Category Archives: Improv

Letting It In and Letting It Out

Once, at a gig in Acton, I was threatened with physical violence by another act. Rather than just responding with a pre-emptive thumping of him myself, I was exceedingly British and apologised for whatever unknown to me thing that I had done to upset him. However, it transpired that that upset was caused by my having been born, as he hates me for being “posh” – tough gig!

You cannot please all the people all the time, and I know that my aim of doing so is, to a degree, a failure. I am learning to “hold on to my shit”, as those brilliant people at the Annoyance Theatre would say. That means, to me, to be honest in my reactions, to believe in my choices, and then to commit to those choices. Of course, to start that and be honest in my reactions, I have to relearn that aspect of my personality that was euthanased by a traditional British upbringing. I have to learn to listen to my emotions, accept them, let them in, let them affect me, and then let the boiling concoction of me plus the new experiences of these overwhelming sensations, overflow into action. And I have to trust myself to do so.

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The 30 minute Solo (and two person) improv warm up

If you want to improve at improvisation, it really helps to practice. But if you are all by yourself, what can you do? Well quite a lot as it turns out.

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Annoyance 202 with Megan Johns

In this class, after the warm up, we started off with doing a bunch of solo initiations.
The aim of these was to make physical, emotional and spatial choices, and to mix them up as much as possible, so that whenever Megan would say “switch”, the person on stage would make a new initiation, with a new physical choice, a new emotional choice, and in a new part of the stage.

This exercise forced us to come up with something interesting, to use the whole stage, and to push our own mental boundaries.

As Susan Messing says, we are only limited by our lack of imagination and our failure to commit.

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ComedySportz 202 with Mel Evans, 19 August

Each of the schools here have a different focus and emphasis. ComedySportz are shortform games, and what they feed into my long form game is the urgency of making a quick choice and committing at 100%. I am sure they feed in in many other ways too, but that is my thinking as I write right now, sitting as I am, with a beer in hand in Salt and Pepper, a sort of diner place under the iO theatre.

The world is passing, through the window (the comma was essential there) and I’m going upstairs shortly to watch a show. It is 10 in the evening and warm here right now, and I confess, I have a hunger. None of which has anything to do with these notes…
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Level 3 with Jason Shotts, a proper introduction to a level!

This class was pretty amazing, we covered so much ground, I wrote more notes for this one class for any other class I’ve done here in Chicago so far.

We started off with a warm up exercise to help us remember each other’s names. As Jason put it, “saying people’s names makes a room 40% less weird”
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Why I hate my iPhone

A rant monologue I wrote for my Solo Performance class. I will eventually cut this down, extract its essence and perform this, below is my first iteration.

The iPhone is a terrible device

image Back in the day, you could attach a piece of wire to another piece of wire and tap. That tap would instantly disappear down said wire, and someone at the other end would pick up your message. Now, even to me, that was primitive. A little better than banging rocks together and probably about as much fun. Although I like banging rocks together, as a man it makes me feel complete. Most modern rocks I own don’t survive a good banging together, although when one of them is my iPhone, I regularly feel like doing that and then reinventing fire just to throw the bastard device onto it.

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Solo Performance with Michael Lehrer, 25 August

This is yet another of the classes I am taking at iO, at the end of which we will have a class show of our work.

Mike is a man who likes his pedal bikes, and taught much of the class from a chrome handled, low riding, chopper style bike that he’d brought into the classroom. When we see it this week, he has told us it will have been repainted by a graffiti artist friend of his, a piece of art to look forward to seeing.

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