Sunday, 17 July 2011

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.


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