is welcome to take part. Names and games will be called out at random, and everyone will get a chance to get up and play. If you give your name when you arrive, you won't pay a penny.


Awesome. Can't wait to see you there, you ace one.

Wednesday 27th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door. (FREE if you give your name in to perform)Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Great Big Send-Off

This Wednesday is the last evening of London Improv at The Miller before we break up for the much awaited Edinburgh Fringe Festival (eek!). We want to go out on a big bang of fun, so that those who aren't getting to go to Edinburgh this year can have a last blast before the comedy circuit practically clears out. And for those who are going to Edinburgh, a chance to meet others that they might like to spend time with up North.

So, on Wednesday 27th July, London Improv will be hosting THE GREAT BIG SEND-OFF! [applause]

Now, the plan is simple: get as many improvisers on stage as possible over the course of the night. We will be running it as a short form, games-based show, but out of all the improvisers that come we will pick randomly for each game. There's a chance there could be something in the region of a million performers in a two-hour show.. which if we wanted to investigate; would probably be some sort of record. Actually, come to think of it, I might try and find Norris McWurter's phone number.

Anyway, if you wanna be in it, it's as simple as this short and informative work-flow procedure:


There is no limit on ability: if you've been doing impro for as long as Alan Marriott, or you've done one workshop, or you just smelled an improv show once - YOU ARE WELCOME!
If you are an improv-musician, even better, bring your instrument along and we'll fit it right in.

It's a party (of sorts) so if you're performing, if you've given me your name, you get in free. Can't say fairer than that. Actually, I might change the workflow procedure (that's the thing with business-speak, meaningless):


Awesome. Can't wait to see you on stage, you are wonderful.

Wednesday 27th July
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door (unless you're in the show)
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

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

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Keeping it Real

Michael Brunström is very experienced in the ways of British Impro. He was originally introduced to it completely by chance when he bumped into his hero, the late, great Ken Campbell in the street. Since then he has worked on a multitude of projects, pushing the boundaries of what improvisation can achieve; from the often surreal "My Show, My Rules" to an improvised Greek Tragedy in a day. Most recently he has created the Curt Hatred shows and co-created Fingers On Buzzards, an Impro/pub quiz hybrid.

Some thoughts on improvisation and 'reality'.

UK improvisation, although small in scale and performed mainly by (over)enthusiastic young amateurs, is nonetheless rooted in hefty long-worn traditions. Put (over)simplistically, these are a) The Keith Johnstone 'shortform games' tradition, b) the Joseph Campbell arc-plot longform tradition and c) the North American Harold tradition. Yes, I know: there are plenty of others.

Every improviser has their preference. Arc-plot longform impro is thought by some to be too proscriptive and formulaic. Likewise, some longform improvisers tend to dismiss shortform impro as tending towards silly gags, or consider the physical and verbal restrictions imposed by some impro games as either pointlessly limiting or empty displays of virtuosity. (I once heard of a Canadian improviser complaining that Keith Johnstone had 'instituted the tyranny of games', which is a magnificent phrase, and if I were Keith Johnstone I would be proud of it.) In spite of the strong feelings that practitioners of each tradition have, there is far more common ground between them than they usually admit. Indeed, each of these approaches owes much to the other two, and they are ultimately inseparable. Yet without this diversity, the impro scene in the UK would stagnate and become uniform.

It is noticeable, however, that until recently the North American Harold has not gained much of a footing in the UK. I've seen several troupes try it out, but often without great enthusiasm or success. The one element of the Harold that UK improvisers find particularly difficult is the opening monologue. Both performers and audience members alike have told me they are uncomfortable with its 'confessional' feel.

We British are too anally retentive, too don't-make-eye-contact-on-the-bus, too cynical. We don't like to think of stage performers as normal people. We like glamour, artifice, character comedy and masks. We like our shows to begin with a fast-paced game or a big song-and-dance number. When performers get up to speak in their own voices, we get nervous. I've heard people complain that when improvisers talk about themselves it smacks of vanity, of navel-gazing, and that they're performing 'more for their benefit than for ours'. I've even heard it said that to use real-life experiences as the basis for scenes, rather than making it all up from nothing, is somehow 'cheating'.

This is wrong. Scenes that are rooted in reality work better. Not just sometimes, but all the time. That is why, when performing a Harold, the monologues have to be real and cannot be fictitious. The opening monologues aren't something that can be edited out of a Harold – they're absolutely crucial to it. There is an indefinable quality that comes from material that has been derived from specific real-life. Genuine experiences transformed through a lighthearted playful approach obey the formula 'Serious + silly = funny.'
Yet UK impro tends to shy away from this aspect of the Harold. I've seen 8-Bit perform their Harold monologues in a mixture of voices, partly their own and partly as characters. There seemed to be a reluctance to divulge anything too personal or revealing in them. When GTI did their 'Harold' in the second half of their show, they based their scenes on a collection of ideas thrown out from the audience rather than on their own experiences. When Harolds skimp on reality, no matter how skilled the improvisers are, there is a tendency towards 'Silly + silly = stupid.'

Not all UK troupes are afraid to use real experiences as a source of material. The Maydays have been particularly successful in adapting the Harold format to British sensibilities. Multistory used a multi-stranded longform format very similar to a Harold. Rather than narrate monologues, they got stories from the audience. Kevin Tomlinson does this too. The Couch use a similar approach for their shortform show, though with far less serious or reverent intent. Playback Theatre was popular here a few years back, too, though their shows were often criticized for being too like a therapy session. On the whole, though, we Brits don't like 'the Real'. In nearly every case, basing scenes explicitly on the personal experiences of the improvisers themselves has been seen as a step too far.
How, then, are UK improvisers to square this circle? How can they keep scenes vivid and real, without the off-puttingly confessional monologues? What does a 'British Harold' look like?

In the show I direct, 'Curt Hatred', I use traditional shortform games, rather than monologues, to generate the material that will be reincorporated in subsequent scenes. As a result, every show appears highly divorced from reality, with utterly absurd content. In order to counteract the accumulation of bonkers notions that have no basis in experience, I instruct the improvisers to treat everything with the utmost seriousness. By concentrating on the characters rather than the content, showing what's at stake for them, and setting them on an arc-plot journey, I encourage the audience to identify on an emotional level with the action on stage and making the action seem relevant and vital. By imbuing daft material with gravitas and importance, the aim is to recapture the formula 'Silly + serious = funny.' Employing elements from arc-plot longform – exploring internal conflicts, identifying archetypes, finding the 'bother' on which each scene hinges – could be one way, albeit an imperfect one, to ground an impro scene in reality. (Yet I should emphasize that my particular show has been largely a failure, as audience numbers have shrunk down to nothing.)

However, I want to draw attention to another approach, a completely different kind of 'reality' which I don't think has been adequately explored by improvisers: the reality of the show itself.

Communicating directly with the audience, literally making eye-contact with as many individuals as possible – without 'dipping', 'skipping', 'arcing' or 'glazing' – and sharing the scene with them, accentuates the reality of the show. It is a style of performance that gradually fell into redundancy with the introduction of footlights to theatres at the end of the eighteenth century, eventually leading to audiences sitting silently and reverently in near-total darkness, peering through an invisible fourth wall. (The invention of 'cinema' could be said to predate that of celluloid by at least a hundred years.)

Whereas some improvisers I've spoken to say they enjoy the theatricality of having an audience in darkness, creating an atmosphere of hushed expectation like you find at standup shows or music gigs, I always prefer shows where the audience are more involved with the performers – not necessarily by yelling stuff out throughout the evening, but by feeling close enough to the action to register its subtlest signals, establish a direct personal connection and build a shared experience. It makes the occasion more lively and vivid. And it encourages a style of performing that celebrates the challenge of spontaneity itself – the deeper game.

I can think of several improvisers – the majority of them women, incidentally – who are masters of connecting with an audience, moving effortlessly between the reality of the scene and the reality of the room, without blocking either. It's not about 'gagging', 'commentating' or 'popping out of the scene'; it's about sharing the scene with the back row. These performers have the miraculous skill of combining fearless honesty with irony and wit – and that's a very British approach. It's a skill that is central to clowning, but it is not often taught in an impro context. I would like to see more of this style of performance in impro. In addition to everything else that's going on.

Alan Marriott says that there are two ways of being, both on stage and in life. He calls these 'downward/inward' and 'upward/outward' intentions. As improvisers we need to cultivate our upward/outward intention in order to be receptive and responsive to the many offers we receive during a scene. These intentions can be found in audiences as well. British audiences are notoriously 'downward/inward', especially when they're when they're being lectured to and when they're watching standup comedy. They slouch and squint in their chairs, as prickly and antagonistic as urchins, with their arm crossed and their fists clenched. If improvisation has any social purpose it is to reach out to the cynical Brit. If improvisation can coax him towards the edge of his seat, make him feel relaxed and open him up to experience child-like playfulness and joy – by Harolds based on true-life experiences, by epic and engaging narratives, or by the sheer excitement of suddenly being aware of the here and now – then it has done a good job.

Fingers on Buzzards, the improvised pub-quiz is on at the Edinburgh Fringe.
When: 7:50pm, 6-27th August
Venue: Dragonfly
Cost: Totally free!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Improvised Musical Workshop

Music Box, The Improvised Musical are in their last few weeks before heading up to Edinburgh to launch themselves at the Scots. But before they go, they've got something secret to tell you: (whisper it) anyone can do musical improv.

Music Box are running a workshop this weekend, and there's still space if you want to come. They're offering an entire day of improvised musical workshop madness. This is going to be the most fun musical improv workshop ever with loads of the Music Box actors and musicians leading sessions on improvised singing, musical scenes, musical structures and improv musical shows.

It'll be a packed day and we guarantee that it will be filled with laughter and good spirits. And the best thing is: you don't even need to be good at singing.

£20. No need to book, just turn up on the day.
12-6pm, The Tavistock Room at The Bedford, Balham.

And just as little side-note, you'll be helping them raise funds for the Edinburgh run so you'll be held in high regard.

See you there!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

What's On at the Theatre Of London Improv this week?

Oof, what a busy weekend. One of our members, Christopher Mead, got married yesterday. 'Twas a busy day, but beautiful and hilarious in equal measure. London Improv is perhaps a little worse for wear this afternoon, but that won't stop us sending out an update, such as this:

Tuesday 19th July
We've got another fine performance from David Shore's latest group of students, syphoning hilarity from a single audience word. David is bringing his experiences of North American improv over to London and the results are awesome. Expect an amazing cast of brilliant people doing excellent things in a fantastic room in front of an incredible audience of wonderful people. And hyperbole.
The cast on Tuesday includes a bunch of The Beta Males too, it's like a little added DVD bonus feature.

Then we are really very excited to welcome back to our stage: Cariad Lloyd. Cariad is one of our favourite improvisers and we love having her here. On Tuesday she will be a hop, skip and a jump away from her impro abilities and presenting a preview of her amazing one-woman Edinburgh festival comedy show: Lady Cariad's Characters. The show is directed by Ben Wilson from The Idiots Of Ants and features some brilliant characters such as Andrew the 7 Year Old Stand-up and parkour 'expert' Jacque le Cock.
"Cariad Lloyd is VERY funny. Go and see her now while you can afford the ticket" - Rob Brydon.

Tuesday 19th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 20th July
Shotgun Impro present their monthly impro show, providing short, sharp comedy for the masses. Shotgun have been running this show longer than MacDonald's cooks their chips. Check them out, y'all.

Wednesday 20th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

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

A serious word from the editor

Last week an article was published on the Guardian website (read the article here) focussing on David Shore's one man harold show, but regarding much of the impro scene in Britain. The article contained a number of statements that were either factually inaccurate or very negative about the current state of improvisation in the UK, and the response has been nothing less than extreme. I must admit, my emotional response was that of disgust, astonishment and fury. London Improv had welcomed David into it's regular comedy nights, and here he suddenly was seemingly undermining everything that we were doing.

We are all culturally aware adults and surely understand that most things published in the national media are only to be taken with a pinch of salt. After an initial interview a subject is firstly limited by the knowledge of the journalist, then by a word count limit, and finally by a series of editing staff who are largely emotionally detached from the world in order to sell newspapers, et al. That's easy to consider when you're reading about something as inconsequential as Cheryl Cole's love life, but suddenly the art-form we love, adore and work hard at appeared to be being attacked on our own soil by a newcomer. Ouch.

Since the article was published, David has been very pro-active in contacting the improv community and within a day or so published the following apology:
I would like to take this opportunity to address the Guardian article, published yesterday, on Thursday the 14th of July.

I sincerely apologise to anyone in the UK Improv community who might have been offended by either the content of the article, or anything that was left out of it. The article itself contains a few errors and some of my statements were taken out of context. During the actual interview, I talked about many of the amazing groups and individuals that are part of the UK scene. It’s extremely unfortunate that they were left out of the article due to space restrictions. In addition, I was unaware that anyone else is teaching The Harold in the UK, and would like to apologise for this error.

I am very passionate about Improv. I was trained in Chicago Style Long-Form and it is the style that I personally find the most rewarding. It was never my intention to insult or take anything away from any other style of Improv. They are all awesome in their own way.

London’s Improv community has welcomed me with open arms, and I would never do anything to jeopardize my, or anyone else’s, place in it. It is a great time to be an Improviser in the UK. There is so much talent over here and I think we can all feel that the scene is about to explode. I wake up every day feeling thankful for all the amazing people I get to work with. The success of my students and colleagues is as important to me as my own, and I consider it an honour to help out other Improvisers whenever I can.

I hope that as an Improv community we can rise above this incident and turn it into an opportunity to get the media more involved in covering this much overlooked art form that is so dear to all our hearts. I look forward to laughing and sharing the stage with all of you for years to come.

With respect,
David Shore

Improvisation is an art-form that is fighting for recognition in Britain. While I don't agree that it is 25 years behind North America in terms of quality, it can't be argued that it is much less well-known over here than it is in countries like USA, Canada, Australia, Italy etc. Indeed, the only mainstream examples of impro that you can see in this country are late night airings of American shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, and some half-arsed British television starring a long list of stand-up comedians attempting to out-do each other.

While we work to put our wonderful, inclusive and positive art-form on the cultural map, I would suggest that we avoid any rifts within the community, rather than seek to fuel them. For longevity, accept David's apology and understand that he didn't write the final article. As I understand, he does stand by some of the sentiments of the final print, but y'know what - there are groups doing shows in London that I think are awful, even so I'm glad they're at least doing something. Even if I personally find it excruciating, their shows are still adding to the huge variety of stuff that's going on.

Good improv relies on supporting your fellow improviser, by utilising their strengths and nurturing their weaknesses. The success of our vibrant UK impro community has been built on us doing exactly that. David is now a part of it, so I encourage you to continue to utilise and nurture in the same way.

David's output might not be to your tastes, but it's easy to deal with that: just don't go to his shows or classes. Or better yet, go to them and challenge the way you think, or the way he works. That'll help us all grow.

See you on stage.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Words from io - Supporting Your Partner

Luke Beahan is in Chicago right now, learning the ways of Improv in one of the best Improv cities in the world. Lucky so-and-so.

Hey. I am in Chicago right now studying the Summer Intensive course, and I thought that I would write down some of the epiphanies that occur to me as I study improv 4 days a week.

Supporting your partner, you can also call it making them look good. It's a great idea and a wonderful attitude to have on stage, but it's also so vague as to be meaningless. What does it actually mean to make somebody look good? We need specifics to practice and turn into mental muscle memory.

I already understood one aspect of it; reacting to my partner. I have been in and seen scenes where one character shouted or revealed something and the other character just stood there and shrugged or the equivalent thereof. That's letting your partner blow out this huge wad of energy and then making them clean it up off the floor. We need to accept that move and get upset or cry or be incredibly happy. So suddenly there is a reason for them to have done that beautiful big thing on stage. Accept your partners wad of energy.

I think I understood another aspect of this, and it just reminded me of what improv is really about.

I was in a scene playing a scared zoo cleaner watching another player trying to open the moneky cages. The scene fizzled and then in the notes we got, I realised what was missing from my game. We have been working on character wants and motivations, so that in a scene we have a clear goal or need. The scenes we did on these were hilarious and moving. And yet here I was with the motivation of "I don't want to get into trouble" and the scene didn't pop.

The note was this, I had a clear need, but it didn't involve the other characters, and the other two players were doing the same thing, so nothing happened. Near the end I altered my want and turned it into "I don't want You to get me in to trouble," and I was trying to talk this girl out of opening the cages.

That was the only part of the scene that felt like it was going anywhere. When I turned my motivation into something that involved the other player. And it only takes a glance to realise that from that comes a whole load of other details that I can start creating. She is always opening the cages, I get blamed or attacked for the animals getting out, one time a zebra kicked me in the face etc.

Then it also gives here something to do. Is she going to open the cages and let me take the fall again, is she going to persuade me to become an animal activist? Suddenly there are pathways we can run down head first, together, rather than being stuck in our own little bubbles.

So my lesson was. Get involved with your partner, react to them and make it about them, not just you.

Monday, 11 July 2011

This Week at the London Improv Comedy Theatre

Wowser, it's a busy week for Improv fans in London.

Tuesday 12th July
Music Box are ramping it up in the final month before they take the Edinburgh Fringe to the next level. With an absolute whirlwind of adventures to their name they've created love stories in aquariums and spy thrillers on bouncy castles, cannibal tales in haunted forests and homo-erotic prison dramas. Music Box is the new improvised musical on the block. Check them out.
"Like watching a high-wire circus act" ★★★★★ - Fringe Guru

After Music Box, David Shore's latest class of Improv students take to the stage with their Harold show. This week sees performers old and new, including Rob Broderick (Abandoman) and Cariad Lloyd (Lady Cariad's Characters, and London Improv's favourite lady-proviser).
David's student are fast-paced, laugh-a-minute folk. It's gonna be a good show.

Tuesday 12th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 13th July
In this very special (and very French) live taping of London's most talked-about talkshow we welcome some glittering étoiles from the far side of the Chunnel:
tortured French diva La Poule Plombée (Sarah-Louise Young) & Marcel Lucont, flâneur, raconteur, bon-viveur and author of 'What We French Think Of You British (And Where You Are Going Wrong)'. Plus what promises to be an unforgettable one-off performance from the Human Loire.

As if that wasn't entertainment enough, the night will also feature an Edinburgh preview of Fat Kitten vs. Marbles. It will be four Fat Kittens improv-battling two Marbles. There will be only one winner (unless you count the audience, who will no doubt win at 'being entertained').

Wednesday 13th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Friday 15th July
By Friday The Slapdash is in full flow. Slapdash is London's annual impro festival with some of the best improvisers around getting together for a week of amazing performances. Friday is Day 3 and sees Friendly Fire, Third Person and Kevin Tomlinson perform. Tickets availably from the Old Vic Tunnels website.

Saturday 16th July
Slapdash carries on to Saturday evening with a fantastic line-up of incredibly high quality impro.
Firstly Grand Theft Impro: Phil Whelans, Dylan Emery and Cariad Lloyd plus guest doing sketches, skits and songs, all, of course, inspired by audience suggestions.
'Simply Marvellous' Time Out

Then one of London Improv's favourite groups of all time The School of Night. A wild ride through theatrical and literary history, culminating in a brand new Shakespearean play made up on the spot.
'A masterclass in improvisation' Time Out

And finally Catch 23 - London's favourite most improvised competitive impro show, in which three teams get 23 minutes to perform 4 scenes over the course of the show. The audience votes, there is judge. the MC is frankly ridiculous. It's brilliant fun. Catch 23 looks like it will be a monthly show in the London Improv autumn season, because it's so good. Come along and see why.

Tickets available from here (if there are any left)

There's simply no good reason not to get your impro-fill this week. It's a veritable feast for the imagination, a bucket of fun for your laugh-castle.
Jump up out of your sofas, run to a venue, get some giggles in you.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Got Milk?

London Improv is a bit over-excited about tomorrow. You see, we get to watch a group of fantastic improvisers hit the stage and do something completely new and original.

The Milk Monitors are of fine pedigree, featuring performers from the very well respected Oxford Imps, amongst others. We've seen the likes of Cariad Lloyd, Amy Cooke-Hodgson and Rachel Parris on stage, and to be honest if there was a comedy version of sexual attraction we'd have to go and have a lie down. And check out those dashing costumes too, these gentlemen and women don't do things by halves. Get me a fan.

The Milk Monitors fine form is that of one of Britain's best-loved novelists, Jane Austen. They'll improvise a whole new story before your very eyes, so if you're someone who needs a bit more culture in your life but don't want to have to read an actual victorian book; then this is pretty much a necessity. And we know for a fact that the players involved will add faster pace than a speeding carriage and more belly laughs than a Scottish gent with a quart o' whiskey. Can't wait.

The Milk Monitors are doubling up with superb long-form group and regular performers on the London improv stage: 8bit, so it's going to be both anarchic and anachronistic. Which is pleasurable on a linguistic level if nothing else.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you there.

Cordially yours,
London Improv

Wednesday 6th July
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door.
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Monday, 4 July 2011

This Week at the London Improv Comedy Theatre

OhMyGoodness, we're so excited about this week.

Tuesday 5th July
Firstly the brilliant guys of Do Not Adjust Your Stage recreate a whole evening's TV schedule before your very eyes. Documentaries, soaps, news programs... if it's in your Radio Times, it stands a pretty good chance of arriving on stage. Except it'll be funnier.

And when they're done, well, really, it's good news. The M****F***ing BETA MALES are here!

Seriously, if you haven't seen these guys, you're in for a treat. They have won constant and consistent and content reviews every time they do anything. Honestly, we once gave John Gracey a 5-star review for a poo he once did. And we don't regret it.

★★★★★ “An utterly brilliant hour of sketch comedy” (Broadway Baby.)
★★★★★ “…one of the funniest and most genuinely pleasing shows I’ve seen this year.” (Fringe Guru)
★★★★★ “Here is the cream” (Three Weeks)

Tuesday 5th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 6th July
Wednesday is classy. Well, half-classy/half-8bit.
Two fantastic groups get together to delve into the imaginary libraries of storytelling from the ether. They pluck tales from the air and throw them at your mind-throat. Suck them and enjoy the whim.

Firstly: 8bit come on stage and, like, create stuff from no-stuff. A single word from you can inspire a whole world from them. Flowing, slick, weird, journey. All words. All. Words.

“The best British Harold I’ve seen”
- Matt Andrews, Fingers on Buzzards

Starring: Nicola Kidner, Rhiannon Vivian, Jinni Lyons, Maria Peters, Jonathan Funkhouse, Chris Mead and Dave Waller.
Director: Katy Schutte

Then: from a group of amazing performers, The Milk Monitors make a full length improvised comedy play, spun entirely from your suggestions, in the inimitable style of Britain's best loved novelist. Expect corsets, chivalry and, of course, the unexpected.
Cast: Rachel Parris, Cariad Lloyd, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Graham Dickson, Andy Murray, Joseph Morpurgo

It's going to be awesome. Totally fluffing awesome.

Wednesday 6th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £5 on the door.Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Friday 8th July
Have you seen a Beats, Rhymes & Mirth night yet? If you haven't, this would be a pretty pretty good night to get you started. It's London's Best Comedy/Rap Bonanza. Get yourself to The Miller for what promises to be a hip hop and improv party of the finest order.

BRM3 kicks out the jams with a full improvised set from Canadian-Cornish comedy duo Marbles, backed by Rob Grundel on keys and very-uber-special guest Shabaka Hutchings on clarinet and saxophone.

Then the rest of the BRM band join MCs Maxwell Golden and Marbles for a live hip-hop set. Enjoy audience suggestions getting twisted into freestyle rap gold. Beats, Rhymes & Mirth: the only comedy party you can nod along to. Includes DJs and surprises.

Friday 8th JulyTime: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.Cost: £8 from WeGotTickets or on the door (if available). We recommend getting tickets early!Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

A Special Mention:
The London Impro Festival

There are still tickets available for Slapdash in July. For those of you who don't know (where have you been?), Slapdash is what happens when you get all of the best improvisers in London together and put them on a stage at a proper theatre. It's awesome, unique, and only a tenner. Loads of regulars from our London Improv nights are playing, as well as others who are also pretty darn brilliant.

You can find listings on And if you join the SlapDash Facebook page, you might just win tickets!

It's a feast for those who love improvisation, and a chance for those who don't know what it is to learn to love it.

The Groups
The School of Night - "The highest recommendation I can offer"
★★★★★ Remote Goat

The Maydays - "One of the best improvised shows out there"
★★★★★ Three Weeks

The Scat Pack - "Very fine entertainment"
★★★★★ Remote Goat

Kevin Tomlinson - "Refreshingly honest and hilarious. He creates magical comedy theatre. A wonderful, dynamic show!"
★★★★ Edinburgh Herald (Critic's Choice)

Abandoman - “The most original act we’ve seen in a long time. Go and see them.”

What about some footage of the warm-up night?: "The SlapBash" an evening of improvised music and comedy

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