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Guest Blog: Day four, we go to Improv War

I’m afraid today’s blog entry might not reach the Homeric proportions of rambling tangentiary yesterday achieved. Sorry about that. The reason for my (possible) brevity is the sheer imminence of the show!

Yep, that’s the plug again – The Day After Improv – Friday (tonight) 27th August at the Art Organisation on Station Street – doors open at 7.30pm, show starts at 8pm. It’s a mere £3 and you can bring your own drinks (including les alcofrolish types) – the TAO guys have a lovely tea and coffee bar too.

So I’m running out of time, but I wanted to give you some idea of what goes into a show.

The shows are monthly so we know they’re coming up and so far it’s been lots of fun to assign them names. In the past we’ve had things like ‘Freaks of Improv’ or ‘Improv Twister’ – next month is ‘ImproCop: The Future of Live Comedy’ as well as The Glee Club show ‘MissImp in Action’ (geddit…?) The name usually gives the inspiration for the poster and provides a bit of a theme for the show, or at least for the audience warm up. We have tried to theme whole shows before and have come to the conclusion that it hampers the performers and restricts us to a narrow(er) range of ideas – for example in ‘The Curse of Improv’ (a Hallowe’en show) we went as far as costumes and it made it harder to break away from what we looked like and do interesting scenes. So we’ve dropped that.

Excite your audience

The audience warm up is really important – we need the suggestions and interaction from them/you. We share out the compereing duties and often have one of the performers doubling as the guy who introduces the games and gets the ‘ask-fors’ or suggestions from the crowd. This month it’s David Ferland McCollough, our splendid French-Canadian amigo who has done improv in two languages – his native French in Canada and, well, France (La Troupe du Malin) as well as here with us.

That means I get to concentrate on playing the games so that’s really cool of him. We like to involve the audience, usually by finding some things for them to shout out which are related to the show’s title. Since I’ve blatantly ripped off The Day After Tomorrow’s poster (the snow was swapped for sand with surprising ease) we’re going for apocalyptic lines – “Get your stinking hands off me you damned dirty ape” (Planet of the Apes) and we’ll develop a good bit of hysteria from that. Once the audience are energised and engaged then we’re off!

Here’s a particularly fun bit of audience engagement:

The crowd go nuts for Queen

So, what’s the deal with the improv bit?

Although the shows are entirely improvised we do know which games we’re going to play (though we sometimes do it entirely blind, where only the compere and assistant know what’s coming up). Earlier this month Lloydie put a shout out for players and then called a meeting at Broadway Cinema’s bar, which is where we usually meet up, and we sorted a list of 20-odd games from our standard list of 60 games which we feel we’re good at, get a good audience response and are fun to play. I’ve just been printing them out on bits of card to go into the hat.

Our assistant (Carla Prestwich this month) will draw games from a hat and then the right number of players. That’s right – not only do we not know what order the games are in, we don’t know until seconds before the game starts who’s playing. It amps up the fun and excitement levels of the players. We’ll also be getting the audience to complete ‘Whose Lines’ – that’s our only pre-planned game as it immediately allows the audience to have a big influence on the scene. It’s brilliant when your line is used.

Preparation

On the jam before a show, we close it so that the only people who get a chance to play are the performers. We’ve had to do this to get that extra playtime and cohesion between the players. Since starting it in February we’ve seen an extraordinary improvement in the shows. I planned the jam and rather than play lots of games we’re doing exercises designed to encourage us to say ‘Yes’ to whatever comes up, to think faster and hopefully be funnier. That includes some really silly games like Bunny Bunny and the Evolution Game. It was a splendid jam, and everyone had fun and (I reckon) were better for the playful element.

Digression

Getting off the train at Beeston last night, me and Marilyn were accosted by what I can only assume to be escapees from Brad Pitt‘s caravan in Snatch. In an almost incomprehensible tongue I was asked to help carry a buggy complete with elephantine sleeping child up the stairs, while the rest of the clan shoved pushchairs across the tracks. Quite, quite odd.

Today

The players today? There’s myself, Lloydie, Marilyn Ann Bird, Catherine Clarke, Martin Findell, Carl Jones. We should have had the splendid Charlotte Matheson who was responsible for some of the finest scenes of the last show, but has fallen ill and will be missed on this occasion. Much booing at illness.

Get in

I’ll get to the TAO at half past four, with at least one other strong person and we’ll put the massively heavy stage curtains up. Then a few more people will arrive and we’ll erect the stage, and get the chairs out from wherever they’ve been hidden around the Art Organisation. There are lights and mics to test, stuff, just stuff everywhere to arrange and make ready – do we have the bells, the hats, the lines, the magazines, the flyers for the next show, the cash box, the stamper, the badgers and the budgies? Excellent. Wait-  batteries! And so it goes on. We’re usually fully set up by just after six and the players get to sit, eat and chat for a while. That’s a great chill before the storm. Then it’s time to get changed – show dress is black bottoms, soft-soled shoes and a brightly coloured t-shirt. I may tweak my moustache.s Steve and Elliott will arrive to do the door stuff, Helen’s gonna tape the thing.

After that Marilyn takes us through a relaxing and focussing physical and vocal warm up. We need to be able to project and leap about, and in doing it all together we develop a hokey-sounding ‘group mind’, where we’re on the same (non-existent – no lines remember!) page. It’s a fantastic vibe. Then we’ll play some extremely high energy brain mashing games just before the show starts. By then, the audience will hopefully have filled up and there will some tunes above the verbal buzz.

The music stops, the lights go out. A flash of music, the lights are up, the audience applaud and we’re on!

You should be there, it’s cool. There’s nothing else like this in Nottingham at the moment.

And it’s cheap, insanely cheap.

I cannot express how much I enjoy it.

Still not sure if it’s your cup of tea? Well, here’s a little advert, plus some of my favourite scenes from the last show:

Advert (when is sped up film not funny?)

Word Count at the Dentist – each player can only use a certain number of words when they speak:

Mock-50s advert and romance blossoming

Tomorrow – feedback on how the show went. Plus, some of the gang are exploring long form improv – that’s where we do a scene or series of scenes for about 20-40 minutes based on just one word from the audience. Tough, but fun.

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” More background about our guest blogger,  Nick Tyler. Fancy guest blogging for Creative Nottingham? Here’s how. “

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I’m afraid today’s blog entry might not reach the Homeric proportions of rambling tangentiary yesterday achieved. Sorry about that. The reason for my (possible) brevity is the sheer imminence of the show!

Yep, that’s the plug again – The Day After Improv – Friday (tonight) 27th August at the Art Organisation on Station Street – doors open at 7.30pm, show starts at 8pm. It’s a mere £3 and you can bring your own drinks (including les alcofrolish types) – the TAO guys have a lovely tea and coffee bar too.

So I’m running out of time, but I wanted to give you some idea of what goes into a show.

The shows are monthly so we know they’re coming up and so far it’s been lots of fun to assign them names. In the past we’ve had things like ‘Freaks of Improv’ or ‘Improv Twister’ – next month is ‘ImproCop: The Future of Live Comedy’ as well as the Glee Club show ‘MissImp in Action’ (geddit…?) The name usually gives the inspiration for the poster and provides a bit of a theme for the show, or at least for the audience warm up. We have tried to theme whole shows before and have come to the conclusion that it hampers the performers and restricts us to a narrow(er) range of ideas – for example in ‘The Curse of Improv’ (a Hallowe’en show) we went as far as costumes and it made it harder to break away from what we looked like and do interesting scenes. So we’ve dropped that.

Excite your audience

The audience warm up is really important – we need the suggestions and interaction from them/you. We share out the compereing duties and often have one of the performers doubling as the guy who introduces the games and gets the ‘ask-fors’ or suggestions from the crowd. This month it’s David, our splendid French-Canadian amigo who has done improv in two languages – his native French in Canada and, well, France (La Troupe du Malin) as well as here with us. That means I get to concentrate on playing the games so that’s really cool of him. We like to involve the audience, usually by finding some things for them to shout out which are related to the show’s title. Since I’ve blatantly ripped off The Day After Tomorrow’s poster (the snow was swapped for sand with surprising ease) we’re going for apocalyptic lines – “Get your stinking hands off me you damned dirty ape” (Planet of the Apes) and we’ll develop a good bit of hysteria from that. Once the audience are energised and engaged then we’re off!

Here’s a particularly fun bit of audience engagement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbBQeEC2g40

So, what’s the deal with the improv bit?

Although the shows are entirely improvised we do know which games we’re going to play (though we sometimes do it entirely blind, where only the compere and assistant know what’s coming up). Earlier this month Lloydie put a shout out for players and then called a meeting at Broadway Cinema’s bar, which is where we usually meet up, and we sorted a list of 20-odd games from our standard list of 60 games which we feel we’re good at, get a good audience response and are fun to play. I’ve just been printing them out on bits of card to go into the hat. Our assistant (Carla this month) will draw games from a hat and then the right number of players. That’s right – not only do we not know what order the games are in, we don’t know until seconds before the game starts who’s playing. It amps up the fun and excitement levels of the players. We’ll also be getting the audience to complete ‘Whose Lines’ – that’s our only pre-planned game as it immediately allows the audience to have a big influence on the scene. It’s brilliant when your line is used.

Preparation

On the jam before a show, we close it so that the only people who get a chance to play are the performers. We’ve had to do this to get that extra playtime and cohesion between the players. Since starting it in February we’ve seen an extraordinary improvement in the shows. I planned the jam and rather than play lots of games we’re doing exercises designed to encourage us to say ‘Yes’ to whatever comes up, to think faster and hopefully be funnier. That includes some really silly games like Bunny Bunny and the Evolution Game. It was a splendid jam, and everyone had fun and (I reckon) were better for the playful element.

The players today? There’s myself, Lloydie, Marilyn, Catherine, Martin, Carl. We should have had the splendid Charlotte who was responsible for some of the finest scenes of the last show, but has fallen ill and will be missed on this occasion. Much booing at illness.

Get in

I’ll get to the TAO at half past four, with at least one other strong person and we’ll put the massively heavy stage curtains up. Then a few more people will arrive and we’ll erect the stage, and get the chairs out from wherever they’ve been hidden around the Art Organisation. There are lights and mics to test, stuff, just stuff everywhere to arrange and make ready – do we have the bells, the hats, the lines, the magazines, the flyers for the next show, the cash box, the stamper, the badgers and the budgies? Excellent. Wait- batteries! And so it goes on. We’re usually fully set up by just after six and the players get to sit, eat and chat for a while. That’s a great chill before the storm. Then it’s time to get changed – show dress is black bottoms, soft-soled shoes and a brightly coloured t-shirt. I may tweak my moustache.

After that Marilyn takes us through a relaxing and focussing physical and vocal warm up. We need to be able to project and leap about, and in doing it all together we develop a hokey-sounding ‘group mind’, where we’re on the same (non-existent – no lines remember!) page. It’s a fantastic vibe. Then we’ll play some extremely high energy brain mashing games just before the show starts. By then, the audience will hopefully have filled up and there will some tunes above the verbal buzz.

The music stops, the lights go out. A flash of music, the lights are up, the audience applaud and we’re on!

You should be there, it’s cool. There’s nothing else like this in Nottingham at the moment.

And it’s cheap, insanely cheap.

Still not sure if it’s your cup of tea? Well, here’s a little advert, plus some of my favourite scenes from the last show:

Advert (when is sped up film not funny?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKJTW6wFf2w

Word Count at the Dentist – each player can only use a certain number of words when they speak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n1G9Dabn1o

Mock-50s advert and romance blossoming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T2wGCdElRw