Showing posts with label comedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comedy. Show all posts

Sunday, 11 December 2022

Improv Jam in Kent!

 Great news!


There will be an improv jam in Margate, Kent (UK) in 2023. I am hoping to manage a monthly improv jam bring in guest performers from around Kent (or further).

Come see the sea, and do or watch improv. We will be venturing the stairs of Sundowners for their stage! It is a great space (but not wheelchair accessible, sorry!).  


We will have opportunities for lots of improv - sometimes, even longform sets with one another. However, we will start our evenings with games and frolicking. Much splendour will be had with scenes and more.  

Dates are TBC, as of December 2022.

Friday, 26 June 2020

The Camera: Film Acting and Improv (Online Class)


With improv going online, what do improvisers need to know? They are no longer creating theatre, but films. These will be a style or genre of films in themselves. Exactly what it entails is up to the creator(s). Nonetheless, learning from films to improve our improv online is valuable. In this series of classes, I begin with a focus on the camera. I shall mention other areas (some of which will have their own focused class).

Book and click!

What the audience sees has always been important in our improv, and now it is even more! I will guide participants through the various thoughts on using the camera to deliver the content desired. We discuss the current availability to achieve these goals, but we will use a lot of practical trialling. This class (and the series) will enrich your improv online through increasing your understanding of the form of media and performance. There is a wealth of useful and usable knowledge that has been integrated into the class that can deepen your expression and artistry for the effect you are looking for.

These classes can be taken as one-off lessons about the area of film acting and improv; however, attending all of them will only increase your abilities. It is recommended to take this class before others, but this is not required.

Nathan Keates (Nathan Improv) is a trainer, improvisation teacher and a performing arts teacher; that is only a distinction on subject. He trained in film acting in 2005 - 2008. Nowadays, Keates is a theatre-maker, improviser and clown. He is so addicted to improv, impro, improvisation that he researches it too. The current project is on autism and improv comedy. Nathan began teaching improvisation in 2006 and quickly got teaching in another country, the States. In 2007, he found a love for applied improvisation for autistic people as it sprung to reality there and then. He was teaching autistic people, and people with other diagnoses too, in America. The progression has remained seeking the new and the wonderful in his practice and his teaching.
Be kind, be honest and be taking my class!

Click and book now!

Many thanks.
#findthefunnytogether
www.NathanImprov.com

PLEASE NOTE: this is an online class and will use breakout rooms; there will be technical issues to overcome, but we will manage all issues together and swiftly.

If you cannot afford the class, as long as I have Gold Standard bookings I can let you participate without cost. Please get in touch: info@nathanimprov.com.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Guest blog: Why Improv?


Having discovered improv comedy a year ago and having fallen under its spell, I find myself trying to explain what compels me to return again and again to what feels like its magic.

Having dived deep into another weekend course this one called “Efficiency in Scenework” with Nathan Keates. I find myself already missing its end, even though I’m only half way through.

So the word magic seems apt.  This is the best way I can explain what occurs in improv. But don’t get me wrong it’s not that all that happens is magic, it’s just that sometimes magic happens.

And what is this magic I hear you ask? Well I don’t know what it is, but except it brings a feeling of joy. A place where you are in a world of imagination, on the cusp of discovery and where you sometimes find gold.

Perhaps we should call it fools gold, because once you discover it, it has gone again and that can never be repeated in the same way, but it then it does return in another, later place, often in one you are least expecting. And at that moment its like you’ve been kissed with delight and often a response of laughter. One more note about improv is that the magic it can be found in watching others find their own gold and also it is often found in collaboration with others.

One area I have had a similar experience is working with clay, in which out of something formless something emerges and often almost without intention and impersonally. It's as if we are responding to the clay in some symbiotic dance between creator and potential where on some occasions there is some magical conclusion, and also sometimes not.

So there is something more generally to be said about being in touch with this creative edge and being in the moment and it being impersonal.

Improv is one place I can find this, but creativity in any form can be the edge we need. To be present, playful and enquiring allows us to drop the fa├žade that we are in charge of this manifesting present, we are a part of the play but not in charge of the script, as it is continually unfolding before us. At this edge perhaps we feel most in touch with the creative spirit within us and creativity around us, and it feels right and we feel good and we want more.

So why improv?  
I think it’s about the creative magic, of how you lose yourself in the present, and sometimes out of it comes a real present. For which I say thank you please come again. And I do.

By Chris 

Friday, 4 January 2019

5 awesome tips for being bold onstage

Every improviser seeks to be better at improv. One way is to just be bolder onstage. Nonetheless, is that easy to achieve? What does that really mean? If we ignore the constant invention, re-invention of categorising people (which is fun and interesting to a point - it is just not practical), we can look at what skills and attitudes gain results. Here are my five tips to being bold onstage, and they are not about being big, broad-stroke characters (you can do all sorts of improv using these).

1. See everything (that you have currently managed, and see what else you wish to push to notice next)

If you notice it, then you'll use it. This gives an appearance of making choices, when the reality is that you've increased the amount of what you get point out. You can use everything; this will be either internally or explicitly. You get to directly reference what you have observed, heard or felt in response in the scene, or you can internalise these. It depends what it is, but you will seem bold as a performer.

No one is ever aware of everything. It's fundamentally why improv is endless. There's no end to what you could be aware of and you'll never be always aware of the same stuff. Do what you do, seek to notice more.

Bold by using it. This defeats the problem mentioned in the introduction, boldness is not being brutal in performance approach. A gentle improviser may be more open; a careful improviser will access more that is around them and inside themselves. These make you bolder, as you have more to use.

2. Trust yourself 

The only difference between experienced and beginner is trust and confidence in themselves and others. This means that you must find a place in yourself where you know you can do all what you want to do now. To use a Razowski-ism, if you know you want something, you have already found it. 

You are enough. You can do all you want to do currently, the way that you know it. I have left people to do what they do, and it turns out interesting. I would not say that it suits me, but I am clogged up with experiences in improv and theatre - it seems illogical in design what they wanted to do. However, if people want to be self-taught, it is important to stay out their way (to some extent). This exclaims that you will do what you do, but the best effect from it comes from trusting that you will deliver what you want to. You are all you need to be to perform your improv.

3. Use sustainable physicality 

The connotation about being bold brings up physical presence onstage. If you are comfortable in yourself, then you will hold stage presence anyway. However, in characters, you get to use a physicality that distinguishes one person you find from another.

When finding these characters, being open to exactly what you do will enable the character to be defined. Each character needs to be sustainable. You must be able to keep this going. I remember an early performance of my own back in 2008 where I explored the essence of Decon opening in a highly-structured and silly longform format, ‘The Flurry of Florence’. It was theatre with set, props and two actors. In the premiere of the production, I did not find a sustainable voice; I think the character I was going to be started Australian (I don’t promote using accents). The accent disappeared. Lets not let your characters drop; if you physicalise something, stick with it. A person is who they are through how they are.

4. Have a specific (and personally memorable) voice

This is alike the last, but on vocally finding your character. Obviously, as the anecdote in the last one determines, it must be sustainable. However, more importantly, it must hold details within it. Notice the specific elements of what you are doing. If you are not a voice person, don’t try to be. Maybe one day you will be, but the voice a character has needs to be personally memorable. Be in the right show for this to work for you, too.

The show you choose to be in will ask certain stuff from you. A person with a bad back, should not be in a physical theatre piece, and a person with less voice capabilities should not do a set that asks them to create through a wide vocal change.

5. Try out performing like someone else would - get away from your own defaults and nail down how someone else would adopt a persona

On the contrary, we do not want improvisers staying safe, as that makes your improv pointless. It was McDermott that said (in person, no reference to when) that improv requires risk, otherwise the purpose of using improvisation is lost. Just devise or write, in which case. We all have defaults we go to in improv, either consciously (I hope not) and subconsciously. Don’t be safe, take the risks that makes the theatre feel alive and present with this audience.

You can perform like someone else. Not for a set, but for a character, improvise like someone else would. Adopt a persona of them performing this character you are finding. It will break the boundaries of how you perform; it would also ensure that, through total embodiment, you will achieve something vastly different that usual.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Top 5 Improv Moments of 2018

It is the end of 2018, so what has been a delight of the year? Here are 5 of the great moments of my year in improv.

1. North coast residual energy

I like musical improv, but something has been missing for a number of years. I was seeking something and wished to explore. However, I had not the time or the people. Thus, I was left in the same zone, but definitely missed it. This year saw me give into wanting musical improv in my life again and I grabbed the given opportunity by Piotr to engage in North Coast. I have written this before, but I shall repeat; I wanted to take all their classes a few years ago: freestyle rap, looping and beatboxing. Therefore, this opportunity was something I had to jump at, regardless of my own qualms with musical improv. 

Freestyle rapping is fun, but I tripped a lot in the weekend with North Coast. Failing led me to thinking about my limitations, the results of which can be read on this blog (link). I spent a weekend with wonderful, lovely people and engaged in something I had wanted to for a number of years. 

Since the class, I have made housemates do freestyle on three social media platforms in one drink-fuelled night (for me). It was meant to be frivolous and fun, even if just for me. It was. We shared both the success and failure of freestyling for an audience. There will be more freestyle, but perhaps designed with less of the ‘failure’ and more stupidity in flow - we shall see. 

2. Clown session in Greece

It was immense, the pleasure that comes from clown. I taught three workshops in the Mount Olymprov festival this year, which, in its own right, was a great experience. It is a fantastic festival. So many wonderful humans in the festival that I could connect with and through the happenstance of improv. The clowns developed through my touring class: ‘Clown for your Improv’. 

There were plenty of beautiful, hilarious moments in the day. However, something that highlights the clear connection of clown is the times when a ridiculous thing creates consistent laughs: A simple, yet somehow silly, leg move gained so much laughter! 

Overall, the session was splendid, as with teaching clown, I got to see people getting into who they are, playing and working through their personal blocks. During this year, I have had the opportunity to explore different capabilities and skills with students of mine. They all point out what is fundamental in using clown in your improv: give in to it all. 

In the session in Greece, we explored pathetic clown too. It was a great insight into theatre. By removing the laughs and not the clown, we get a deeper emotional connection to the scene being created in the moment. Clowns can offer us connection, emotionally intense realities, and those simple clown laughs. 

3. London chat with improv loves 

I went to a improv networking event. It was the summer picnic, but it rained. I arrived at Hyde Park, then walked about getting more wet per step. I was a little early, so basically played the game of guess what pub we were going to. I was wrong a number of times. However, the location was put online and I dashed over as quick as I could.

The bar was spotted with only improvisers. As the event went on, there were so many people of the improv scene in London that I adore. We began with some board games that I had not heard of before. The crazy simple card game that is 1-20 with cards and added, extra complications. Awesome game. Eventually, as we would, we added in someone being blind to their own cards. Then I played it with a small collection blind by myself. I got 4 out of the 5 cards correct! I think. 

Seeing people on such sparse occasions makes you think about the past and into nostalgia; however, this whole blog post is nostalgic. In summary, I loved to chat to the new people, those with similar mindsets, and those that have podcasts. 

A lot of improv love goes to all those I chatted to on that night. 

4. ‘Triptych’ in Basingstoke improv weekend class was a phenomenal output 

If you want to know what can come from improv, then seeing these two sets would have opened your mind. In a weekend class I ran in Basingstoke this year, I got the participants to perform two sets of what retrospectively has been called ‘Triptych’. I first used the structure of this format in Helsinki, Finland. I wished for the performers to explore their own capacity. It was great then, as they loved doing dramatic improv. However, in my local classes, it is useful to use it (if it seems advisable) in my level two course, ‘Efficiency in Scenework’. 

The outcome of the sets in Basingstoke was theatre that had depth and purpose. As any ‘correct’ theatre-maker can tell you, we create with meaning and purpose. Why are you asking someone to watch this? Why is it important to put on? Whether or not you are putting up Theatresports or this Triptych form, we still use the time and space to offer something of value to our audiences. Whatever we make, we seek theatre, comedic or not (the disclaimer must be that it may not always be hugely poignant). 

In the class, in ‘Triptych’, the proposal of structure is so little when you have actors present such magic before your eyes. They truly explored the greater possibilities of creating live theatre before an audience using themselves fully. 

5. Improvised Shakespeare Company at Soho Theatre 

I'm glad to have gone to see this company. The likelihood of seeing them is less so when living in the UK. I trained in the late-improv venue in Hollywood, so did not see them when in the States. Prior to that, I was in Chicago in 2007, so with limited time and know-how back then, I missed the opportunity. I couldn’t tell you who I saw when there then, anyway. I believe the set I almost recall in iO ended very meta - but I loved that. I think I must have seen Mike O’Brien in Second City foyer with a miserable expression, ignoring me; I was aimlessly excited and smiling at him. I went to the University of Chicago - Compass link - and looked up where I should go on their computers. Anyway, I saw Improvised Shakespeare Company many many years later: this year. 

Soho theatre is a wonderful venue, especially for seeing great names in improv. If you are an American improv company with decades to your name and a level of improv fame, then Soho Theatre is your venue. You get to charge four times as much as usual (dependent on who you compare the cost to) and a good run in a lovely space. 

Their production was fun and Shakespearean. There isn’t much to say about it, except I just liked the experience; I like going to that theatre, I like being able to see these acts, and I liked what they did. It made me laugh, which doesn’t happen so much with improv nowadays. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The ‘Improv And’ Series: Anxiety

In this series of ‘Improv And’ blogs, I shall be quickly discussing the use of improv for certain diagnoses and other uses. For this posting, the topic is anxiety. This is close to my research and an important topic in modern society.


Picture from uofmhealth

Anxiety can be diagnosed in various ways, this includes Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and more. These all have differing criteria for being labelled with, which you can look at on the NHS website. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), as well all of them, impact life in a major way. SAD makes social situations become an overwhelming fearful circumstance. As it affects everyday activities, relationships and people’s self-confidence, there is need to find a solution. What is also the case is that many people feel anxious and may not be diagnosable, but still require help. There are many remedies that are offered. Some people found improv comedy to be beneficial. 

The research suggests that using improv comedy could be an effective intervention. When we improvise, the basic requirement of the participants are that they support one and another. This equates to a room full of people that are being non-judgmental and accepting. A social situation, which includes everyone knowing that others are in the same position, means that no one will be forming negative perceptions on anyone - not that this would occur in any other group, anyway. Also, improv forms communities. These communities and new friendships build trust in the participants and create long-lasting relationships that help sustain positivity and a supportive group. Furthermore, the fact that we do comedy, create funny moments, means that we gain laughter from watching and participating. This laughter leads to catharsis and can notably be healing. A group of people laughing together forms stronger bonds and builds trust once more. 

It is important to state that improv comedy is not therapy and should not be used like it is. The advice organisations suggest is to attend these classes as well as the therapy that professionals advise. There are programmes that are run that use improv and therapy in one intervention; these are usually run by therapists that are keen to bring the value of improv to anxious people. In some cases, improv has out-performed therapy. For example, an intervention that mixed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and improv, gained the same results in a shorter time. This was found to be better through the use of externalisation (an outward focus) as it gives a positive affect. 

Overall, the benefits of improv could be: 

  • Being with supportive and non-judgmental people; 
  • Forming positive feelings through community-building and new friendships; 
  • And laughter as having catharsis and can be healing.

Monday, 22 October 2018

5 ways to instantly have an engaging improv show without performing ‘better’

How many times have you read that you are not good enough as an improviser? There are countless top tips that will make you the best of the best at performing improv comedy. However, do they work and make you better? It is unlikely that a few words will change why you perform. It is not how you perform that needs addressing (most of the time), as you've sat through all those workshops; you've probably gone to tons of international teachers too.
Their value comes when teaching that other way that you haven't done yet… or digging deeper into that field of improv, which you currently desire greatly. Subsequently, this post is not about those still developing into their interest in a specific realm of improv comedy. Although, you are enough too: This is true even when developing, as you're enough to do what form you know (in the way you know it). In any case, there is more to your improv than you.
The top tips of today are about what can be done without addressing your acumen at acting funnily, or performing in general.

  1. Use theatrical lighting

The comedic theatre, or dramatic for some, that you present is a kind of theatre that people watch. Therefore, to make it engaging and the best tip of these, use lighting effectively. A simple white wash state across the stage is not a dynamic and interesting image to look at. The technician of the theatre is talented and can be spontaneous. If you let them play with you and create the atmosphere of the scene through striking visuals, then your production will immediately become brilliant.
If you wish to work out why this is true, find that reoccurring blog bit that asks you to state whether the group photo is a ska band promotional photo or an improv group. Nonetheless, the real topic is not on promotional photos (even though the use of them are advocated too). Have a look at what photos are thrilling to see of general scripted theatre and compare then to captured improvised theatre. The expectation is that improvised theatre misses what those glorious lamps create for the audience. It is a generalisation that does not fit every improv comedy production that has ever been made, but the point being made is what is being endorsed.   

  1. Have musicians

It is obvious that if adding great imagery to your work is useful, then putting in sound too would be wise. Using multiple musicians for a strong, textured, sound adds quality to the production by bringing about an atmosphere. The American history or modern improv comedy used pianists to add to their sets, which worked well. In the modern world, some use electronic music. Either way, the additional sound supports the improvised scenes. For example, a horror film without the music and sounds behind the action would not be scary at all. Onstage, a strong silence is stronger when there has been sound. The musician can set so much about the scene, including scenic details as well as the ambiance.
The contradiction to this is that it must fit the production being offered. This only means using the right musicians. The other issue is that musicians aren't always available and costly. There was one production that used a odd instrument as the sole music to the production and the guy ran off with most of the profit of the run… and didn't really do a lot. Unfortunate, but the point to take is to use the right instruments and reputable musicians. In that production, it was a random find that was gambled on. Create the work, don't let it create you: as the fools’ world suggests.

  1. Use appropriate staging and sets

When you enter a theatre, what do you see? The auditorium might be gorgeous and stimulating the brain. However, if you're not in an old or fancily designed space, then you will need to alter what else your audience sees. They look at the stage. What does that tell them that is relevant to your production? You could have a full-scale set, if that's the design of the show, or something more simple… and the word keeps appearing… an atmosphere. There is no reason to not add something for your audience to get intrigued by to start with. They came to see your production, you might as well congratulate them on doing so by giving them a night to remember.

  1. Have an audience that came for what you are presenting (less ambiguity)

Do you know what production you're performing? Will the audience, which may love that production, be aware what it is? It seems simple to say, but how frequently do improv comedy companies set the audience in the right frame for their events? The answer, even for someone who is well aware of such, is not often and rarely. This is also on the thought to create your work, the ‘why perform’.
Many people rely on that marketable gimmick that alludes to what they are performing to sell their tickets. It works, obviously. A sustainable production on the back of a well understood genre, famed cultural classic or person will enable the new spectator to improv to instantly feel acquainted. However, there are a lot of them that exist, and they are not all the same. How do production companies frame their version of Hamlet? Audiences mostly know what the play is, but if you are setting it in 1930s with WW2 - I am certain (not only due to recently hearing about something similar) that they want to know. The purist Shakespeare fans will not want to come to be disappointed. This is the same for improv purists with what you may be doing with your productions.
Therefore, sell your production and not just the gimmick. Furthermore, do this so as to get your audience that you deserve and who would love to see your production. Know what you are selling and tell people what it is and not a vague overview of what a Harold is. Of course, everyone has done it and probably will slip into doing so still; however, let’s try to be clear.

  1. Stop clenching the buttocks about achieving the form

Once you have sold the production, you must perform it… however, there is little to nothing worse that a bunch improvisers trying to do their production. The form is just the ‘house you shit in’ (as per Messing; the year I first heard her say this is forgotten, otherwise I would state it here). Hence, the need to not be overly concerned with it. Leave the process of building and guiding your production to your director, or coach (the person in the audience, hopefully) watching you. On numerous occasions, there have been shows that did not meet the performer’s desires - this gets in your way: it is a greater problem when you are performing and the director and/or producer and have so much hope and aspiration for the production.
So, remember that you are onstage to improvise: improvise first and let the form exist based on rehearsal and not mental capacity to recall what you ‘should’ be doing. No one wants to see you ‘should on yourself’ (Razowsky; I am sure I first heard this from him before meeting in person).

The obvious problem with all of these tips is that you may not have the facilities or resources to do them. On the other hand, you can manage something. A small stage can still be lit well. A empty room above a pub can have an audience knowing what they have come to see. Fundamentally, it has to fit your event. If these don't work due to your audience type, your production, then the reality is that all the above are being used the way your production requires. Engage in your art and theatre with your audience, in the way you design it. Lastly, remember that not all of your improv can be improvised.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Culture of the city

There is improv comedy and theatre in many towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The few that shall be included in this discussion are ones that have a personal connection. We can question how much the culture of the city affects the art, the theatre and how we improvise. The ever-growing community in these local areas bring themselves, there background and their surroundings. There shall be four towns or cities that shall be investigated.



In Canterbury, Kent, improv comedy began many years ago. It has had a lot of comedy and improv, specifically, historically. Noise Next Door, who tour the UK stand-up comedy venues performing hilarious improv, started their careers in Canterbury. There has been improv in schools in Kent due to the work of such people as Lucy Fennell. Similarly, there has been some in the universities too. 

Students still have improv comedy. Nowadays, it is solely focused on doing improv. The growth in the group has developed splendidly. Not only do they perform, or have done, long-form (30 minute non-linear, thematic productions or improvised plays), but they have been a member of Theatresports (iTi; short-form competitive full-scale evening of a myriad of emotional theatre that is very funny). 

What is the impact on the theatre created from the culture of Canterbury? It would be thought that what people must want from their art is improvised Chaucer or other literary-based creation. However, with a student population in the improv community, there are younger politics involved, as well as their sensibilities. Nonetheless, that relatability and human nature is still at the core of the comedy in Canterbury. From the funny of love to the hysterics behind rivalry in the office, Kent seems to offer a wide variety of laughter.  

The local community can once more engage in improv comedy with the Canterbury Improv classes. There are weekly drop-in classes and weekend intensive courses. 



In Basingstoke, Hampshire, the arts world is quite small, and yet the improv comedy community is growing. There are two theatres that are now one organisation, and one company that have their own arts venue near the top of town. Nonetheless, this does not affect the desire for comedy in Basingstoke. 

Hampshire, in general, has had some fantastic improv. In Havant, near Portsmouth, there was a theatre company that ran improv productions and classes. Unfortunately, they have stopped now. The wonderful and aforementioned lady, now working in Southampton, has been teaching improv in a school that has performed recently. Also in Southampton, the students there run comedy events that include improv. So Hampshire seems fertile for more improv. 

Basingstoke is a commuter town, so it can be believed. There is a lot of business and computer-related occupations, and holistic therapy too. The impact of this on the comedy and theatre created seems to be fairly minimal. It could be the teaching that has been provided, but there is silliness, with physical comedy, and once more a human connectedness to what drives people to laugh. 

The local community in Hampshire can take advantage of the Basingstoke Improv weekend intensive classes that occur. Likewise, the improv comedy nights that happen may continue, so you can see performances and chuckle thoroughly.  



In Cardiff, Wales, the history of improv has a fair amount of lineage. Rob Brydon, for example, although he should be mentioned in the next city - due to it being group in Bath. There have been a number of groups in the past, anyway. Cardiff loves its comedy. There is a strong focus on stand-up comedy, with some sketch. 

There is not a lot of improv comedy in Wales, overall, but the reoccurrence of it says a lot. Wales lusts for more. It is a great principality for wonderful theatre. Amazing circus, clown and musical productions. Specifically in Cardiff, this description still works, as it has NoFit State circus and Hijinx Theatre - and many more. 

Cardiff loves its weekends and rugby. The impact on improv is more likely, however, to come from the theatre practices. The prospective faster-pace of stand-up seems to drive those that dabble to short-form games - not that long-form cannot be fast (it can be faster, more often). 

The wider community, and the local, can benefit from the Cardiff Impro weekend classes that are run in the capital city of Wales: Cardiff. The potential for monthly improv comedy nights with a variety of productions is available. Hopefully, Chapter Arts centre shall host these when all the puzzle pieces are aligned. 



Lastly, Bristol has a vast amount of improv comedy and theatre now. This is many thanks to the graduates of the university there. Specifically, it is thanks to one man: Andy Yeoh. He is a remarkable guy and has formed the foundations of the community there so that the growth can be exponential. Every few years, the boom happens and there are more possibilities. There has been improv there for many years, not just from the university, as there are theatre companies that do improvise and nearby, in Bath, there was the group with Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones. That was lead by Paul Z Jackson (from the Applied Improvisation Network, these days).

Bristol has a lot of arts. The glorious dancers, circus, clown, fools, magicians, musicians... The weekly events that no one can keep up with is why Bristol is an amazing city to live in. The impact on the improv there must be true. Nonetheless, the funny does come from the human qualities; whether they are presented through a more clown perspective or emotional theatricality, they are accessible. 

The local community have the weekend intensive classes to support their development and drive the improv comedy and theatre scene into a wider range of production styles. We seek to connect, we wish to play. 



Let’s find the funny together!



www.nathanimprov.com/p/local.html



#findthefunnytogether

Thursday, 21 September 2017

University Improv Comedy Society Manual book on Amazon

Books! Books! Books!

From the first to the second, not yet the third... My first book published can be found on Amazon. My second is about to begin its process from mind to paper. As it must be clear enough, I have an interest in autism. The next book will be about the autism spectrum conditions. After completing a master's degree on autism, I am most certainly eager to write more! I am looking forward to beginning the writing for it. I have a publisher in mind for this one. I will keep focused on completing a high-quality book, then submit my next masterpiece.

The first book, University Improv Comedy Society Manual, had a long process of looking at my teaching discoveries and then adapting it to suit universities or colleges. As the blurb states, the curriculum works for the limited time that students have each year. It helps guide students through the needs of scenic improv comedy art forms and give them the necessary chance to continue the society further on. Once complete, the students will be highly talented in the general improv comedy world.
So much joy can happen in society groups. The experience can really help in life and academia, as Alex Newson writes about in the book. I thoroughly enjoy his solo show that popped into existence during my year with that society. There are a lot of funny times and crazy wonderful moments that can occur in improv, in hanging out together and touring around to gigs; I advocate it a lot, so get the book and begin your improv comedy society!

This one time, at improv comedy soc, I found a new way into a trance state using the students' focus. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Master and Veterans

It is nice to be inspired to write an article. It is equally as nice to note the hypocrisy of the articles. In this, the topic shall be what has been written against previously. There are terms in improv that are not productive; common agreed terms that are not useful are 'should' or 'supposed to', because they put pressure and impossible for improv has definites: Obviously nothing has to happen, it is improvised. Nonetheless, the terms that this discusses and have a long-lastingly dislike for are master and veteran. The following will discuss, in a less referenced level than usual, the reasons that link to the previously used words.

Words! In improvisation, the training provides a freedom; it gives opportunity to explore yourself and your language (specifically in context of this article). The words that get uttered are the greatest, even if they are not. Improvisers build on whatever is said and done. After improving from the basics, further courses could well expand this into wider awareness of tone, phrasing and physical speech (any communication that is physical). Essentially, as improvisers that are building more experience and trust in ourselves and each other, people then get to own their words. Therefore, the word improv means something exact. In the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015), the definition of improvise is clear, “Create and perform … spontaneously or without preparation.” However, it also states for improvisation (ibid.), “The action of improvising”. The more appropriate of these definitions that works for the people in the art form is the one for 'improvising'. Due to one needing to refer to the other, as defined by O.E.D it is required that improvisation is in action of something in order to improvise. Therefore, that 'something' can be any action, anything. The word improvisation is a noun, a thing, and the definition relates purely to the action. Therefore, it is fair to suggest that improv is not a thing, but a doing of a thing. Another commonly agreed part of defining improv is by observing that it is all in process. All of humanity, and others, are in process: Our lives are improvised and are a process of birth to death (if not birth to death, then a to b). Improv is not just doing scenes or group games, or any other limited perception. To see further than this we can look at Forced Entertainment, Improbable, Fluxx, Geese Theatre Company and no doubt more.

Improv is an action and not the form. A form is seen to be, “The visible shape or configuration of something.” (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015) Therefore, the form of improvisation can be scenic, dance, music, art, clown, fool, mask; however, then that is looking more into the subgenre of ‘scenic’, which is fact a subgenre of theatre. It is possible to improvise anything. Even scriptwriting is based in improvisation. A writer could have learnt and use as much structure as the person requires, but in the end the idea has to spontaneously come from somewhere. Once more, that seems a little too pedantic to continue this dissection with. Other verbs have form. For example, walk; when we walk we can walk in various shapes and configurations; it is possible to be in the form of a catwalk. This form has various conventions that can require the way you complete your verb, walking, can be restricted. Similarly, another verb is run; in this action we can run in the form of 100 metres or a cross country race. This is the exact same as improvising, as the forms we can use are numerous.
A master of an activity, skill or area of study has its acknowledged definitions and uses. The common understanding of a master is a person that has the most knowledge on the topic in the room. Therefore, every time one steps into a space, a survey would need to be taken to determine who the master is in that moment. The statement is hyperbolic; however it makes a sensible comment on the use of the term. In accordance to this, it is not wise to call oneself a master, because one cannot know that for sure. On the other hand, The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states the definition as “a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.” This offers a looser use of the term; anyone could be a master in one given location. Nonetheless, for various areas of expertise a master may not well be very skilled. When does one know that they are skilled? It is subjective, as one person's mastered skillset is another's student development.

To use these ideas in more of a context, improv being a process and not a thing means that being skilled at doing so is not possible. Can one master life? Life is also a process. To claim that an improviser has mastered the art form would be stating that they stopped improvising, alike stopped living; no one can currently know if the dead died due to their mastership. Improv is built on risk and change, or purely the 'not knowing'. Phelim McDermott (McDermott, 2008) once said, and this is paraphrased, that if improvisers stop taking the risk and do what they generally do, then they should stop improvising. There is no point in performing the art form if you are no longer learning and discovering because it is visible to the audience. Therefore, not being able to use the term master for improv, as it is subjective anyway, could allow people to rephrase the word's use. An improviser who is skilled at what they do could say that they are a master of what they do. This makes more sense. However, if improvisers master themselves, then we generally call this using their defaults. Using one's defaults is not seen as a positive.

Likewise, to look at the term veteran, The Oxford Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states, “A person who has had long experience in a particular field” and it must be mentioned that the other definition is the major connotation that was known. To be “An ex-member of the armed forces” seemed like stating that improv is a battle field. Improv is not the art form where we serve our country. It is important to own this ridiculousness. On the otherhand, an improviser who has had a long experience onstage improvising could be anyone. Once more, this term holds a lot of subjectivity. How long is a long experience? There is no answer. Even moreso, someone new to the art form can have more and better insight into the art form than a 'veteran'. Purely out of not knowing the teachings, the person can see clearer as they have nothing to obscure their view. Fundamentally, to use the term on oneself seems like ego. People have them, for sure, but it is not useful.

Hierarchy in improv seems pointless. Anyone can make a comment that holds value, which happens; therefore being a master or veteran is overvalued. Inside the structure that improv generally has around the world, teachers need to offer their students confidence. Along with being a teacher, ego would enter as segment of their trusting atmosphere. Contrastingly, training can hinder and ruin the untainted person when they enter improv. It is possible to look around and see untrained improvisers doing the job. In Bristol there has been various untrained improvisers that have gotten onstage and had an easier or more relaxed time than people that trained and still struggle.

In conclusion, the terms are unproductive. Improvisation is a process and being a master of it would merely determine that person as having stopped improvising. One can only master one's own improvisation and then be a default and predictable, offering the same as usual; this is called devising, therefore. Similarly, being a veteran is subjective. An improviser who needs to be a veteran wants their ego to inflate. Improvisation requires us to be equal, as anyone can give insight anyway.

Bibliogrpahy

McDermott, P. (2008). Cooking Chaos.
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvisation - definition of improvisation in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvisation [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvise - definition of improvise in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvise [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). master - definition of master in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/master [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). veteran - definition of veteran in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/veteran [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). form - definition of form in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/form [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].

Monday, 17 November 2014

So Razowsky: Economic Words

This continues the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. Having spent some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of wonderful results. However, unlike the previous articles, this one shall be aspects that tie tightly with his thoughts. On the podcast, “ADD Comedy with David Razowsky and Ian Foley,” (Razowsky, 2014) the topic of words comes up. In previous writings this has been discussed, although not precisely on the economy of words. Razowsky believes that words are powerful and has various thinkings about the area of discussion that shall be explored. Economic words are an enabler for people.
The exaggerated end, and a bit that appeared in conversation on the podcast, of being economic with words is the concept that people die after x amount of words. The idea is that anyone that talks aimlessly or pointlessly will be taking up their life quota of words. Razowsky speaks about how someone driving around chatting a lot may just suddenly die mid-sentence. The overall message that this can offer is summed up by Steve Job's (News.stanford.edu, 2014), “Your time is limited, so don't waste it... .” Words will stop at some point, maybe not the mystical cause of the definite end, but it shall all stop. Treating words like they matter is important; be concise with your words.
Every word matters. To begin with writers, Melissa Donovan states, “Finding the right word can breathe life into an otherwise lifeless sentence. When we choose words carefully, our writing is clearer and more meaningful.” (Donovan, 2014) Training ourselves to become clearer and more meaningful is a productive task. In comedy, someone once said to put the funny word on the end of the sentence. Obviously that would make sense, as the laugh in the middle will stop the sentence. Even with a statement that is deemed funny; the laugh needs a spark, an end term or conclusive moment to instigate it. Annie Binns (2008) describes it as “...applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment.” Seeking out the best wording is a practice and can be beneficial to general communication.
The term eloquent exists for a reason. From the late fourteenth century Old French eloquent and Latin eloquentem (Etymonline.com, 2014), which means to have the faculty of speech. The act to truly be heard, understood and cause purpose comes from having the capacity to speak. Therefore, being mindful of what is being said will ensure the words found are the best suited to the purpose of what is being communicated.
“Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.” (Biblesociety.org.uk, 2014)
Following on, the proverb given in the Good News Bible offers a further development on the mindful ideal. Words matter and can hurt. The consequence of what you say shall last in memories. Our memories do not help this either. As Kantor created plays about, memories are forever dying (Kantor, 1990). Northwestern medicine proves this:
“Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time.” (Paul, 2012)
As our brains betray us and transform our memories, as Ian Chant (2012) mentions, we will deepen the origin feeling about what someone has said or may have said. A good reason to communicate clearly.
Stopping a sentence mid-sentence can also embody the whole sentence. As long as the half sentence holds the complete meaning... Another thought Razowsky (2014) played a bit about was being able to stop mid-sentence and still be understood. Completing the communication of the sentence being spoken without finishing the sentence can be possible. It is clearly doubtful in writing; however it is a reduced array of tools used in this medium. Through using the listener against themselves, it is viable to make the person assume the rest of the sentence. In embodying the whole meaning in half the sentence the speaker is creating their point with the minimal effort. This does happen in reality, but it goes unnoticed due to being in friendships or with people that know each other well. Something unsaid could be communicated that can also happen in these circumstances. However, when speaking we desire clarity.
Say what is meant. Clearly it is important to be mindful of what is being said and be clear. Subtlety is prone to obvious interpretation. All language is, but when someone is only hinting at the meaning, the problems arise. As improvisers such use of subtleties will ensure the scene partner more work. Improvisation is not work, it is play. Therefore, the contradictions prevail the point that improvisation requests clear meanings. Say what you mean and the other improviser shall be in a better position to react and respond. Often improvisers 'waffle'. It is a tedious trait that is sometimes taught due to the need to get a lot of detail out at the top of the scene. Spolin's theories on using the 'who, 'what' and 'where' are a useful training tool that will capacitate the scene. A frequent error in teaching is that these are spoken. Physicality beats words. As Jeff Thompson (2011) breaks the old percentages of communication down to the reality; Thompson recapitulation states seven percent of certain situations are the words themselves. Fifty-five percent is body language, which means the details of an improvisers scene are best from non-verbal creation. It also does not bore the audience with 'waffle' at the top of a scene. Johnstone's theory of 'nothing, nothing, something' (Johnstone, 2009) asks the actors to do nothing until that something organically arises. Furthermore, the statement, “...I mean...” is another attribute that improvisers can be prone to develop. Similarly to the 'waffle' issue, this one has been available to read about and hear on podcasts and similar; however, only recently has it been able to witnessed locally. The need to use the phrase “...I mean...” means that the improviser is not endeavouring to be clear. Improvisers definitely wish to portray people onstage, but in everyday life it is not possible to hear it as much as onstage. The potential reason to why this has arrived is the judgement or expectation that is linked to playing in a more complicated manner. Certain methods may put performers into thinking and due to that, they talk without being mindful of what they are saying. Beat the issues by purely saying what you mean.
To be mindful of what we say is important onstage. Talking too much maybe leads to death. If we do have x numbers of words before that moment, then we better be careful; live and play like that is true and real and the words will always be clearer. In doing so we find that the words matter more and we don't just say something for the sake of saying something. Perhaps even getting to a point where we can stop mid-sentence and have a complete … So mean what you say.
Bibliography

Biblesociety.org.uk, (2014). Bible Society - GNB Proverbs 13. [online] Available at: http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/the-bible/search-the-bible/GNB/Prov/13/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Binns, A. (2008). The Secret of Writing Funny. [online] Write to Done. Available at: http://writetodone.com/how-to-write-funny/ [Accessed 17 Nov. 2014].
Chant, I. (2012). [online] Themarysue.com. Available at: http://www.themarysue.com/memory-distortion-in-brain/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Donovan, M. (2014). Writing Tips: Every Word Matters | Writing Forward. [online] Writingforward.com. Available at: http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/writing-tips-every-word-matters [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Etymonline.com, (2014). Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=eloquent [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Johnstone, K. (2009). Impro.
Kantor, T. (1990). Wielopole/Wielopole. London: M. Boyars.
News.stanford.edu, (2014). Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005). [online] Available at: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Paul, M. (2012). Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Northwestern University News. [online] Northwestern.edu. Available at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/09/your-memory-is-like-the-telephone-game.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014). A.D.D. Comedy. [online] Addcomedy.com. Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Thompson, J. (2011). Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game?. [online] Psychologytoday.com. Available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].

Monday, 7 April 2014

Not So Razowsky Series: Try

Continuing the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. I spent some immense moments with the man that has led to a lot of wonderful results. I perform based on his teachings, I teach through some of his thoughts and proclaim the tellings that he once told in conversations to many improvisers. Nonetheless, not all of what I heard from the wonderful man I agree with, and this is what the series shall be about. I get to write these with consent to the concept of the series too. The topic at hand is going to be how Razowsky removes the term try. Razowsky, and many others, believe that we do not try in improvisation, we just do. I preach just do, except I also like the term try.

The history of what happens when Razowsky hears the term try goes back to how he was taught too. In 'Second to None,' 2009, in an interview with Scott Adsit, the answer that is provided is how Second City has taught them how improvisers do not try when they get onstage. Instead of trying to do something, they just do it. In Razowksky's podcast, 'A.D.D. Comedy' (2014), it is a frequent occurrence that the guest is stopped on their phrasing and questioned about if they really try, or another word that is not thought possible by Razowksky. Most times the guest gives into the idea that no one ever tries, you either do or don't. The term try also has its history.

try (v.) c.1300, "examine judiciously, sit in judgment of," from Anglo-French trier (late 13c.), from Old French trier "to pick out, cull" (12c.), from Gallo-Romance *triare, of unknown origin. The ground sense is "separate out (the good) by examination." Meaning "to test" is first recorded mid-14c.; that of "attempt to do" is from early 14c. Sense of "to subject to some strain" (of patience, endurance, etc.) is recorded from 1530s. Trying "distressing" is first attested 1718. To try (something) on for size in the figurative sense is recorded from 1956. (Etymonline, 2014)

Trying has been around for quite some time. The ability to test something out, like the common educational lesson that happens for the young in their schooling careers of trial and error, is an important aspect of life. Everybody in their everyday lives has to attempt to do some task or a method. It is plausible for someone to try to get to work today, as they will only know if they do or don't when they have completed the task with some result. In the UK, we are hindered considerably by the weather to an ever increasing eventuality that poor conditions stops most people doing anything. In the past few years, the snow has closed bridges, stopped workers traveling, reduced the days of school in a given winter term and so on and so forth. In the UK, for unknown reasons, the preparation for such affairs is non-existent. Therefore, in the days of snow or more recent, floods, we cannot be certain. Hence the use and existence of the term try.

Try is not a word that depicts success or failure, it is not a term to associate with a black or white point of view. Try is a process and to attempt to do an activity requires an open mind about its prospects. The Centre for Clinical Intervention (2007) state, “One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thinking styles as an automatic habit...One of these thinking styles is called 'black & white thinking'.” (p. 1) Furthermore, the idea that without trying, you are left with this way of only having the one extreme or the other. Anxiety BC in 'Thinking Traps' (2013) also progress this by explaining the need to a more real and moderate response. In life we encounter a lot, and most of these are never just one thing; it is often the case that whatever is found is a mix and a merge of complexity. A human can feel a whole web of emotions that cannot be put down to one word. Likewise, a human can experience more than just the success of what they want or the failure.

People seek a simpler life. It is a complex world that we live in; from the growing contradiction, melding of the bourgeoisie and the ruling classes historically to the present day not much has changed (Harman, 2008). People are complicated; it can be overheard frequently that it is desired to have a simpler life, or that he or she doesn't understand me. So much that surround us is complicated, from the development of new words that have been popularised and then accredited into a dictionary, ruining the old game of Scrabble for many (or making it easier for others), to the unchanged and complex needs of the individuals in the human race. In the action to seek a simple existence, we try; this is an indefinite journey.

Trying, in comparison to success or failure, is like aiming for perfection. No one is perfect, it does not exist. One person may deem something perfect, but it is perspecitvely so only. In Hewitt and Flett et al (2003), the problem that this causes can be the psychological distress of regulating self-esteem. Aiming high and setting expectations at a 'challenge' rate (Petty, 2011) for that perfection is a positive and opening sensation that the target holds. It allows us to try to be the best we can. We cannot be perfect or imperfect, as the journey to it remains.

Try is improvisation like people are on a journey through life. The correlation has plenty of connections to what and where try comes into fruition. As people, we do or we don't do, when we do something and instigate the process of the task, we try it out. In any given moment of an attempt, we may be doing well or not. This is not the end of the task, the person that decides the end is the one who started it, based on that person doing or not doing. (An obstacle that is a person of more hierarchical value may attempt to hinder the trial of the unspecified endeavour, but only one person may complete it always.) Everyone improvises their life, life is a journey, so clearly improvisation is one too. Not many improvisers would disagree with that, I think. Mary Scruggs and Michael J. Gellman wrote a whole book on it, 'Process: an improviser's journey' (2008). So every time we enter the stage, we try out or attempt something new: We improvise. The short-term journey we go on together is a live experience of trial and error. With every error we make it great, allowing the process to be hugely positive.

Now it comes to the whether or not removing the word try is truly inline with the positive and open environment that the art form is. A removal of a term is not positive. Negating anyone the opportunity to say a word, like in the podcast aforementioned, is restrictive. So many beautiful languages have died out and become extinct; this is not to do with improv or people enforcing the opinion that the word has little purpose, but it does point out that we lose a lot when we rid ourselves of words. We do not rid ourselves of an offer an improv partner gives onstage. Many do have words they don't like, for example, in improv there is no should have or supposed to; there is in the rest of life. By restricting these, we open up the opportunity of, like Razowsky says, 'getting to' do. By not having to or supposed to, and getting to, we have a positive interaction whereby obligation does not hinder us. In comparison to the removal of trying where we either succeed or fail, with the removal of obligation and offering opportunity, we get a massive contrast.

All references adhere to the relevant copyright laws, whereby given reference to the original source complies with the laws, such as Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

References

Etymonline.com. (2014) Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=try&allowed_in_frame=0 [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Harman, C. (2008) A people's history of the world. London: Verso.
Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Sherry, S. B., Habke, M., Parkin, M., Lam, R. W., Mcmurtry, B., Ediger, E., Fairlie, P. and Stein, M. B. (2003) The interpersonal expression of perfection: perfectionistic self-presentation and psychological distress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (6), p. 1303.
Petty, G. (2011) Have we got Equality and Diversity right?. [e-book] Institute for Learning. pp. 1 - 22. Available through: Have we got Equality and Diversity right? http://www.ifl.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/24552/Have-we-got-Equality-and-Diversity-right_-download.pdf [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014) A.D.D Comedy. [online] Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Scruggs, M. and Gellman, M. J. (2008) Process. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Second to None: 10th Anniversary edition. (2009) [DVD] Chicago: HMS Media.
Thinking Traps (2013) [e-book] New Westminster, Canada: AnxietyBC. pp. 1-2. Available through: Anxiety BC http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/ThinkingTraps.pdf [Accessed: 24 Dec 2013].