Welcome to the delightfully friendly world of Leicester's improvised comedy scene!
WHAT IS IMPROVISED COMEDY?
Improvisational theatre, often called "improv" or "impro", is a form of theatre where most - or all - of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. In its purest form, the dialogue, action, story, and characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds in present time, without use of an already prepared, written script.
Modern improvisational comedy, as it is practiced in the West, falls generally into two categories: shortform (which this group primarily focuses on) and longform.
Shortform improv consists of short scenes usually constructed from a predetermined game, structure, or idea and driven by an audience suggestion. Many shortform exercises were first created by Viola Spolin, who called them theatre games, influenced by her training from recreational games expert Neva Boyd. The shortform improv comedy television series Whose Line Is It Anyway? has familiarised American and British viewers with shortform.
MISSION STATEMENT FOR THIS MEETUP
This group aims to build a community of Leicester-based people with a passion for improvised comedy.
HOW DO WE DO THIS?
For those who wish to take part, there is a weekly workshop where we can all meet up and develop our improv skills (useful for actors, public speakers, comedians, and anyone else who has a lot of face-to-face interactions in their job/life). For those who wish to watch only, we'll arrange a pre-show meetup to have drinks/pizza/etc before going to watch any improv gigs that come through Leicester - including our own resident group, The Same Faces, who perform monthly.
WHO ARE THE SAME FACES?
The Same Faces were founded by Tom Young (bottom right, and lead organiser for this group) in 2013, and features three other regular players: Allan Smith (top right), Mike Brown (top left), and Dave Gotheridge (bottom left). Every show features five improvisers, and so the team is filled out by either guest players from around the country, or able members of Tom's workshops. The team run monthly shows in both Leicester & Northampton, as well as Tom's weekly workshops in each town.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT IF I GO TO A SHOW?
Everything is made up on the spot, often based on initial suggestions from the audience. That leads to scenes such as these:
THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF IMPROV
• Listen: easier said than done, and that's exactly the point
• Agreement: say yes and add something, don't reject ideas
• Team Work: have a group mind, think of others
• Don't Block: stealing jokes / not listening / changing topic
• Relationship: focus on connection between characters, not just subject of scene
• Initiation: who, what, when to set the scene
• Point of View, Opinion and Intention: have them, these help express and build your character
• Be in Character: maintain character throughout the scene
• Don't Ask Questions: too many questions can make your partner do all the work
• Make Active Choices: Do something; don't be talking heads
APPLYING IMPROV PRINCIPLES IN LIFE
Many people who have studied improv have noted that its guiding principles are useful, not just on stage, but in everyday life. For example, Stephen Colbert said, in a commencement address:
"You are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say "yes." And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say "yes" back."
Tina Fey in her book Bossypants lists several rules of improv that apply in the workplace. There has been much interest in bringing lessons from improv into the corporate world. In a New York Times article titled "Can Executives Learn to Ignore the Script?", Stanford professor and author, Patricia Ryan Madson notes, "executives and engineers and people in transition are looking for support in saying yes to their own voice. Often, the systems we put in place to keep us secure are keeping us from our more creative selves." Madson explores the application of thirteen "maxims of improvisational theatre" to real-life in the book Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
The Same Faces:
• Northampton Shows/Workshops Info
Improv Around The UK:
• UK Improv Network
• UK Improv Co-Op Weekend Retreats
• Hoopla: Improvised Comedy Club, London
• The Nursery Theatre, London
• The Crunchy Frog Website (UK Improv News)