Saturday, 28 January 2012

Old and New: This Week at the London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 31st January
Deep in Hoopla's secret underground bunker, a team of improvisers have been working on dangerous new short-form games, with the help of director Steve Roe.

These games are now ready for public viewing. New games, re-invented games, long lost forgotten games, new short-form.

Then the multiple award winning Brighton group The Maydays bring their vast experience to our wee stage. Mmm.. yum yum. (Yum).

Tuesday 31st January
Time: Doors 7:45pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 1st February

8Bit do their improvised thing to welcome in February, the grumpiest month - and this year, there's Valentine's AND loads of women proposing! How annoying. Don't fret though, we'll set you up all right, preparing you for this month of 'love' (pleurf), 'special someones' (gargh) and 'buy this, it's got a heart on it' (fnar) by creating some amusing memories to last you through until March.

Then Austentatious will unearth another of Jane Austen's lost novels (how do you lose a novel? Bad filing, that's how) for your delight. Austentatious have been selling out shows at The Compass in Angel, made merry with New Year revellers at the Royal Festival Hall and now return to The Miller to do their costumed thing. Do come, they have fans.

Wednesday 1st February
Time: Doors 7:45pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door, FREE to NUS/NHS card holders
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.


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Friday, 27 January 2012


POP QUIZ: How many robots are there in this blog post?
"Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, please can we have a movie genre for this scene to be in the style of..."
There are pretty much always three stock audience responses to this; 'Film Noir', 'Western' and 'Sci-fi'. Sometimes followed by 'German Arthouse'. Sigh. If you're lucky, a more imaginative member of the audience will then come up with something you haven't heard before: blaxploitation, prison escape or middle-American indie... go on... do it, improvisers will love you. No-one knows why Film Noir, Western and Sci-fi come up so often. Scientists have used all the chemicals of the earth to find out, and they can't. All we know is: it is more or less guaranteed they will.

So here's the thing... why is it (when they inevitably come up) do hardly any improvisers know how to improvise any of them?
  • Film Noir will always always become a bunch of people smoking and taking it in turns to do a voice over in a New York accent.
  • A western will always always begin in a saloon, someone will walk in - miming the flappy doors behind them - and a pianist will stop playing.
  • Science fiction will always always have a 1950's tin robot that goes "beep beep boop beep beep". And there will be lasers.
I thought we were meant to be making new stuff up.

It is so easy to research a film genre. Watch a few of them. It's not even an unpleasant thing to do. All those genres have thrilling, varied and creative films that will demonstrate the tropes and stop you going "beep beep boop beep" with an embarrassed look on your face.

Here are nine films to help you out. That's five or six evenings of quality film-viewing and then you'll be the king of unexpected, exciting, authentic genre-work. Also there's some unexpected humour which is always nice. Like in improv.

Film Noir
The classic 'private detective gets into scrapes while searching for something' film.

The same as with The Maltese Falcon, but with extra funny.

All the film noir tropes, but set in a high school in 90's Californian suburbia.

None of them have a voice over, but they do all have a femme fatale, a weird foreign guy and a shadowy villain.

"The most historically accurate of all prior Billy the Kid films."

It's basically a traditional spaghetti western, but it has a strong central female character and funny.

Sheriffs, mercenaries and Mexicans. That's as good a list as any to start a Western.

They are all set in cowboy-land, but "western" is to do with geography. Meanwhile, they don't all have swingy doors and pianos, but they do have themes of vengeance and redemption, harsh unforgiving environments and impressive gunplay.

Science Fiction
Back To The Future, but with less De Lorean and more social commentary.

Has loads of robots, none of which go "beep beep boop beep". Also it's a Film Noir, Double Up!

It's like 1984, Clockwork Orange, Star Trek The Next Generation and iPhones all rolled into one; so you get a lot of research done in a very short space of time.

None of them have tin robots or laser-guns, but they do have dystopian societies, believable settings and investigate what it means to be human.

Wait... you've already seen some of those haven't you? Good. Now read the books they were all based on. Get on with it..

... and don't get me started on Pinter.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Improv is for fun - never forget it!

Vanda Slice is a civil servant, occasional part of a ukulele-playing duo called Ukes at Dawn and a disciple of the London Impro workshop scene.

"I stopped doing improv about 5 months ago. Just like that. Cold turkey. It happened more or less just after I came back from a 5 week long summer intensive course at the iO in Chicago, one of the most exciting places to study improv in the US, or anywhere in the world. Up until that point, I had been doing improv pretty much constantly since I first dipped my toe in its murky yet thrilling waters in June 2010. I can still recall the elation I felt after that first class, which left me with spirits soaring high above the roof of Camden's St Pancras Community Centre. I realised almost immediately, after years and hundreds of pounds wasted on the fruitless search for that elusive “thing” that could provide me with an outlet for my creative energies, that I was onto something. It felt as if I was the first and only person in the world to have discovered something as tranformational and exhilarating that I truly believed that I, like the doomed protagonists in the film They Shoot Horses Don't They, would never be able to stop.

So what was it that caused me to give up something that had become such a central part of my life, both creative and social? How do I now find myself struggling with the desire to go back, but uncertain as to where it might lead me and terrified of rejoining the fray?

I think that for me, as with many of my other endeavours, both creative and professional, my love of improv was ultimately sabotaged by an overwhelming fear of failure and of my own perceived shortcomings at this highly self-revealing art form. It's not the first time that I've started pursuing something with great enthusiasm and determination, only to find, further on down the line, that something is holding me back from taking that vital next step. That something being myself. We're all familiar with the accusation that we are our worst enemies, but in my case, I definitely was. I think that my stint in Chicago, although unforgettable and life-changing (largely down to the magical staff and fellow classmates at iO), came slightly too early in my improv journey. I was still too vulnerable to my own searing self-disapproval, and being thrust into a group of extremely talented and confident people led me down the dead-end path of making unfavourable comparisons with everyone else, rather than focusing on what it was doing for me, both as a human being and a performer. If only I had been able to chill out, have fun and remember why I had started doing improv in the first place, then I think I would have returned still brimming with the enthusiasm of an improv ingenue.

So that brings me to the question of what useful lessons can be learnt from my experience, to avoid coming up against the same psychological brick wall that I ended up slamming into? My one piece of advice, to paraphrase the words of latter-day philosophers Take That, would be: never forget why you started doing improv in the first place. To have fun, to meet people, to challenge yourself and your own expectations of yourself, to connect with yourself and others in ways that can sometimes be unbearably visceral, to laugh until you are doubled over in pain and can hardly breathe. And many countless more. So if your own inner critic (or the man with the clipboard as improv guru Steve Roe would say) ever gets in the way again, just tell him to F..K THE F..K OFF!"

- Vanda

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Got the Valentine's Day Yellows?

On 14th February loads of people will be off doing traditional Valentine's Day things like dinner and sex. You know what we say? -- BORRRING.

The Arcola Theatre
14 FEBRUARY 2012

£12 (£10 concessions) - advance / or all tickets £12 on the door.

The Improvised Movie Live on Stage.

Oscar has every movie ever made…every film you could ever imagine. Join Oscar for a special Valentines day movie night. The audience chooses what the film is about, where the film is set, and even what the film is called. Then Oscar finds the DVD. The movie is created before your very eyes complete with awesome action sequences, captivating plot and a thrilling live film score. Oscar pauses and rewinds the best bits and cuts to hilarious DVD extras.

***** "A rip-roaring laugh with fine acting from start to finish" The Edinburgh Reporter.

Buy tickets HERE

Friday, 20 January 2012

Flex your powerful fightin' Musicals: This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Tuesday 24th January
Music Box are back, for their first show since the New Year (there's a lot of that about in January). They present a bunch of ace acts in their cabaret night, selected with your head-thoughts in mind.

On the 24th, they are joined by magic from Sanjay Shelat - the most English magician of the Raj.

Then all-girl (feeep!) improv group Girl Band - regular house group at The Slug & Lettuce in Waterloo show us their lady-comedy.

And finally, Music Box themselves (★★★★★ - Remote Goat) provide us with some high/low brow (delete as appropriate) entertainment in the form of an entire improvised musical.
"I've never seen musical improv tackle such a range of styles" - Fringe Guru

Tuesday 24th January
Time: Doors 7:45pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 25th January

Monkeys are cool, right? Everyone knows that. Now imagine a monkey with a gun. Blam blam blam! Got you! Cooler. Now imagine the same monkey driving a Bugatti. Through an ice field. While being chased by the dogs of Mount Olympus. Do you get it now? What about now? Now?


Okay - new tactic - Maths is stupid, right? But what about maths to the power of light?

What about this: a Ford Focus doesn't deserve to be. But one being driven at the speed of thought out of Big Ben's clock face? Yes. That.

"Of course," you're saying. "Improv comedy showdown". Bingo.

To custard rim the missing explanation holes, we've asked resident self-help guru Professor Stephven Doctors to run up the lowdown on the show in this short visual presentation.

Wednesday 25th January
Time: Doors 7:45pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.


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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Diary of a TwoProv Virgin (tomorrow's entry, today)

There's a shortform impro game where you jump back and forth in time from a central point. Different groups probably play it in slightly different ways, but the way I've played it is you start with a scene that encourages a wider story, then at suitable points a director calls out "5 years before" or "30 minutes later" or suchlike time changes, and the action immediately jumps to that point. The time change always being from the beginning scene, i.e: if you've jumped to five years after the 1st scene and you want to go back and see 8 years before that, the director will call out "3 years ago".

I. Suck. At. It... I get massive brain-fuck. If there's one major thing that will remove me from the here-and-now and plant me firmly inside my head, it's mental arithmetic.

The thing is, Chris and I are working on a science fiction show. And people have seen Back To The Future, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Doctor Who, Superman and Primer, so time travel is likely to come up.

Wait... you've seen Primer, right? Well, you should, it's brilliant.

In a rehearsal the other day, Chris and I worked on jumping about in time. Self-directing it. Well, I 'say' we self-directed. What actually happened is we jumped back and forth, mainly led by Chris shouting out our new time position, and I finally dissolved into a mush on the floor exuding the smell of burning brain-matter from my ear canals, not a hope in hell of holding all the non-chronological events in my lobes in a way that I knew where we were or what had happened at any point. Not a hope in hell.

But, man, it made me more excited about the show. Now I know it's going to be horrendously difficult to get this right. Which is perfect. Lately I've had one of those periods you get where you feel like you've plateaued, where you feel like you've reached the limits of your ability and nothing can pull you upwards. I've felt like that for about 6 months. But...

Now I have no choice, I HAVE to improve. On 4th April me and just one other person will be on stage - chances are - performing a hugely complicated time travel storyline. I have to get to a level where I'm not on that stage crapping my own mind out about having half the responsibility of a TwoProv show, a potentially very intricate one ... in just a few months. And that is very exciting. There's nothing like forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone to increase your range.

And there's nothing like improv for providing a platform where that can happen.

Yes and...

Impro Clinics with Amy Cooke-Hodgson

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Hope you're already enjoying the benefits of new beginnings!
We return for some more impro delight in our delightful new venue in CLAPHAM JUNCTION
Our first session is Wednesday 25th January 7-9.30pm
£10 payable on the day

Impro Clinic: Getting Good at the Basics
at Battersea Mess & Music Hall
Led by Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Impro Clinic is a fun and supportive workshop focused on freeing and empowering the performer developing a confident and accepting stage presence.The session will cover a selection of impro comedy games and scene work techniques designed to build confidence and encourage spontaneity.
Sessions are mixed ability - so you're welcome to join us with little or no experience. In addition, perhaps you're already a performer [improviser, actor, singer, comic...] but want to be challenged to make the next step - you too are very welcome!

WHEN? Wednesday 25th Jan 7-9.30pm

WHERE? Battersea Mess & Music Hall, 49 Lavender Gardens Battersea. SW11 1DJ [Off Lavender Hill] CLAPHAM JUNCTION
5 mins walk from Clapham Junction train/overground - close to BAC

COST: £10 [pay on the day]
There are limited places, so do book in advance!
Reserve your space asap:
First come, First Served!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Write on!... dude.

Back when we started the London Improv blog the intention was to get a bunch of people writing about improv, about the processes and skills, about different experiences of the art form, about all sorts of things, really. To create a kind of online magazine thingamajig where you can come and read interesting stuff about this brilliant thing we do. That was the intention.

We kinda forgot about it. Oops.

There's loads of people out there who have words of wisdom and wit to share. Do you write? If so, you could be one of them.

So if you have an idea for an entry, or two... or ten... and you think people would like to read it, why not let us know? Why not, eh? ... Yes and.

Send your idea to us at If you have lots of ideas you might end up writing regularly. Wouldn't it be nice if we got to a point where there was a new thing to read every day? Wouldn't it just?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Hubris clobbered by Nemesis

We started working on this show more than fifteen years ago. We didn't know it at the time - we thought we were redefining 1970's American television culture.

Chris and I were making episodes of "Husky & Scotch" - a crime drama with familiar characters, written by two people who (wilfully) never watched the similarly named Starsky & Hutch as we thought we should reinvent the wheel without being tied down by the conventions of the original wheel design. For example, my little sister Kristina played the voice of 'F.F.L.O.Y.D.', the (70's) crime-fighting duo's deadly vehicle that was cunningly disguised as a ten year old 1.3-litre Austin Metro.

It was way before the letters 'H&S' became synonymous with risk assessment practices - so ahead of it's time that authenticity was negligible.

We also did an evil-twin storyline that culminated in a chase through a Southend recreational park and a magnificent 'death by spoon' scene.

We were seventeen.

Also this was 1997 and the internet only had green text and early prototypes for hampsterdance [sic], so illegally downloading TV episodes was something we'd only believed possible, never imagined.

Chris Mead and I have a new show coming out. We debut it on 4th April at London Improv at The Miller. It's improvised science fiction. Done properly (see picture below).

"Science fiction is the search for a definition of mankind and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge, and is characteristically cast in a Gothic or post Gothic mode."
- Brian W. Aldiss

... also, sometimes it has aliens that look like squid.

A couple of years ago Husky & Scotch produced "Andrew & The Slides of Chaos", which was then the best thing we (anyone) had ever done.

Then last year we made "Doctor Who's Line Is It Anyway?", which superseded it.

This year we embark on 'Twoprov'. Hopefully it will be at least as good (see picture left).

I'm going to occasionally write a few bits and pieces about it as the show comes together. Just in case someone is interested. We'll be leeching off the skills of some phenomenal improvisers along the way (Katy Schutte, Paul Foxcroft, Cariad Lloyd) and it'd be a shame to keep all their wisdom nuggets completely to ourselves.

Whether you read them or not, we'd love to see you at the show in April. It HAS taken us nearly 16 years to put together.

- Jonathan Monkhouse
"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them, into the impossible."
Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Return of the Improvised Greek Tragedy

Is it possible to improvise Greek tragedy? Come and learn how.

In this now-famous workshop led by Michael Brunström, a wide range of improvisation techniques are rallied to allow the spontaneous extemporization of Sophoclean drama. Based on the work of poetic geniuses from Aristotle to Zorba, and from Heraclitus to Ken Campbell, this is a dizzying romp through language, stagecraft, narrative, archetypes and high emotions.

At the end of the afternoon we will improvise a complete Greek tragedy.

Expect choral chanting, masks, incest, flutes, divine punishment, trochaic tetrameters, catharsis and a singing goat.

Numbers are limited, so book early to ensure a place on an improvabout that is guaranteed to be quite unlike anything else you’ve ever done before.

The Return of the Improvised Greek Tragedy
Sunday 29th January, 2–5pm
The Bookshop Theatre
51 The Cut
London SE1 8LF
Nearest Tubes: Waterloo and Southwark

Cost: £10, or £5 if you book in advance

Contact: or 07757 756119

Michael Brunström is a seasoned improviser who has worked with some of the biggest names on the London scene. The creator of Frogspawn, The Spouting Club, The Human Loire and The Curt Hatred Trilogy, he is also known for his original and unconventional improvabouts.

We've been to Michael's Greek Tragedy workshop before and it is brilliant. We recommend it!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Two Thousand And Twelve


According to the Mayans though, not for long. They're predicting this is the last year before the world explodes, so here at London Improv we're preparing ourselves for impending doom by having a jolly good laugh for the rest of existence. We think you should join us, because the other option is just counting down until you are propelled into space by fire and screaming.
Actually, we're quite looking forward to the apocalypse; we've seen the films and it looks quite fun.

Tuesday 10th January
We're kicking the season off with an all-in playtime.
Turn up, sign up, then play, as we have a big old 'welcome to the new year' knees-up. Blurring the fourth wall, smudging the boundaries between improviser and audience. The open mic night of impro.

Any improviser who turns up is in the show at London’s biggest ever impro jam. When not on stage they’re with the audience supporting other improvisers, to create one big beast of fun.

Improvisers come and sign up on the night, then names are picked out at random and thrown together in various games and scenes throughout the evening. All compered by Steve Roe with his mind open to the unexpected.

Tuesday 10th January
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: FREE!
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.

Wednesday 11th January

A Group so fresh and newborn that they haven’t even got a name yet, but they do have Rachel Blackman (The Matrix Revolutions), Katy Schutte (★★★★★ - Chortle), Ryan Millar (Boom Chicago), Jinni Lyons (8bit), Dave Waller (Marbles) and Jonathan Funkhouse ("Like a young Oliver Platt"- Remote Goat). ACE!

Then solo material from the much revered Cariad Lloyd (Fosters Comedy Award nominee), joined by her great comedy friends Jessica Fostekew ("Intensely funny" - Time Out) and Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones).

Wednesday 11th January
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval.
Cost: £5 on the door
Where: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS.


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