Saturday, 30 June 2012

#ChicaGoUK: Sarah Castell

Sarah is off to Chicago soon. Bid her well and read about her expectations. Here are the words:

Tell us a bit about yourself..

Hullo! I am Sarah and I usually do social research, and working with groups to help them be creative, and teaching slightly left-field courses to children involving art and history and stuff. And then I do as much improvising as I can eat.

I am at the moment in the group Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and we’re having fun with short form singing improvising at the moment, with some other formats to come later in the year. I dabble in the Spontaneity Shop group Banjo Lizard as well.

What's the best improv call-out you've ever heard?

I have the memory of a gnat so can only remember ones from the last seven days. A nice one recently was: What does he want? "To climb Mount Everest". And what’s getting in his way? "Llamas!”

Which improv course are you doing, and what made you choose that one?

I am doing the IO 5-weeker because I want to just do nothing but improvising, for days, and days, and days, and days, and days, until it all froths up out of my laughing face.

When/how did you start planning your trip?

I realised earlier in the year that I might be able to swing it, and performed a cunning salary negotiation. I get time off FREE!! As long as I, er, take a pay cut, relinquish some job perks, and work more hours. In your face, The Man!!!

What are you most excited about?

Refer to earlier answer about the days of improvising and the frothing and the face etc.

Are there any shows you HAVE to see while you're over there?

Want to see Baby Wants Candy. A lot.

What are you going to do in chicago when you're not improvising?

Ride around on a bicycle belonging to an improvising bloke, who says I can borrow it. If it’s an improvising bike it will have the benefit that I can drive it through things if I forget to concentrate on where it is.

How do you think the trip will change you?

I’d like to be more flexible, more confident as an improviser and hopefully in life too, shake off some of the horrible office-y cautiousness that is so easy to sink into.

My husband also says I will appreciate him more when I get home, as nobody will be around to change my lightbulbs for me or troubleshoot my computer in Chicago.

Do you think you'll go back another time?

Depends what it’s like! If it’s brilliant, then yes!

If you could name a new impro group anything you like, what would it be?

When we started the Red Lorry team some people wanted to call it the Massive Fascists. Tempting though it was, I thought that was wrong in many ways, so I imposed my iron will and crushed them like a tyrannous despot. You know, I still don’t know why they wanted to call it that.

Sarah plays in Red Lorry Yellow Lorry in London.
Follow all the improvisers at #ChicaGoUK

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

#ChicaGoUK: Lloydie

Here's the second of our interviews with the multitude of UK improvisers tasting the delights of the Chicago improv scene this summer. "Lloydie" James Lloyd is a representative of our Northern impro scene, and about as nice a chap as you can know.

Tell us a bit about yourself..

I'm Lloydie, I play with MissImp in Nottingham and am also part of MissImp's 4-man longform team "Fisticuffs". I'm also a radio presenter and have worked for various commercial radio stations and the BBC in glamourous locations around the country, including the Segensworth Industrial Estate in Fareham. I've always had an interest in comedy and performance and hd written a couple of short plays, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times but never properly given improv thought until I moved to Nottingham in 2008. I'm a huge fan of the TV show 30 Rock, and whilst nerding out on some YouTube clips of out-takes from the show, I stumbled across footage of Tina Fey performing in a televised version of ASSSCAT. I thought "I want to do that in Nottingham", googled "Improv Nottingham", MissImp was the first result on the search.... and now here I am bankrupting myself by going to Chicago.

What's the best improv call-out you've ever heard?

I like really simple suggestions. A simple call-out like "Iron" or "Confusion" are bigger gifts to improvisers than most audience members realise. There is one girl who is a regular at MissImp shows who had a habit of calling out "spoon" as her suggestion. She is now known only as "spoon girl" and she has a Facebook group dedicated to her.

Which improv course are you doing, and what made you choose that one?

I'm doing the Annoyance one-week intensive for a variety of reasons. Until now, most of my training has been UCB-based. I love the Upright Citizens Brigade and I love their focus on game. If they'd done a higher level intensive I'd have probably taken that as it's cheaper for me to get to / stay in NYC as I have friends there. However, when I saw the Annoyance intensive, I saw an opportunity to learn different ways of thinking about my improv. I've read Mick Napier's book and to be taught by him was a big draw - similarly, I've read Susan Messing's contribution to "Art By Committee" and heard her on podcasts. I love the attitude she brings to improv and the chance to learn from her is very exciting.

When/how did you start planning your trip? 

As usual, Twitter led me astray. I saw Chris Mead tweet about the course. He sent me a link to it and I got way too excited about it. I already knew I was in the market for an intensive and hadn't found one in New York. When I heard other Brits were going too, that sealed the deal. I knew there would be other people bringing this stuff back and using it in their improv work and that's really exciting.

What are you most excited about? 

I love getting to see improv. In Nottingham I don't get to see shows because I'm in them and we are pretty much the only game in town. I might see occasional touring improv shows or get to go to London occasionally to see other groups. However, when I'm in New York I've always seen one or two shows a night. I'll be doing the same in Chicago and having a shameless binge on all the improv they have to offer.

Are there any shows you HAVE to see while you're over there?

I've heard so much about TJ and Dave I have to see them. The Reckoning, by reputation, are a longform team I feel I must see. Messing With A Friend is Susan Messing's show so I'll definitely be seeing that. Baby Wants Candy, of course, and The Armando Diaz Experience. Those are my main ones, but my actual list is already way longer than that.

What are you going to do in chicago when you're not improvising? 

I guess watching improv, spending time with improvisers and everyone has said I have to try the pizza, so I'll be doing that too. They probably have sights to see too, don't they? I should probably do that while I'm there too.

How do you think the trip will change you?

Annoyance seems to have a very instinct-based approach which I think will be good for me. I'm quite a head-y improviser, although perhaps a little less so more recently. I think quite a few people who do a lot of "game" focussed improv seem to get a bit stuck in their heads, certainly to begin with. I'm hoping the instruction I get will free me a little more. I think just spending time with more UK longform improvisers will make a difference.

Do you think you'll go back another time?

I'd love to do the IO intensive but I'm not sure on the odds of me winning the lottery or marrying a rich man so... well... in theory, absolutely.

If you could name a new impro group anything you like, what would it be?

I really like the name "Fisticuffs" which is our longform team in Nottingham. I can't take credit for the name, but I think it embodies a certain campness that our group has. I don't think I can pre-name a team without knowing them, or at least going for a drink with them first.

Lloydie plays in Miss Imp in Nottingham.
His Twitter handle is @LloydieJL
Follow all the improvisers at #ChicaGoUk

Monday, 25 June 2012

#ChicaGoUK: Jason Blackwater

This summer something close to a metric tonne of improvisers from the UK descend on Chicago, Illinois to check out the improv scene and study at one (or more) of the improv schools.
We at London Improv think that's quite a notable thing, so we decided to interview as many of those folk as we could. First up - Jason Blackwater. Yes, he might sound like a character from Game of Thrones, but he's also a jolly nice man. And a giant.

Tell us a bit about yourself..

I'm Jason Blackwater. I'm in The Maydays and Silly String Theory.
I started performing improv at drama school under the brief tutorship of Ken Campbell, Sean McCann and Adam Megiddo where I toured improvised musicals for just over a week. To finally realise that it was possible to be a professional improviser was a revelation and I intended to find a way, once I graduated, to perform improv as a sideline to my acting. I even had my own troupe for a while, Improv's Dog, doing all of my favourite short form games. I then put the idea to the side for a while until I moved to brighton and immediately joined The Maydays and it's been like that ever since. Acting is now my sideline to the improv and shall remain so for the foreseeable.

What's the best improv call-out you've ever heard?

In one of The Maydays' student showcases recently, upon a request of a topic of study someone yelled "Speleology". I played the old, "Well, of course I know what speleology is, and of course the cast know what speleolgy is but for the benefit of the one or two people in the audience who don't know..." routine. The audience member DID know and it is, as you will of course realise, the study of caves.

Which improv course are you doing, and what made you choose that one?

iO summer intensive [5 weeks]. The Maydays learn through the skills from the iO school of thought and thought I'd go and learn from the source.

When/how did you start planning your trip?

It had been in the back of my mind to go since I'd been with The Maydays for a few months.. so 2010? I never really knew how I was going to afford it but at the beginning of this year I just thought about this summer more seriously. Then Jason Chin came to Brighton and agreed that if enough Maydays got over there he'd allow us to do the second half of Whirled News Tonight [Chicago's longest running improv show] and it was set. by hook or by crook I was going this summer and I just booked it.

What are you most excited about?

The shows. seeing more improv than I can imagine and seeing people I've only seen before on YouTube, on stage.

Are there any shows you HAVE to see while you're over there?

TJ & Dave, Assscat 3000 (I've got a few days in NY too), Baby Wants Candy (again), Improvised Shakespeare, Too Much Sun Will Make Baby Go Blind

What are you going to do in chicago when you're not improvising?

I've resolved to find a steakhouse with a steak big enough to win a t-shirt. Mainly, though, I'll be meeting up with new people and the dozen or so British improvisers who'll be out there too.

How do you think the trip will change you?

I'm hoping to go up a gear in my improv. 5 weeks away from my usual crutch of singing will really improve my scene work, and with a bit of luck bring back some understanding of what I'm doing beyond the instinctual. Plus any adventure will change you in unexpected ways and I'm looking forward to those too

Do you think you'll go back another time?

My original plan in 2010 was to do the year at Second City and I'd still like to do that. I also want to go to LA and Austin and check out the scenes there as well

If you could name a new impro group anything you like, what would it be?

I don't know. I think improv companies need to arrive at their name organically. There's a common feeling in the company and a sense of ownership but a wonderful opportunity was missed in a beginners class I was witness to. They'd hit upon the idea that the really whacky and ungrounded thoughts came from the Big Banana Place and wished they'd gone for that as their name but it wasn't to be. Still my favourite and it's up for grabs!

Jason Blackwater appears regularly in The Maydays and Silly String Theory.
His Twitter name is @jblackwater
Follow all the improvisers at #ChicaGoUk

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Scene/Character Intensive by Al Samuels (Baby Wants Candy, Second City Mainstage)

This will be a 3 hour workshop with direct, brutal yet loving feedback. You will leave with many more tools in your improv toolbox -strong initiations and finding the game to build excellent scenes, characters & relationships much more quickly. You will also receive personal notes on your own strengths and areas for improvement.

This workshop will build on the existing work that you have been exposed to in long-form. Previous improv experience is required - we will cover a lot of ground!

Al Samuels (Baby Wants Candy, Second City Tourco, Second City Mainstage) has taught improv for over 14 years in Chicago, NY and LA and is always a perennial favorite long form teacher and coach. With Baby Wants Candy, he has performed in 6 Edinburgh Fringes. He appeared on the NBC comedy "Sports Action Team" and currently has a pilot in development at Comedy Central.

One of his favorite things to teach is scene work, as he sees this as the building block of all good long form.

12-3PM Saturday, June 23
Location: The Nursery, Arch 61, Great Suffolk Street SE1 0NR
Cost £25
Email to reserve a spot as space is limited

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Week long intensive with The Maydays

The UK's first ever long form improvisation intensive course is here!

Drawing on techniques from iO, UCB and Second City, learn how to play deeper and more complex scenes and create a show where the structure emerges from within.

With enough time to dwell in detail on the deeper elements of emotional and game based scene work and create a true group mind, this course is designed for people with some improvisational experience looking to expand the scope of their work.

Taught by tutors from the legendary Maydays (including Katy Schutte).

To book mail

25th-29th June, 10-5 with a performance on the Friday night

£300 (10 students max)
At the Rag Factory.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Fringe starts here: This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Rachel Parris (left) and Max Dowler (not left)
8pm, Wednesday, at The Miller
Oh baby, it's good to see you. How we've missed your pleasant face and groovy demeanour.

It's a veritable throng of talent this week at the London Improv Comedy Club. 

As we count down to the Edinburgh Fringe festival we have 3 (three) Edfringe preview shows this week (THREE). Sneak previews of shows just for you before they are unleashed on the world. 

Including internet stars The RH Experience, TV gold from Do Not Adjust Your Stage, and award winning comedy from the brilliant Parris and Dowler. 

You asked for funny, we give you funny. 

There will be a spelling mistake in this mail-out. See if you can spot it with your pretty eagle-eyes:

Those ultra-trendy boys from the RH Experience whip out their chunky comedy-mushrooms. They're YouTube stars by day, but Tuesday evening sees their all-too-rare live show dropping it's fun bombs.
Special guests for this show include Edgar "Hoopla-hoodie" Fernando and London Improv's Jonathan Monkhouse.

The RH will be followed by the very excellent Do Not Adjust Your Stage. If your television grew ten legs and stood up on a stage with two microphones and a guitar, then shot a rifle through a coconut and into the cast of Eastenders... well, it wouldn't look anything like the DNAYS show. But it'd smell similar. 
It's an improvised television schedule. Mmmm... schedule.
WHEN: 8pm, Tuesday 19th July
COST: £5 on the door

Another Edinburgh Preview for multi-talented comics Rachel Parris (Top 10 Comics to Watch 2012) and Max Dowler (Leicester Square New Comedian finalist) as they do stand-up, impressions, sketch und song.

"Definitely recommend them to anyone" 
- Three Weeks

Plus, they're both very good looking and smell like a summer day.

Followed by the inordinately brilliantly named Your Girlfriend.. comedy excellence in a jam-jar, featuring the likes of Charlotte Gittins, Briony Redman, Paul Foxcroft... and all the others who come.
WHEN: 8pm, Wednesday 20th July
COST: £5 on the door

Okay, eagle. See you there. In the meantime, listen to some good words and breathe in the air of mystery.
See you soon!
London Improv

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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Snappy dressers and magicians: This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Parallelogramophonograph: 8pm, Wednesday, The Miller 
Hey everyone, how's it going? 
Did you get to the London Improv Festival at all? Good wasn't it? If only there was a way to keep seeing brilliant international improv in.... waaaaaiiiitttttttt*
This week at The Miller, the pick of the litter, like a jam sandwich without the bread,
like a grizzly bear without teeth,
like the music industry without Lady Gaga,
we have only good stuff going on.

And borrowing the Slapdash coat-tails, we even get to steal Parallelogramophonograph for another show in London, before they disappear back to the Texan hills. Seriously, don't miss them, they are a genuine phenomenon:

It's back! Music Box: The Improvised Musical present their pick of the London Cabaret circuit.

The first half will feature musical comedy from Phil Lunn and Trevor Ferdy, short-form improv from Arthur, and magic from Sanjay Shelat.

They'll be followed by the excellent Music Box, with their new wave of cast members: including Maria Peters, Georgina Bream, Andrew "ABag" Gentilli, Ben Hamblin, James Witt and Steve Roe, with Trevor Ferdy on piano.

WHEN: 8pm, Tuesday 12th June
COST: £5 on the door

"Improvised plays from Austentexious." An evening of costumed storytelling that we are a bit over excited about.

Parallelogramophonograph loves to tell stories.. After seeing them at the Edinburgh fringe last year, we HAD to book them. Hailing from Austin, Texas, they do mindblowingly awesome genre-based improv. They've been together for about 6 years and done some way over 400 shows together, in their own theatre in Austin.

On Wednesday they'll be performing their awesome French Farce show. Sweet!
"Amazingly brilliant and hysterical performance" - Broadway Baby

They'll be sharing the evening with the sublime Austentatious, improvising a Jane Austen novel for your heart to enjoy. Think of it like a costume drama, but funny, and actually genuinely enjoyable (not in that pious way people pretend to enjoy that sort of thing). They're one of our favourite groups in the country, and with Pgraph this makes for London Improv's favourite ever line-up ever.
WHEN: 8pm, Wednesday 13th June
COST: £5 on the door, or tickets in advance from HERE

Everyone needs joy in their life, and you are an everyone. Jump in fully clothed. 
See you soon, my love.

London Improv

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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Unbridled comedy satisfaction: This week at The London Improv Comedy Club

Loretta Maine. Wednesday, 8pm  
Just how much improv do you want this week?

If the answer is "an infinite amount" then you're in luck. From now until the end of the week you can see high quality improv every night at the London Festival Of Improvisation. Six nights of awesome shows... or 'infinite'.

At The Miller we are hugely excited to have Loretta Maine (AKA Pippa Evans), one of the most exciting characters on the comedy circuit. She'll be supported by the fabulous 'Your Girlfriend', awesome lady-improv. Nowhere other than The Miller could give you such talent for only a fiver.

Then for all you other impro-fixes, there's the Slapdash Fest at The Nursery. Come along, see some international stars of improv all get together and make magic treats.

And as a little extra thrill, the awesome Texan group: Parallelogramophonograph will be performing at The Miller next week.


This is either the darkest raunchy movie in history, or an evening of comedy from some of the funniest women in London.

"Psycho-intense singer-songwriter Loretta Maine makes Courtney Love look well-balanced." - Chortle

Loretta left school at the age of 15, and it was at this tender age that she found music to be a good outlet for her frustrations and began writing songs such as “Makin’ Love” and “C*** S***ing M*ther F***er”.

The darkest mind in Country music. Award-winning character comedy from Pippa Evans (Showstoppers, Fast & Loose).

Loretta will be supported by Your Girlfriend. Ultra talented uber-girls with a thirst for mirth and a sassy att.
The likes of Charlotte Gittins, Kelly Finnerty, Briony Redman and (freshly back in the UK) Monica Heisey perform just for you. They are all Your Girlfriend, you lucky devil.

WHEN: 8pm, Tuesday 29th May
COST: £5 on the door

Recommended by The Londonist.

This Year Slapdash goes international, welcoming improvisation talent from The Netherlands, Vienna, Canada and the USA.

A full week-long programme at The Nursery, a brand new (now fully heated) venue in Southwark. Slapdash features local favourites alongside shows never before seen in London.


Kevin Tomlinson's Crazy Little thing Called Love
Parallelogramophonograph's New Works
Jim Libby and Jacob Bannigan's improvised board game
Katy and Rach
The Maydays present Guest Who
David Shore's One-men Harold

And The Slapdash Ensemble, a collection of international legends coming together for two gigs only.

Heaven for impro-heads.

Full programme and tickets at:
WHEN: 8pm, Tuesday 5th June - 11pm, Sunday 10th June
COST: From £8. Get tickets from the website:
WHERE: The Nursery, Arch 61 (Near Southwark)

*** NEXT WEEK! ***
(click for details)

It may be cold and wet outside, but we're hot and wet just thinking about it all.
Sexy times.

London Improv

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