Monday, 18 September 2017

Anxiety about not being quick or funny enough when improvising.

A friend of mine is suffering anxiety about not being quick or funny enough when improvising.

This can be a vicious cycle for performers that gets worse and worse, until they end up doing less and less shows or quitting improv all together. 

What doesn't help in this situation is "trying". Trying to be quick or funny can often lead to the opposite happening. When we are trying too hard to be funny no idea seems good enough, as we are measuring ourselves against an impossible benchmark, and before we know it out internal editor blocks all of these ideas which again results in perceived "slowness" and being unfunny. Then the cycle continues, and we again go on stage with the delusion that we are not quick or funny and again try too hard and reject all of our ideas resulting in feeling stuck and stale. 

So we need to snap out of this cycle. 

The best way to do this is counter intuitive, and it is weirdly to not try to be funny or quick and instead just be average, normal and even slow. 

When we give ourselves permission to be average we can relax and actually react like normal humans in the situation, instead of trying to speed write in our minds at the expense of emotions. 

When we give ourselves permission to be average we release what is uniquely us, instead of trying too hard to become an external image of what we regard as 'good' or 'creative'.
The only you is you. And the average you is interesting to others, as they are not you but like to see your own take on the world. 

The purpose of many improv exercises is to allow you to be your full self on stage without apology, rather than doing an impression of other performers or striving for external perfection. 

The aim is still to put on an awesome exciting show for the audience. But it is real humans on stage without fear that gives people this. And it is the Jedi mind trick of "being average" that helps performers to get out of the anxiety loop and live without fear on stage. 

These views originally come from Keith Johnstone, Viola Spolin and places like io theatre and we now teach exercises to help with this on our courses in London with Hoopla Impro, and we're going to be posting loads more resources about things that help actors improvise without fear on our facebook page Hoopla Impro. If you can't make a course, no problem, we're still happy to help improvisers any way we can so please get in touch.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

Someone just asked, as they were concerned we had deliberately put it on at the same time as an act of competition which goes against the lovely relationship Hoopla and The Nursery have. I was originally just going to chat to them but in case anybody else was concerned here's the story.

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

The short answer is due to a mistake in choosing dates, by me, that was too late to go back on. 

This August we were booking in all of our Autumn shows when we had the idea of running a Del Close style improv marathon. We then floated the idea to The Miller where we host our shows, and their manager and owner were surprisingly up for it. They then looked into licensing laws with the council and were able to get 20th - 22nd October approved for late opening on that weekend early. 

At the time I thought Slapdash was in Spring for some reason, maybe it had been Spring once before I'm not sure, but I honestly didn't realise that it was the same week. We knew we weren't clashing with The Nursery re-opening but didn't think to check about Slapdash as I really thought it was months away. 

The first we realised about it was later when I bumped into Jules at The Nursery and we realised the dates were the same. By that point though the late opening had been approved by the council, The Miller were already committed and had already arranged late night through the night bar staff and security.

So it was too late to change, which I am sorry about as we should have changed. 

However running up to the week we will also be promoting Slapdash, as we have done every year, and the aim of our event is not to undercut the other in anyway. 

In fact during our Marathon weekend the main shows (8pm - 10pm) are the same as they would have been otherwise, so no change there, the only change is that we're also running shows much later for that weekend only. 

Also the capacity of our venue is only 75 afterall so we're not talking about a huge amount of people, and in other years both Hoopla and Nursery/Slapdash have been full on the same night no problem.

We have a lovely history with The Nursery. Many of our teachers also teach with The Nursery, all of our performers and groups also perform there and a huge amount of our courses are based there, so we don't want to do anything to upset this relationship.

Over the years we've always tried to avoid clashing with other improv companies over major events where possible, but I made a mistake this time.

Hoopla has a big team of teachers and performers, but in terms of the actual show bookings and coordinating dates this is just me and Angela part-time, so we do have to work quickly and make quick decisions as we just don't have the manpower currently to do anything else, so this time we missed the dates. 

We're trying to put on as many improv shows as possible for as many improv groups as possible. Last week alone we hosted around 20 groups I think. To manage that amount of people and groups week in week out ongoing is really hard work, and I'm afraid we do make mistakes sometimes. 

So I'm sorry if the clash of dates was seen as unnecessary conflict  but as you can hopefully see this really wasn't my intention and I do genuinely try to work with companies as much as possible rather than clash.


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.