Tuesday, 26 June 2012

How to create a supportive atmosphere for impro

Quite a few people say there is a very supportive atmosphere at our workshops, which is very nice of them so thank you very much. This is largely due to me being lucky enough to be taught impro by John Cremer, who is great at creating a supportive environment and is probably one of the best teachers of anything I've ever met. He also gives whole chapters of his book Improv to creating the right environment, I can recommend reading it.

If you're directing a show, teaching a group, running a workshop, or getting some people together to practice, there are some concrete things you can say and do to create a supportive atmosphere where impro flourishes, and you can take responsibility for the atmosphere in the room. 

I've found the following quite helpful, some are from John Cremer's book improv and some are my own things I've worked out over the years:

Things to say before starting - setting the scene

Get the group together and don't start talking until you have their attention and they are all present.

Get everyone to say their name and give them a warm round of applause just for being there, to let them know they are accepted by the group. People spend a lot of energy trying to be accepted by the group, so you want to make them feel accepted straight away so they can use that energy on other things.

Don't ask what improv people have done before in front of the group (you can do this separately before the workshop if you really want to). I found that going around saying what improv people have done does nothing but create a status hierarchy right at the start, which really isn't helpful. The begineers now already feel alienated and inadequate, and the experts put themselves under pressure to be good. Instead I find it helpful to say that it doesn't matter how little or how much impro you've done as we're working on new things together, to try and get people on an equal footing and working together.

Announce that this is the team of the day, and get people to say hello altogether to their team of the day. This takes the focus and pressure of the individual, and puts their focus on the group. Again it makes people feel accepted and equal with the group. Break up groups of people that already know each other and get people together as one new team.

We have an atmosphere of safety, trust and support (John Cremer goes into this in more detail).

The good news is that you don't have to be clever or funny - another John Cremer quote. Again take the pressure off the individual and get them focussing on the group. Impro is about working together as a team, it's not stand up, and you are working together to build on each other's ideas to create something beautiful from scratch. Too much pressure on being individually clever or funny on each line and people freeze up.

It's impossible to get impro wrong, or right. It's what you come up with in the moment. 'Right' or 'wrong' don't really have any meaning for me with impro. Again encourage people to stop striving to try and get it 'right', and instead relax and play in the moment with their attention on other people.

Mistakes are your friend. If someone makes a mistake we tend to laugh, so embrace mistakes as the worse thing that can happen is that people laugh, which is what you want to happen anyway. Mistakes can send you off on adventures, give you story, game. So don't fear mistakes. People getting impro 'right' on stage can be boring on stage, so let yourself make mistakes.

There are no reviewers, critics or judges in the room. We're not going to give you a report card at the end of the workshop. There is nothing you can do or say that would make us think "that's a bit odd". People open up when there is a non-judgemental atmosphere, so you might as well remove this judgement at the start.

You have permission to play and have fun. When people are getting drunk they give themselves permission to let their hair down. You can also just give permission and make it clear that a workshop is a safe place to be yourself.

We have an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition.

Listen and See, Say Yes And, Commit. This is from John Cremer originally, and I still find it really helpful. It gives people other things to focus on rather than the pressure of being clever or funny. 

Tailored Warm Ups

When warming up a group I've found it's good to work on the thing that's really missing from the group that is still needed for a supportive atmosphere. Every group has an overwheling 'feel' at the start which you can use and work off.

If they're all looking a bit scared and nervous it's good to start with some silly games to get them having fun. It's also good to get them celebrating mistakes and having fun with them, so they don't take it so life and death seriously. Playing volleyball is fun, where if the ball is dropped everyone cheers. Or Big Booty where people run round the circle when they cock up as a lap of honour. Eventually people realise it's only impro, only games, and it can be quite liberating.

If the group aren't really paying attention, are talking over the top of introductions, or being a bit cocky/individual it's good to start with seeing and listening games like mirroring so that they put their attention on listening and seeing and working with the other people in the room. Get people working with people they don't already know, so the group balances out in energy.

If the group have trust issues then play a trust game first thing. A good one is when pairs walk around with one with eyes closed and another with a chair behind them so the person with eyes closed can sit down when told. I first demonstrate this with the person who seems most untrustworthy in the room, putting my trust in them in front of the group - you have to put yourself in the firing line when teaching so others will follow suit. Giving people responsiblity for looking after each other will generally increase trust in a room.

I was lucky enough to have a great drama teacher (Miss Price) at High School and the first thing she did in the first class was climb up to the top of a tall ladder and jump off with us catching her. She then said that she trusted us, lay down the rules of the class that she trusted us to follow, and from that point on it was the only room in the entire school where we could come and be ourselves without fear.

If people are looking a bit shy still after first warm ups, which often happens when nobody knows each other, I usually do a spontaneity game like listing a load of random words in time to a click. It's good to do this in pairs with one person listing words and another saying YES and supporting them. It's also good if I do an example my first - all manner of weird stuff comes out and I make loads of mistakes, which gives people permission to let out things in the room without fear of personal judgement. When people first open up and list words/stream of conciousness all manner of stuff comes out. We've absorbed so much in our lives - TV, film, internet, school, books, work, conversations, family, experiences - that when we first open up it's no surprise that various levels of rude words, scatalogical references, sex, death, violence, religion, mothers and fathers etc come out. To create a safe and supportive atmosphere we have to have no judgement on the person, and let it out without judgement, as underneath is the really cool stuff. If we feel like we can't say something, for any reason, gradually everything else freezes up too. It's not psychoanalysis, it's just impro. 

General things when teaching a new game or exercise

1. Don't ask "who doesn't know this game"? This is perhaps the most pointless and unhelpful question in any impro workshop. The person who doesn't know the game is most likely the complete beginner, so this question only serves to alienate them and strengthen the feeling that there is an us and them within the group. You're always looking for opportunities to unite the group as one, not isolate people.
2. Explain the game clearly and succinctly. Give one clear objective so people have something to focus on.
3. Do an example using yourself. By putting yourself in the firing line and allowing yourself to make mistakes in front of people you give permission for others to do the same. Admit vunerability, and places were you weren't sure yourself.
4. Get everyone to play all together, without giving feedback or critique. Whenever people first learn something they learn more by just doing it a few times first without critique, rather than being interupted every step of the way. Critiquing their first attempt of an exercise gets in the way of their own ability to learn from their own mistakes, and can prevent self-reliance in improv.
5. Get people to do it on stage.
6. Praise the things that they are doing really well. We want to keep the things people already do well, and if we don't mention them they will vanish. Turn up the volume on the good stuff as a priority.
7. Give feedback on the bits that weren't going really well. Rather than just pointing out what was bad/didn't work, give them something to actually focus on instead. You can't just ask people to stop doing something that's destructive, they need something constructive to focus on instead and replace the original behaviour with.
8. Get them to do it again on stage immediately after feedback. This is really important to me. Feedback without action is wasted, and feels likes negative criticism to the actor which they can't really do anything with until weeks/months until their next workshop, by which time it's forgotten. Doing it again straight after feedback mean it's bedded in and the new positive behaviour is reinforced.
9. Give them a round of applause and celebrate the bits that went well from the new thing they were focussing on. Applaude technique, not content.

Don't correct content, only technique. Correcting content suggests there is a 'right' or 'wrong' thing to say in impro, which eventually leads to people not trusting their impulses and instincts and destroys self-reliance in the performer. Correcting content is the fastest way to put an internal editor/judge in someone's mind. For instance rather than giving the direction "ride the unicycle" give the direction "use something you had at the start but haven't mentioned for a while". The first direction is specific to that scene only, the second teaches reincorporation which is universal to impro and will also encourage the greater learning leap.

Protect personal safety at all times. Sometimes people get carried away, especially younger men, and actually do push or pull people when they are doing a bank robbery for instance. Just stop the scene and move on to the next scene, no matter where the story is. Remind them that it's only impro, they aren't really in a bank robbery. Safety and trust is always more important than the story or scene, so sacrifice the scene and the message is clear that people look after each other in impro.

Don’t loose your temper or patience as a teacher/director – suddenly people will think it actually matters and bad things will happen if they get it wrong. It’s only impro, it’s really not that important.

Don't let other students direct or give feedback in a workshop. They are only trying to be helpful, but it signals to the performers on stage that they are in an unequal space of judgement rather than an equal group working together as one. This is different for show groups, where every now and again people will have to have a safe place to give feedback to each other so they can progress as a group.

Sometimes people look defeated when given the slightest bit of direction. Remind them that they are learning something new and can't expect to master it straight away, and it's not a personal thing, it's just a stupid impro exercise. Eventually they start having fun making mistakes and realise it's just part of learning.

Encourage collaboration not competition. If you're playing an elimination game in a workshop (questions only, don't says etc) then eliminate both people on stage rather than just one. Eventually the flop moment becomes equally as fun as the success moment.

Be aware that it can feel unnatural to people when they learn something new. In Alexander Technique if someone stoops forward usually when walking, when they are corrected to walk upright they initially feel like they are falling backwards. Similarly if someone needs to speak up it will feel unnaturally loud to them at first. This can be used in impro and directions like "over accept", "reincorporate to a ridiculous level" or "put in as many objects as possible" can be really helpful as it stretches people and snaps them out of their default.

Hope that was helpful. Feel free to use when directing your own groups and things. 

Lots of love,


Impro Classes and Shows

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Lovely bunch of people in our workshop this evening. Left me so positive about impro that I’m writing this blog on the tube home immediately after. 

Workshop was on Awareness, as in being totally aware of what the other improviser is saying, doing, moving, feeling. 

There is quite a lot of talk on listening in impro books in general, but surprisingly little on seeing. Sometimes you’d be led to believe impro is a purely verbal pursuit, but actually the audience get a huge amount of pleasure from bold physical offers. 

So I wrapped up listening and seeing into Awareness. 

For me listening and seeing are one of the most fundamental skills in impro. If you aren’t hearing and seeing the other actor, and aren’t aware of what they are doing, then you can’t really improvise with them and can only improvise alongside them in your own separate world.

We want people improvising with each other, connected to each other. 

There are loads of different techniques and exercises to make sure you are aware of the other actor and receiving all their offers. These techniques also have the pleasant side effect of removing self-consciousness, taking off the pressure of being funny, and keeping improvisers in the moment. 

Sometimes improvisers seem to experience a ‘workshop freeze’, where they’ve been to so many different workshops run by so many different people that they are trying to do too much on stage and actually freeze up when they’re in a show. The idea isn’t too learn every single technique and then try and do them all at once on stage, otherwise you get stuck in your head and stop having fun. It’s better to only consciously take one thing on stage, whatever works for you at that time, and have fun with everything else. 

In my experience shows don't go down so well if the actors are trying to take too many things on stage with them, or aren't taking anything on at all and just find themselves stuck there trying to be funny. A good balance is to only consciously take on thing on stage with you. 

I personally seem to perform best when I go into the show with the mantra “react and add to every single offer, especially the small ones.”

Here are some techniques to raise awareness, listening and seeing between improvisers. Play with them and use the one that works for you on stage:

Group Walk/Stop/Jump: the group walk around the room, stop in unison, freeze, start walking in unison, jump in unison. Encourage the group to follow each other, not lead. 

Diamond Dancing: four improvisers up, in a diamond formation all facing the audience. Play music, they dance, copying the person in front. If the group turns to face the left, right or back they copy the new person in front. Then break it up and have fun with it, inventing dance routines on the spot. 

Group Mirroring: the group stand in a circle. Each person mirrors someone else in the circle, but so that the whole circle is connected. Or the group just mirrors itself, the slightest change in one person is mirrored across the group. 

String Puppet: one improviser operates the other from the front using imaginary strings as if they were a string puppet. When they go behind the puppet the puppet is actually in control but they still move strings accordingly. 

Use their words: Use a word, or as many words as possible, from what the other improviser just said in your line. We did this in the “That’s Right Bob” sales channel game, with two improvisers working together to sell a product as if on a sales channel.

Last Word First Word: Start your line with the last word the other improviser just said. 

Voice Mirroring: saying the same thing that the other improviser is saying at the same time in the same way, but in your head. At first you can voice mirror out loud as an exercises, but then turn the volume down and do it in your head in a scene. This is one of Adam Meggido’s (Showstopper) favourite techniques and he’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met.

Mini Meisner: repeat between each other facts about the other person that are undeniably true. Start with clothes, then, hair/eyes etc, then movement/expression, then emotions.
For instance:
“You’ve got a black t-shirt”
“I’ve got a black t-shirt”
“You’ve got a black t-shit”
“You’re smiling”
“I’m smiling”
“You’re happy”
“I’m happy”

Then do the repetitions but under imaginary circumstances, eg with a location added. This helps the improvisers to be aware of everything the other person is giving them - movements, expression, words, emotion, and use it. It also helps to not differentiate between what the improviser is doing on purpose and what they are doing accidentally. If the improviser laughs while saying “captain, iceberg dead ahead”, then their character is also laughing.

Repeating All Offers: play a scene but after each line the other improviser says everything they just did, said, moved, expressed, before adding their line. This games means that all the focus is on the other person, and not worried about story/being funny. Give location, character, relationship before starting. 
For instance, set on a cruise ship:
A: “Cabin boy, take the wheel”
B: (Repeating all offers) “You pointed really sharply at the wheel, giggled, and said take the wheel.” (Line) “Yes captain, it would be an honour.”
A: (Repeating) “You took the wheel and spoke in a squeaky voice yes captain it would be an honour.” (Line) “Look out, rocks dead ahead!”
B: (Repeating) “You pointed out to sea, and laughed as you said look out, rocks dead ahead!” (Line) “You’re happy about the rocks.”
Actor A was laughing accidentally but B picked up on the offer and used it, as they were aware of everything about A. As the scene played on it turned out the Captain was deliberately crashing the ship into the rocks as an insurance scam, had put the cabin boy behind the wheel so he had a scapegoat.

It’s very satisfying when actors use everything the other person is giving them, especially the things that are happening accidentally. 

There is also something truthful about improvising like this. If someone really is laughing, or looking nervous, or walking away from you, or shaking, then use it. That stuff is actually happening, so be aware of it, and use it.

Lots of love,


Impro Classes and Shows

Monday, 11 June 2012

Being Positive Exercises

These came from a Monday workshop I run a couple of weeks ago that seemed to go down quite well.

In workshops it's a good idea to train yourself to be positive in improv scenes and games. I'm not suggesting that all improv scenes should always and only feature positive characters, it's just good to train yourself in the top end of your positive scale so that your default isn't always to go into scenes as a dreary character who doesn't really care about anything.

Happy and positive characters are a lot easier for an audience to watch on stage and care about. If stories are about characters we care about going through change (Dylan Emery) then having a positive default energy can help you create characters people are likely to care about.

Scenes featuring positive characters are also more engaging, as there's nothing stopping us from wanting to switch off, so the improvisers won't have to be in such a rush to find story game or jokes.

In my opinion improvisers are negative on stage sometimes as a form of self-defense. They are subconsciously trying to signal to the audience that they're not really bothered, and that they're not really worth watching, because deep down they don't actually want to be watched. 

Being negative keeps the improviser closed off emotionally to the audience, but opening up our emotions and vulnerability to the audience is exactly what makes good theatre.

Positive improvisers are engaging, real, touching, vulnerable and we care about them. So in practice I've found it's good to practice the upper limits of positivity, so we have access to this emotional range.

Three Line Scenes Positivity Challenge: Four Pairs of Improvisers up. Each have to improvise a three line scene with nothing negative happening whatsoever. It goes up and back down the line, so each pair goes twice. If anything negative happens they all have to start the whole challenge again. The audience shout out the number of the scene after each one.

Positivity Record Breaking: Two improvisers up at a time. They have to improvise a scene with nothing negative happening, positive scene. Time it. When something negative happens a gong goes off and another pair start a whole new scene. Longest scene wins.

You Are My Best Friend: Two people sat on a couch. One has to start the scene by saying 'You are my best friend' and mean it. Repeat the scene, adjusting the body language of both improvisers until they really mean it.

I Love You: Two improvisers play a scene, at some point one of them will say 'I love you' and mean it. Don't let them reverse or gag their way out of it. They have to react to the line and give it space like it's important.

Jobs/Occupations: Improvisers are given occupations and have to then play the scene as if they are really good at these jobs, happy to be there and capable at said job. Pilots know how to fly planes, and know where they are going. Ice skaters can do tricks. Tightrope walkers aren't afraid of heights. Factory workers are happy and sing and chat while they work.

Negative to Positive: First improviser starts negatively with bad news, second improviser turns it round into a positive platform and justifies why this is actually great news.

Again, I'm not saying all scenes should be positive all the way through, it's just a nice place to start and a good skill to have.

Lots of love,


Improv Classes and Shows

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012 Show Recommendations

Last Thursday was possibly the most exciting day of any regular Edinburgh Fringe goer's year. The day the Fringe programme magically appears on my doormat. Sometimes I think that browsing through its glossy pages is possibly more exciting than actually going to the Fringe itself. It reminds me of thumbing through the Argos catalogue in 1987, circling things I really wanted for Christmas. First impression of the new Fringe programme is that it's heavier than last year's. Exciting observation #1.

I'm not actually taking a show to Edinburgh this year, so this might actually be unbiased for a change. Although I do teach loads of improv workshops, so it's bound to be biased towards improv and comedy. 

Also I've tended to concentrate on newer or different stuff, rather than the mock-the-apollo-rent-a-comedians who might be funny but you've probably heard of before and all their pictures in the programme look exactly the same. 

If you need more details on the shows check out www.edfringe.com where they have all the shows listed, and you can also order a paper programme there or pick one up when you arrive in Edinburgh.

This list isn't complete, I'm going to be adding to it as I go along, this is my first wave assault on the programme, so please full free to leave further recommendations in the comments. 


Nu = New show to Edinburgh (not necessarily new performers)
Free = Free
Mum safe = Take your Mum to this and she'll love it and not be offended
Not Mum = Don't take your Mum to this, unless she likes being offended
Alternative = Represents the alternative 'how it used to be' feel of the fringe

Top Tips/Personal Highlights/Ones to Watch

Show: What Would Beyonce Do? - Free
Performer/Group: Luisa Omielan
Venue: Laughing Horse @ Meadow Bar, Buccleuch Street
Time: 22:45
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 13th August
Price: £Free
Stand Up. This is my hot stand up tip of the year. While lots of other stand-ups on the circuit seem to be taking a slightly comedy by numbers approach of doing exactly the same set night after and changing some infinitely small section of their set to achieve some kind of comedy perfection, Luisa stands out for still taking massive risks, being brave, improvising loads, interacting, breaking boundaries and most of all being funny. She reminds me now of what Eddie Izzard was like just before he took off. I saw her start an MC set once by doing 5 minutes in gibberish following an off the cuff conversation just before she went on, the crowd loved it. She's unsupported with no agent or press or PR, up against the Avalon renta-comic panel brigade, so go and support her. When you watch her you feel like you're actually watching a real person that has opened up on stage and is connected to you, not a talking script of generic comedy. Most of all you feel like she's a comic that has committed to being herself, without apology, in the face of an industry that doesn't seem to encourage that anymore. I've also heard great reports from her Brighton Fringe gigs. And did I say she's funny? She's very funny. Go see it, and tell others to go to.

Show: RH: Live
Performer/Group: The RH Experience

Venue: C aquila, Roman Eagle Lodge (near castle off Royal Mile), EH1 2PLW
Time: 15:30
Dates: 12th August - 27th August
Price: £8.50 - 10.50
Improv. YES YES YES! RH AT EDINBURGH! Possibly the most exciting thing to happen to the festival in years. The RH Experience have been building up thousands of fans on You Tube first, the other way round from most comedy acts. They even won a major YouTube award this year which means YouTube see them as the stars of the future. They've also been building up some amazingly successful live shows at The Miller, with people coming all the way across Europe to see them. This is their first show at Edinburgh. Each one of the three (Tom, Luke, Conor) has their own special skills and character, I want to collect them all. I predict that within a few years they'll be the next Pappy's or Penny Dreadfuls on the live circuit, and the next Mary Whitehouse Experience on TV. If I was a producer of TV Comedy I'd check this show out immediately, take them all out for sandwiches, and then get down on all fours and bark like a dog until they said yes. Funny, modern, likeable, young, contemporary, current, good, RH.
Mum safe

Show: Austenatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Performer/Group: Milk Monitors / Laughing Horse Free Festival

Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 38 West Nicolson Street
Time: 13:30
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 14th
Price: £FREE
This show has been making waves in the London Improv scene, performing at The Miller and all over the place. They take a suggestion for a new Jane Austen novel, and improvise the entire tale there and then in period costume. It features some of the best improvisers around, it's really funny, and they tell awesome stories. You don't even have to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy it, there's loads to enjoy. With now well-known improvisers in it too, like Cariad Lloyd and Rachel Parris, this should be a big hit. It's free, it's on for the full run, it's on nice and early in the afternoon, it's good. There is nothing in your way of seeing this show, so go and see it, and then go and see it again.
Mum safe

Show: Do Not Adjust Your Stage
Performer/Group: Do Not Adjust Your Stage / PBH's Free Fringe

Venue: Whynot? 14 George Street
Time: 16:15
Dates: 4th - 25th August, not 14th or 21st
Price: £Free
Improv. Yeahhhhh!!!! I love Do Not Adjust Your Stage. Out of all the groups to rise out of The Miller the last year or so this group stands out. Every show in London is packed with an enthusiastic audience, because the shows are always funny, entertaining, with great characters and just awesome improv all round. They improvise a television schedule with soap operas, documentaries, news and best of all the Game Show. Not a weak link among them, they're all awesome. And it's FREE so go and check them out.
Mum safe

Best of the Rest

Show: Cabaret Whore - Her Finest Hour
Performer/Group: Sarah-Louise Young - Festival Highlights

Venue: Underbelly, Bristo Square
Time: 19:30
Dates: 3rd-12th August
Price: £7-£12
Through hard work, dedication, and lashings of talent Sarah-Louise has become one of those rare things; an Edinburgh defining show. Edinburgh wouldn't be the same without her, because this is Edinburgh. Some great musical comedy characters that are really funny, well written, well produced with songs that are beautifully sung. Funny and sounds brilliant. Sarah-Louise is also in The Showstoppers.

Show: Piff the Magic Dragon in ... Jurassic Bark
Performer/Group: Piff the Magic Dragon

Venue: Pleasance Dome, Bristo Square
Time: 19:10
Dates: 1st - 26th August
Price: £6-£11
Comedy magician dressed in a dragon outfit. He pissed off Jonathan Ross on Penn & Teller's Fool Us by eating a banana while he was trying to talk and then handing him the skin. For this reason, I recommend him.

Show: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghh! It's the Greatest Show on Legs
Performer/Group: Martin Soan / Heroes of Alternative Fringe

Venue: Alternative Fringe @ The Hive, Niddry Street
Time: 21:00
Dates: 22nd - 26th August
Price: £5
I haven't actually seen this but I know this was the comedy group that the late great Malcolm Hardee was in, who was one of the founding fathers of British Alternative Comedy, so it should be anarchic and is also likely to have some interesting guests.
Not Mum

Show: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! It's the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show with Miss Behave - and It's Free!
Performer/Group: John Fleming and The Laughing Horse Free Festival

Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 38 West Nicolson Street
Time: 23:00
Dates: 24th August
Price: Free
If you want to see something that's the antithesis of run of the mill manufactured stand up then this is the show for you. Malcolm Hardee was one of the founding fathers of alternative comedy. John Fleming wrote his biography 'I stole Freddy Mercury's Birthday Cake' (awesome read) and now writes an influential comedy blog. Whoever is nominated and whoever comes to perform, your guaranteed something different.
Not Mum

Show: Baby Wants Candy: The Completely Improvised Full Band Musical!
Performer/Group: Baby Wants Candy

Venue: Assembly George Square
Time: 19:30
Dates: 1st - 27th August
Price: £6-£15
Very funny and entertaining improvised musical with a full band that rock.
Mum safe

Show: Bad Advice - Free
Performer/Group: Lauren Shearing and Sarah Pearch

Venue: Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 4 India Buildings, Victoria Street
Time: 22:00
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 13th August
Price: £Free

Show: Birth Order
Performer/Group: Rachel Anderson

Venue: Laughing Horse @ Free Sisters, Cowgate
Time: 17:15
Dates: 4th - 26th August
Price: £Free

Stand up. I haven't seen these yet but Lauren Shearing and Rachel Anderson have been performing lots at The Miller in various improv groups including Music Box and I think they're really talented, so I expect their stand up will be awesome too.

Show: Bec Hill is More Afraid of You Than You Are of Her!
Performer/Group: Bec Hill

Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House
Time: 14:45
Dates: 1st - 26st August, not 15th August
Price: £5 - £9
Stand Up. Bec is so professional, every time we've had her at The Miller she's adjusted immediately to various crowds and got them laughing. Very warm, friendly and engaging. The sort of person you really want to do well on stage and in life, and does.
Mum safe

Show: Billy The Mime
Performer/Group: Bonehead Productions

Venue: Just the Tonic at The Caves, Cowgate.
Time: 18:15
Dates: Aug 2-13, 15-16, 20-23
Price: £4-8
Politically incorrect controversial mime. I haven't seen this yet, but have a good feeling about it in my category of 'weird Edinburgh things that make me think differently'.
Not Mum

Show: Bob Slayer: He's A Very Naughty Boy
Performer/Group: Master of Chaos

Venue: Alternative Fringe @ The Hive, 15-17 Niddry Street
Time: 19:00
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 14th
Price: £3-5
Some people hate Bob Slayer but I absolutely love him and think he's hilarious. I'm probably going to see him 3 or 4 times this year. Last time I saw him he drunk anyone's wine who left it on the floor and didn't move it quickly enough, got naked, hang a dartboard around himself, and then got the drunkest audience member to throw darts at him. One of the darts missed and stuck in his leg. The last dart hit the bullseye. I feel like anyone who doesn't like him, I don't like.
Not Mum

Show: The Boy With Tape On His Face - More Tape
Performer/Group: Boy with Tape on his Face

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance.
Time: 21:40
Dates: 2nd - 27th August, not 14th August
Price: £6 - 13.50
Bloke with tape over his mouth does stand-up using mime, props, audience interaction, improvisation. This was my favourite show from last year, it left me feeling good about life and people in general. I looked around and myself, my girlfriend, Mum and Dad and the entire rest of the crowd were in hysterics throughout the whole show. I don't know anyone else who has such an honest and loving relationship with the audience.
Mum safe

Show: Carl-Einar Hackner: Handluggage
Performer/Group: Gilded Balloon

Venue: Gilden Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row
Time: 19:30
Dates: 1st August - 27th August, not 13th August
Price: £5 - 10.50
Comedy Swedish Magician. I saw him at La Clique a few years back and thought he was the funniest bloke ever. The most stupid act ever, and I mean that as a massive compliment.

Show: Cirque du Charlie Chuck
Performer/Group: Charlie Chuck

Venue: SpaceCabaret @ 54, North Bridge
Time: 12:30
Dates: 13th - 25th August
Price: £8
Donkey! It's that bloke from Vic and Bob! I also saw him at Reading Festival years and years ago. He was doing stand up between bands, and was awesome. He kept the crowd entertained for 15 minutes by repeatedly saying "do you wanna see me jump on dem drums?" If you like the absurd, avacado.

Show: Doctor Brown - Befrdfgth
Performer/Group: Soho Theatre

Venue: Underbelly Cowgate
Time: 21:05
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 13th
Price: £6 - 11:50
Absurd Clown. I haven't seen him for years but everyone I know and love from workshops keeps telling me that "I HAVE TO SEE DOCTOR BROWN". He also recently won a major award at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

Show: Fat Kitten Goes Speed Dating AND Fat Kitten vs. The World
Performer/Group: Fat Kitten

Venue: The Vodoo Rooms, West Register Street
Time: 16:50
Dates: 4th - 25th August, not 15th or 22nd August
Price: £Free
Improv. at Kitten are now pillars of the Edinburgh Fringe. I feel like a trip to The Edinburgh Fringe isn't complete without checking them out. James Ross really understands the Fringe audience and makes the perfect Free Fringe show. They've got two shows this year, Speed Dating in the first half of the festival, vs the world in the second half.
Mum safe

Show: Folken Britain
Performer/Group: Susan Harrison

Venue: Le Monde, 16 George Street, EH2 2PF
Time: 17:50
Dates: 4th - 25th August, not 13th or 20th
Price: £Free
Character comedy. I haven't seen this particular show but I've seen Susan in various improv shows and cabaret nights and think she's a great character comic, really funny stuff, so I've got a good feeling about this show.

Show: Four Screws Loose in #screwtheworld
Performer/Group: James Grant Comedy

Venue: Assembly George Square
Time: 15:20
Dates: 2nd - 27th August, not 11th August
Price: £5-10
Sketch comedy. I haven't seen this group yet but I've heard great things year on year, and with Penny Dreadfuls and Pappy's doing less together this could be the year for the Screws to really take off.

Show: Gareth Morinan Presents A Wilmops Good Improv Show
Performer/Group: Gareth Morinan

Venue: The Cabaret Voltaire, 36 Blair Street
Time: 12:05
Dates: 4th - 25th August
Price: £Free
Improv. The Wilmops have been rocking the London Improv scene and Gareth has been doing some awesome work, we salute you sir! They should also have some great cast, so keep an eye out for some amazing guest performers coming along.

Show: GirlBand Improv - Free
Performer/Group: GirlBand

Venue: Laughing Horse @ Meadow Bar, 42-44 Buccleuch Street
Time: 20:15
Dates: 4th - 26th August, not 13th or 20th
Price: £Free
Improv. I've been performing with Luisa Omielan in Zorbo Ironheart, and Rachel and Lauren in Music Box, and I think they are all excellent improvisers, so think they'll be great all together in this show. Most of all GirlBand seem to be about making improv fun, and I think they'll be perfect for the Free Fringe crowd too.

Show: Heroes of Alternative Fringe
Performer/Group: Greatest Show On The Fringe

Venue: Alternative Fringe @ The Hive, Niddry Street
Time: 19:00
Dates: 2nd August - 21st August
Price: £5
I'm pretty intrigued about what acts will be on for this show. It mentions Bob Slayer and Phil Kay in the blurb, two of my favourites.

Show: Kunt and the Gang - Free
Performer/Group: Kunt and the Gang

Venue: Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, Blair Street
Time: 22:30
Dates: 3rd - 26th August, not 11th
Price: £Free
Never seen them but they were responsible for last year's 'knob gate', sticking cocks all over big star's posters, which I found funny so I'm going to seem them this year for that reason only.

Show: Ladies and Gentlemen - Free
Performer/Group: Ladies and Gentlemen

Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, West Nicholson Street.
Time: 15:30
Dates: 2nd - 26th August.
Price: £Free
Sketch Show. The photo features Paul Foxcroft, one of the finest improvisers to pop up in London over the last year or so, and if he's now doing Sketch too I predict it will be well worth watching.

Show: Lights! Camera! Improvise!
Performer/Group: The Scat Pack

Venue: Underbelly, Bristo Square
Time: 16:50
Dates: 1st - 27th August, not 13th.
Price: £6 - 11
Improv, movie themed. I'm an improviser but every time I see The Scat Pack they never fail to amaze me. They're really funny, fast and slick. They make great stories, with fun characters and a really funny show. It's also really profession, not just for improvisers, anyone will enjoy this show. It's great to see that they've moved out of C Venues too and are at the Underbelly now.
Mum safe

Show: Mick Foley: Prisoner of Raw
Performer/Group: Mick Foley

Venue: The Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street
Time: 22:25
Dates: 8th - 11th August
Price: £15
Wrestley Mick Foley does Stand Up. I like that.

Show: Monkey Toast: The Improvised Chat Show
Performer/Group: Ditto Productions

Venue: Pleasance Dome, 1 Bristo Square.
Time: 23:05
Dates: 1st August - 26th August, not 14th
Price: £5-11
Improv. Amazing cast that reads like a who's who of comedy - David Shore, Humphrey Ker, Sara Pascoe, Cariad Lloyd, Phil Whelans, Rob Broderick. Check it out.

Show: Nick Helm: This Means War!
Performer/Group: Bound and Gagged Comedy

Venue: Pleasance Dome, Bristo Square
Time: 17:30
Dates: 1st - 27th August, not 14th
Price: £7-13.50
Stand Up. There's something inherently 'real' with Nick Helm. I saw him on TV last night and he was the only person there who looked like an actual person. I want to touch his sweat.
Not Mum

Show: The Noise Next Door: Bring The Noise
Performer/Group: Bound and Gagged

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Time: 17:00
Dates: 1st August - 27th August, not 8th August
Price: £7-14
Improv. Every improviser should go see this show in order to understand how to market an improv show, develop an improv show, and deliver an improv show. Taking improv into the mainstream, which is a good thing. Well done.
Mum safe

Show: The Pajama Men's Improv Show
Performer/Group: Assembly

Venue: Assembly George Square
Time: 21:00
Dates: 2nd - 12th August
Price: £7-15
Improv. YES! If you are an improviser, like watching improv, or have even been within 50m of improv then you should definitely go see this show. They made a name for themselves with their two person scripted narrative comedy shows. Now they appear to be using this name to do their improv show - YES! Exciting.

Show: Peter Edwards: Love Everyone
Performer/Group: Peter Edwards

Venue: Laughing Horse @ Free Sisters, Cowgate
Time: 18:30
Dates: 3rd - 26th August, not Saturdays
Price: £Free
Every week I meet someone new who is guest appearing in this show. I love Pete. You either get his stand up, or you don't, and I do. Go Pete!

Show: Sheeps - Dancing with Lisa
Performer/Group: CKP

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Time: 17:10
Dates: 1st - 26th August, not 13th August
Price: £5-11
Sketch Show. Another one I haven't seen yet but heard loads of good things about last year.

Show: Spank!
Performer/Group: James Wren etc

Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Time: 00:00
Dates: 3rd - 26th August
Price: £10-15.50
Stand Up. Great place to see a selection of stand ups and other comedy acts from across Edinburgh all in one place. Runs till really late. You will end up here at some point in your Edinburgh visit.

Show: Well Done You - Free
Performer/Group: Trodd en Bratt/Laughing Horse Free Festival

Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, Cowgate
Time: 17:45
Dates: 2nd - 26th August, not 13th August
Price: £Free
Sketch show. This is in the category of "I can't believe this is free". Ruth Bratt and Lucy Trodd are both in Showstoppers the Improvised Musical and bust out the most hilarious characters ever off the cuff, so if they've actually written things down before it should be amazing. I've been hearing great things on the grapevine too about their preview shows they've been doing in London. Definitely one to watch, can't wait.

Show: The Showstoppers
Performer/Group: Showstopper Productions - Festival Highlights

Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot
Time: 23:00 (also family matinees occassionaly earlier in the day)
Dates: 3rd August - 26th August, not 23rd
Price: £7.50 - 12.50
Improvised Musical. A real Edinburgh essential, the festival isn't the same without it. So slick and professional, they've completely nailed the musical genre. Not only is it funny, and improvised, with great stories and characters, but it also sounds amazing. It's a real musical dammit! Made up!
Mum Safe

Lots of love,


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