Monday, 7 August 2017

Some quick helpful tips on hosting an improv night.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 

Someone just asked me about hosting an improv night and if I had any tips, I thought the following might be helpful

Being yourself, but what self?

Sometimes good hosting is as simple as being yourself. But which self? We are lots of different people so sometimes it's best to pick one that works for you. Here's some options:

- You with your family chatting to the audience like Uncles, Aunts and Cousins.
- You with your friends in a pub being a bit jokey and naughty.
- You at work being formal, assertive and reliable.
- You at a party getting people to dance the conga on a dance floor.
- You in your living room with some friends over getting people drinks and snacks and playing games.

Different angles work for different people. What seems to work best with me is just starting totally normal as myself in the mode of "the audience are in my living room and are my friends and I've got them over to show them some shows that I like" and then I gradually ramp up into "let's get everyone drunk and dancing the conga". If I come on too high energy/try too hard then I just come across as a unlikeable nobhead (two Saturdays ago), but other people can come on break dancing and mexican waving and it seems to work well. 

I think most of all not faking it. Audiences can see when you are lying.

Things to say
There do seem to be certain things to say that help set up an improv night and put the audience in the right frame of mind. Apparently Amy Poehler used to script something similar for the start of UCB shows, and say it even if most people in the audience knew the show already. It's about being clear and not alienating the people new to improv, so they can enjoy it and come back rather than feel they are outcast from an in-joke. Something along the lines of...

Hi everyone welcome to ______!
Everything you are watching tonight is all being improvised and made up on the spot. What you're watching is happening for one night only.

It might be funny, it might be serious, it could be dramatic, sad, exciting, who knows?
It's not stand up and we're not going to be picking on anyone in the front row.
Every now and then the actors might ask for a suggestion to help inspire a new scene or story, so we're going to practice that now.
On the count of 3 shout out your own name, 1 2 3!
One the count of 3 shout out ______ , 1 2 3!

Explaining long-form things

Loads of people don't agree with me on this one, but I've seen lots of long-form shows ruined because the real audience don't understand the concept or technical things. 

Why are people running across the front of the stage?
Why are people tapping people on the shoulder?
Why are people just talking about things by themselves?

These are all questions I've heard audiences ask. 

Recently I saw The Maydays put in a short explanation at the start:

"We're going to say some real life monolgues inspired by suggestion and then improvise some scenes based on what we hear. The monologues are real and honest, the scenes are made up."

This made the audience care about the monologues and listen, rather than thinking they were unfunny stand up. 

Also a quick explanations of edits can be helpful to newcomers:

"If you see someone running across the front of the stage they are cutting to the next scene, jumping through time and space, just like a movie cut".

Again most people seem to not agree with me on this, but I've found it helpful with running a night and I care passionately about the audience new to improv. 

Be efficient
The main job of the improv host is to get the audience in the mood of improv and get the acts on. The audience have come to see the improv not the host, so you don't have to do very long. You're mainly there to keep the night on track and inform.

Thank the audience
At the end thank audience for coming out and for their suggestions and being part of the show.

Audience suggestions
There's a separate blog about getting audinece suggestions at

Hope that helps!

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Hoopla Teachers at The Edinburgh Fringe. Edinburgh Fringe Recommendations 2017.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 
There are more Hoopla teachers than ever performing at Edinburgh this summer in a variety of AMAZING shows! We wish them a healthy happy sunny Edinburgh!
If you'd like to check them out here are all the links to their shows:
James Witt: Brexit The Musical.
Susan Harrison and Lauren Shearing: Showstoppers The Improvised Musical.
Chris Mead, Jenny Rowe and Liz Peters: The Maydays Happily Never After.
Sally Hodgkiss: The Committee.
Jinni Lyons and Jonah Fazel: Bumper Blyton Improvised Adventure.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hoopla's quick guide to improv for beginners.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. 
Courses, shows and improv theatre in London, UK.

Hoopla's next Beginners Improv Courses are starting in early June in London:

Twitter: @HooplaImpro
Facebook: /HooplaImpro

Here's a super quick guide to improv for people who have just started an improv course or are about to.

Have fun

Improv is for fun. It's playing games, making up scenes and stories, and being other people and playing with each other. Hopefully some of these things below help remove some fears and help you to play on stage and have fun.

Don't worry about making mistakes

You don't get punished for mistakes in improv. There is no report card afterwards or grading system or detentions. Mistakes can often lead to a whole new thing in a story and can become the best bit. 

Your scene partner says you are a Cat Burglar. You don't know what that is so you say "Miaoowww" and steal milk from the fridge. The rest of the show supports you by being The Dog Police who turn up barking in their pedigree chum powered van.

So don't worry about getting it wrong, as a mistake can be a gift.


There is no set way to do improv. Play with games and exercises and find out how to make them fun for you. Improv is a constantly evolving art form so your own sense of play is what makes it special. You can play improv games your own way and discover something new about them, rather than trying too hard to get them "right".

You're not in competition with each other

Your scene partner is in collaboration with you not competition. You're not trying to out wit each other, you're playing together to discover new worlds and characters. It's ok to loose a tug of war on the improv stage, the rope is imaginary after all.

You don't have to be clever, funny or entertaining and you don't have to make up jokes

Trying too hard to be clever or funny can sometimes make people freeze up instead. Doing the opposite and being obvious allows us to relax and be in the present moment and discover things line by line moment by moment.

Put your attention on the other person

If you're freaking out about the audience and feeling self conscious put your attention on the other actor instead. In fact do that even if you're not freaking out. Eye contact, listening, touch, movement with them all help to stay connected to them instead of feeling self-conscious. It also helps to pick up what improvisers call "offers" which you can build on to discover a scene together.

Agree with what your scene partner presents you and add something that explores that moment

For instance if your scene partner starts with:

"Captain, welcome to the ship"

You could respond with:

"Thank you Lieutenant, and a great job you and the men have done with cleaning"
"Thank Captain Zarg, it's wonderful that humans and aliens can finally meet"
"Ahhhh!!! And it be a great vessel for pirating!" *

Or any number of offers.

Each offer agrees with the scene partner and explores the situation. Notice that each line changes the scene in different ways. None of them are right or wrong. We are collaborating together to discover the story moment by moment, line by line. Your scene partner will also agree with what you present, so if you go for spaceship and aliens they will go along with that, and if you go with pirates they will go along with that.

Your characters don't always have to be in agreement, just the improvisers playing the characters. For instance:

"Captain, welcome to the ship"
"I don't feel very welcome"
"Sorry about that, I didn't mean to sound sarcastic"

Also in general we're trying to agree with the underlying reality presented by the improviser, instead of block it (saying no). Here's an example of a block:

"Captain, welcome to the ship"
"I'm not the Captain, and there is no ship"

Although even that is not impossible to get out of, as we treat even mistakes as gifts. It's only improv anyway and you haven't broken any laws and won't go to prison for blocking, so if someone blocks a reality accidentally we can still have fun trying to incorporate it somehow and make the block a gift:

"Captain, welcome to the ship"
"I'm not the Captain, and there is no ship"
"Sorry! I always get you and your identical twin mixed up. Dammit! That means the Captain has stolen it in the dead of night, I knew we shouldn't have trusted him."

Say the first thing that comes to you

Your impulses are great. Trust them and let them out, as long as they are coming from a place of love and support from your scene partner. If something odd blurts out don't worry it's only improv and you're not at work, and we can make it part of the scene.

Watch some improv

If you haven't seen improv it's worth watching some while doing a course, it stops it becoming too academic as you can see what improv is on stage. We do live shows every week ( and also have a list of videos at

Hoopla's next Beginners Improv Courses are starting in early June in London:

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv theatre in London, UK.
Twitter: @HooplaImpro

Facebook: /HooplaImpro

* All improv examples must include at least one reference to pirates.