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Guest blog: Day Two, missimp.co.uk

So – it’s me again. I should perhaps start by explaining the title of my last blog post made sense when I wrote it on Monday evening: it sounded a bit odd when it was published this (Tuesday) afternoon. I didn’t want you to think I was a vampire or anything – see, I drink beer, not blood.

As promised, I’m going to tell you a bit about MissImp: Nottingham improv comedy and the show we have this week. (Plugging the show will be a theme running through until Friday, when it will stop and I’ll start on the next show. You see how this works.) Mainly I’ll tell you about MissImp today.

History

MissImp, or Mission:Improbable was allegedly conceived way back in the late ’90s by a bunch of dudes who got some cash and some folk together to start playing games and get some gigs. That worked out okay for a while in pubs and clubs around Nottingham (The Maze used to be a regular venue) but you know, people move on and get lives. Anyhoo, all this is before my time in MissImp so it might just be lies.

The truth as I know it is that the ancient masters of missimp were all attacked by assassins jealous of their crazy improv skillz (note the ‘z’) – only one master survived, swimming all the way up the Trent from disguised as a a crippled swan. He was rescued by local squirrels and became one of them for a time. Finally, he recovered his memory (I forgot to mention the amnesia) and led a valiant charge to defeat the murderous assassins. Sadly that failed and all we have left is the sacred writings scrawled on the inside of his turtle guise. Those writings are our core.

Me & MissImp

I joined the group in 2003, not long after Marilyn (my other half who’s an actor) and our mate Ross had signed on for giggles. It was pretty cool, and we did some good shows. After a while though people moved away and had kids and other substitutes for having fun and there just weren’t enough of us left. It was just Geoff (our sole founding member), Ross, Marilyn and myself. That sucked. We started running weekly jam workshop sessions so we could still play and maybe one day get back into the gigging life. That took a while.

When we migrated to the Art Organisation in the old Hopkinson’s hardware store on Station Street in 2008 our numbers bloomed and we now have a kick-ass team. The weekly jams usually number 12-17 but we’ve had as many as 25 people turn up for fun.

At the end of 2009 we started performing on the last Friday of the month at the Art Organisation. Since then we’ve done really well – our audience numbers range from 45 – 95 which is pretty awesome for a local improv group.

We’ve also become involved in the Nottingham Comedy Festival – festival director Helen Stead is one of the gang (we did two shows and a beginners’ workshop last year, plus MissImp folk did a play, a radio sketch show and a poetry night too – busy week), and are doing more shows for it this year. The Art Organisation has been pivotal for our development back into a performance group – it’s a home base, and a useful hub of activity. We’ve poured about £1500 into the Art Organistion over the last year – acquiring lighting, sound and curtains to make the place into a decent performance space.

Since we started performing again in a regular, homely venue like the Art Organisation we’ve started to take things a bit more seriously. The jams are open, which is awesome but has problems built into it too – everyone gets to play, but play less if we have more attendees. With no booking system the attendance is rather irregular, and the  knowledge and skills of the players vary widely which kinda frustrates attempts to develop skills and progress the group as a whole.

Nonetheless, in the last year myself, Lloydie and David have taken primary responsibility for running workshops, with Geoff and Charlotte helping to balance out the workload. Marilyn provides us with excellent warm ups during the jams and before the shows. Never, ever, underestimate the value of a good physical and vocal warm up – more on that tomorrow I reckon. So we’re doing more training and are becoming a better, larger crew than before.

Modern MissImp

We have about 10 regular improvisors who are our performance team, with another 10 -15 jamming folk who do great work in the jams but need some serious investment of time to get them up to performance standard. It’s a major challenge – we’re part-time and mostly amateur in that we have no particular qualifications in improv (some of the team are actors, scientists, academics, stand up comedians, IT guys, teachers, DJs, directors and others – it’s a really weird and super-cool mix), but we are actually pretty damn good by professional standards and take serious pride in our comedy. We have plans… we’d like to make time to run additional developmental workshops for the existing crew and open it up more to spread the improv love.

Our organisation has always been pretty informal, which is no surprise as most of us have other jobs (those who don’t are simply unemployed rather than full time improvisors). For no particular reason I’ve ended up being the guy in charge most of the time. This is more a result of my obsessive multi-tasking and lack of patience with democratic systems. Often that’s a bad thing for my work/life/improv balance. I run quite a lot of the jams, organise shows, design the posters, do advertising, maintain the website, perform and often compere the shows. Must. Delegate. More.

Thankfully I play with amazing people in MissImp. This month, Lloydie is organising the show, which will free me up to write about it! Geoff’s organising the show we’re doing at the Wirksworth Festival in September and it’s all getting easier.

Amazing Killer News

Possibly the most exciting news we’ve had in recent times is that, in addition to our regular last Friday shows, we’ve been picked up by The Glee Club (no, not adults pretending to be teenagers singing at random), the new, hugely popular comedy and music venue which opens on Castle Wharf in September. We are thrilled. It’s a really big deal for us to move to two monthly shows, one in a ‘proper’ premium venue which we’ll be sharing with acts like Andy Parsons (from Mock The Week), Rich Hall and all the other stand up comics you’ve heard of. We have a show on the second Wednesday of every month from October 13th onwards. It’s going to be amazing. We’ve called it MissImp In Action and we think you’ll enjoy it.

The Day After Improv

This week though (the promised plug!) – The Day After Improv Friday 27th August. The show starts at 8pm, but we open the doors at 7.30pm so you can settle and get some beers in you. We charge the throat-cutting price of £3 for entry so you’d be crazy to miss out.

Right then – tomorrow I’ll spin you some more words about the upcoming show, how we prepare and d’oh! I’ve just realised you may not even know what improvised comedy is! Idiot. Suffice to say, it’s comedy which has no plan – it’s proper skin-of-your-teeth, wits-alone edge-of-your-seat-oh-god-what-are-they-going-to-do-next-they-use-too-many-hyphens-entertainment. Look it up, I’ll fill you in tomorrow.

Oh hey – have a little bit of the last show. We play lots of group games, but these are the monologues. I should possibly post a content warning, but my monologue is entirely child-friendly (the middle one). The hook for this game is that the audience have a couple of books or magazines (we tend to use New Scientist) and will give us random words which we have to incorporate into our scenes. It’s quite hard and produces some really odd, funny stories.

Improv Sizzle – Monologues

This one’s from a few shows ago but I think you’ll enjoy it. A couple of scenes from Improv Lilo:

Improv Lilo – scenes

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