Monday, 23 December 2013

23rd December 2013: Hoopla’s Improv Highlights of the Year

It’s been a busy and fun year. So much has happened, I can’t remember it all, but here’s some fond improv memories of 2013. 
Warning! This blog is more sentimental than the end of a Robin Williams movie!


This year especially as we had more and more people involved with what we do. There’s so many, but we’d like to say a special thanks to the following (in random order), without whom we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing:
Mike Hutcherson: Mike has been at every show we put on, hosting, performing (in Glitch, Mike & Constantine and We Lost Our Puppets and more), doing lights. Everything. Without him The Miller wouldn’t have been running this Autumn. Thank you Mike for everything, your constant advice and for caring passionately about making things happen, and making things happen. 

Georgina Bream: She’s my fiance, and also pretty much Hoopla’s Creative Consultant. Every idea I have I bounce off her and she’s always so patient and always has time.

Edgar Fernando: Oh my gosh it’s been so much fun having him back. We started Hoopla together but then Edgar wasn’t doing much impro the last few years due to work, but he’s been back this Autumn. Talking to him about impro makes me realise what’s important, he’s really got it and cuts through complication and brings it back to being human in a good mood.
Maria Peters: For year’s it was just me and Edgar and occasional teachers but this year Maria has joined up as a full teacher, best decision ever! She brings so much joy, enthusiasm, excitement and her students are doing some amazing improv. Looking forward to doing more and more with her. 

Max Dickins: Max has also joined us a full teacher, running our stand-up courses. He’s been encouraging students to jump into a more honest form of stand up, sharing their lives and stories, and some of them have already started winning competitions. He’s also been amazing at spreading impro into the workplace, where we’ve been teaching together for various companies. Like Maria he keeps me going!

Jess Fremont: Jess was delivered to us like an impro angel from Canada. I was at The Miller and after the show she marched straight up to me and said “I’m from Loose Moose in Canada, I’ve come to run your front of house”. And she did, really well. She bonds people together, makes everywhere a joy to be, and I really miss our late night McDonald’s planning meetings!

Shawn Collinson: Our second impro angel from Canada! Just after Jess left, Shawn arrived as if by magic. He’s been doing amazing things all Autumn, working on our marketing for shows especially and also some new venues. Long-term this is going to enable us to do more and more shows and attract a larger mainstream audience. He’s so patient with my scattiness, and such a cool guy, thank you Shawn!

Patrick Vermillion: Our improv angel from New York! Patrick was volunteering with front of house all Autumn and also gave us loads of advice on how to run shows, borrowed from the New York improv scene. His tips are coming into play in the New Year, he’s made such a difference. We miss you!

Conor and Constantine: They aren’t the same person, but I’ve put them together because they both make me happy whenever I see them. In addition to performing they’ve also been volunteering with hosting and front of house and planning and loads of things. 

Jon Monkhouse: Earlier on The Miller was a combination of Hoopla and London Improv (run by Jon) and his amazing work is still keeping it going today. Thanks also for Balham lunches, late night snacks and lovely improv chats. 

Sophie Pumphrey: We constantly talk about what improv/life is and what it could be, a conversation that will thankfully never have an end, and this is really inspirational on all our workshops. 

Vanda: She’s a constant support to everything we do. If either of us are having an improv meltdown we fix each other. 

Jules Munns: Jules does amazing things. The improv scene has become so much more exciting since he arrived. Teachers and groups coming from across the world to our city, so amazing.

John Cremer: John is a constant support and mentor and guru (he hates being called guru) to us. He’s like my original source of improv, and I wouldn’t be doing any of this without him. He introduced me to the whole world! 

Dylan Emery: Loads of what we’re doing now comes from advice Dylan gave to me about four years ago at 3am at The Edinburgh Fringe. He’s got kids, a busy job, he’s in about four improv groups and somehow he still finds time to help out us and the whole impro scene. 

James Pain at The Miller: Yeah! Love this guy. He’s taken a punt on us and given us the weekends at The Miller next year. He’s been supporting us for over three years now, through ups and downs.

Silas at The Rag Factory: We definitely wouldn’t be doing so much without Silas. He keeps me sane when I’ve lost my marbles with his post workshop 10pm outside big life chats. 

Rhiannon, Phil, James, Ben, Abag, Chris Mead and The Music Box gang: Whenever I see this lot I’m happy, there’s nothing as fun as stepping on stage with them not knowing what is about to happen. 

Joel Butler: One of the original Hoopla performers, and great to have him back after a few years away. 

Everyone who’s performed at our nights: So many great groups this year and so many new improvisers mixing with current improvisers, such exciting times. Thanks everyone who has been doing so much. 

Everyone who has been to a workshop: It’s so great to be able to spend a whole year laughing, thanks to everyone for jumping in and improvising, so many people for the first time ever. 

Everyone who has been to a show: The sound of a room full of people laughing is a dream come true.
Basically at the exact point I sometimes feel like giving up and doing something else someone appears and peps me up and makes improv worthwhile all over again. I constantly rediscover the joy of improv on a weekly basis, and always due to the people involved.
There are so many people to thank for an amazing year, way more than I had space to list above, thank you everyone!


There’s been so many things this year, here’s just a selection of what I can remember:

IO Week: Thanks to Rob and Jules for making this happen. I was lucky enough to be taught by Charna Halpern the founder of IO in Chicago and it was a real joy. It taught me the true power of Agreement in improv. There’s more about that on our previous blog

The Mayday’s Residential Improv Festival at Osho Leela: This was one of the biggest highlights to me. It was actually a life changing experience. It's hard to put it into words, as it was more an experience of emotions and feelings that words on a blog don't do justice. I think for the first time in my life I experienced what real community is, and also what a powerful and good thing it can be. If I had the choice between Edinburgh Fringe and Osho Leela I'd now go for Osho Leela every time, and hope to go again next year. 

Edinburgh Improv Buzz: I couldn’t make it to Edinburgh this year but I enjoyed picking up the buzz on so many improv groups doing so well again, and such a variety too. Short-form, long-form, narrative, musicals, Edinburgh had it all going on. 

End of Course Shows: I love every single end of course show that we put on. The stakes are so high, people are nervous (including me), the audience are new to improv. Every single show features a level of excitement, joyfullness and playfullness that makes me fall in love with improv all over again. 

Annoyance, UCB, Montreal Improv Weekends and more: There were loads of improv teachers coming over from North America and Europe, London is so exciting at the moment because we get to learn from everyone from across the globe. 

Slapdash Festival: This was a great one, thanks to Jules for putting it all together. Before our show (Music Box) I had the worse performance anxiety ever, so much so I had to sit with my head in my hands in a coffee shop for an hour. But the second I walked back stage and saw Andrew Gentilli and the rest of the Music Box cast I was in a good mood again. 

UK Border Patrol: This was an end of course show from our long-form course that seems to have gone down in legend. One of those shows where it just clicks and everything comes together. 

The Round Table Crash Pad: We went back to The Round Table for one night and there was an eventful show with Bob falling out of a window and a story set on the Love Star being performed entirely in flashback mode. 

All New Shows: There have been so many new shows and groups forming this year, the improv scene feels like a living a breathing organism now and it’s growing up quick. It’s alive!!!!!!

Beginners: It’s been a pleasure this year to introduce so many people to the joy of improv, well done for jumping into it. I never ever tire of introducing people to listening, yes and, spontaneity and having fun with games. 

Epic Crash Pads: Many of these are totally bonkers. 15 groups performing in one night in a small sweaty room above a pub. It’s Peter Brook’s Rough Theatre at it’s finest and it’s producing new theatre and seeds of ideas. What’s great about the Crash Pads is that now when show ideas happen they get done without hesitation. 

Breaking and Entering cracking it: Maria and Lauren performed together, went to Chicago together and then performed Breaking and Entering together. At their last show the audience made the sound of an audience recognising a group who had ‘cracked it’, they’ve got their thing. Fun, joy, characters, truth, game, play, laughs, emotion, their show has it got it all going on in every single scene. 

Rap Workshop: This made Edgar happy, he said this is what Hoopla is all about. I was teaching an emotionally real naturalistic Meisner for Improv workshop upstairs while Dave Waller taught  freestyle rap downstairs. I agree, that’s what it’s all about. 

Weekend classes at 3:30pm: The best improv I see is usually at 3:30pm on one of our weekend classes where a group have warmed up together, played together and suddenly they are there in the magic zone. 

Saturday Night Improv: We experimented with putting on shows on Saturday nights. They went down well. They went down so well that The Miller offered us every weekend for the whole of 2014. Nice one. 

Last Night’s Improv Jam: This was so much fun! I wasn’t sure if people would be up for a late night impro jam starting at 10pm, but actually it was our busiest one yet. A mix of people who’d never been on stage of people and experienced improvisers playing together. It opens the doors to more late night shows next year, which is great. 

Music Box Last Show: I loved performing with Music Box so much. It’s the most fun show to perform in, exhilarating. You step on stage and into a made up world for 45 minutes, you can go anywhere in time and space, the cast of Music Box make improv fun. 

ImproFest UK: This was very exciting and the festival really nailed the marketing this year so it was great to perform to full houses. 

God, Jesus and the Devil surfing with a Vicar: I don’t usually remember scenes but this was a fun one. 

Airplanes and Tube Trains: This was from a long-form groups end of course shows. We spent ages in the course learning about edits and tags, but in the show they decided not to use them in a piece and instead set a whole 15 minute scene on one row of an airplane. It was awesome. So amazing that the next show they set a whole 15 minute scene on one row of a tube train. I thought it was the best scene I’ve seen all year, a true ensemble working together like magic. 

Monday Night Drop Ins: I miss these so much! 20 people laughing together in a weird room at The Rag Factory while it rains outside on a Monday night. We had to stop them as they got too busy, but they’ll be back in a different form in the New Year. They had the most intense atmopshere out of everything we do. 

Countless nights in The Princess Alice: Pint of Doom Bar please. I still owe Fraser a pint of Guiness.

Meeting Susan Messing in the pub: I couldn’t make the Susan Messing workshop but accidentally met her at a pub near Brick Lane. A random place to meet an improv legend, and she fitted right in.

People coming back from America with new stuff: London is absorbing influences from all over the place now and it’s great. What is the London improv style? It’s a melting pot, it’s whatever you want it to be. 

Mark Beltzman workshops in the snow: The year started with me trudging through Kings Cross snow to do workshops with Mark Beltzman, such a positive guy and put me in a good mood for the rest of the year. What he taught is what I’m most likely to refer to when performing: talk to each other about each other.

Thanks again to everyone for making it such a fun year!!!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Improv Tips from IO Week.

What an inspiring week.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a whole week being taught by Charna Halpern, co-founder of IO in Chicago and author of Truth in Comedy.

Many thanks to Rob Wilson for getting IO over here and doing such a great job on organising everything. Many thanks to Jules Munns too for hosting us at The Nursery.

I found Charna to be a really inspirational person. She runs a huge company across the whole of North America, so I was expecting to meet more of a business woman than an improviser. This assumption couldn't be further from the truth. I was amazed at how well connected she was to the actors, the room, and improv in general. She must have had a million things going on with IO moving venues in Chicago, and yet she was totally concentrated on us the whole week. It was beautiful to see someone still so engrossed in their art as if they'd been doing it for the first time.

Charna co-created the Harold and loads of modern improv, and yet she didn't hold anything on a pedestal and was constantly encouraging us to not worry about structure and find our own way. Whatever we wanted to do, do that. There is no 'right' way because everything is constantly changing, even for Charna, and in fact especially for Charna and IO and that attitude is probably what's kept them at the top for so long.

Someone even asked her "what's a Harold?" and without skipping a beat she said "oh don't worry about that".

Here are some of my notes from the course. I haven't written exercises and structures down as that would be too long, so these are more the underlying lessons and tips from around the exercises. Some of them are what Charna said, some are what I thought there and then. If they repeat it's because I thought they were important, and they are written in order as they appeared in the course, as they appeared in my notebook. I’ve cut out the doodles.

Treat each other as poets, artists and geniuses.

Only way to look good is to make the other person look good.


Listen, remember and recycle each other's ideas.

Give and take and connect ideas together.

Notice connections rather than trying to make them.

Order out of chaos.

Don't worry about trying to be funny or making jokes.

Be as honest as possible.

Just be yourself, honest, be as intelligent as you are, don't dumb yourself down.


It's real.


The smallest offer - tell the truth about what it makes you think.

Use your own ideas about the world and life.

Share your own life in a scene, be yourself.


What's this really about? Break through the bullshit. So what?


Be honest and true and you don't have to make anything up.

Aim for an emotional situation.

Make an emotional choice.

How does it make you feel?

Don't hide.

Agree and go for it straight away.

Overly accept everything.

Yes And the first idea.

Go forward and have fun right away.

Listen and find depth in every line.

Pick up the game/theme/relationship from one line.

See what is hidden in the first lines.

Talk to each other.

Get to each other. React to each other.

You can find the scene in the first four lines if you really listen to each other.



Make it relentlessly about the other person, see them and connect, eyes, touch, space.

Do a real scene - talk to each other normally without having to be inventive or crazy.

Be real and relaxed.

Don't worry about the outer conflict, make it instead about what is going on between you.

Grab onto early lines that reveal all about the scene.

Let these lines hit you and mean something to you.

You're an ensemble. Everyone's working all the time. If you're not in the scene you're still something. Voiceover, props, dancing.


Over acceptance.


Give objects weight.

You find the scene in the first 3 lines / moves.

Go on stage with the other person and connect to them. Go into it. Go into them.









Don't pretend you're stupid

Dig into the opening, explore what it makes you think of

Do real scenes, pretend it is a straight acting class. Relationships.

Set up relationships.

Go into that person.
How do you feel?

Remove conflict/fighting from scenes.

Competent people having an emotional exchange.

Dig into it, give it more meaning.

Keep heightening the suggestion in monologs, not going away from it.

Play it straight, use full intelligence. Not to invent, to live.

Be a real person.

We want to say something to the audience.

See it instantly. Make it happen now.




Go on stage to build a relationship, don't panic

Increase emotion, go to depths

Go for it

Initiate something and trust group will make something of it


Be physical, have fun.

Effortless, have fun, flow.


Be freer.

Keep moving.

Don't wait for permission, it's up to you.


Don't question why, do.

Audience have a lot of fun watching physical things come to life. Don't worry about story, make it happen now.

One person goes, everyone supports.

When they are doing it, build on it.

Fully unblock unleash and express yourself.


If you have an impulse you have to act on it.


Attack the stage.


Go on to make it human.




Get to the point straight away.

Be inspired in wonderful ways with each other.

Don't need jokes. Characters, relationships, be yourself.


Have and instinct and go for it.





Open up.

Be yourself on stage.

Truth in comedy.

Be honest.

Nothing funnier than the truth.

Be inspired by everything else.

Friday, 19 July 2013

How to get into performing improv and where to perform in London.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email:

Where to perform improv in London

Things Hoopla Are Doing

Improv Comedy Club, The Miller, London Bridge: We’re now running our main improv shows every Friday and Saturday at The Miller in London Bridge. We’re trying to take improv mainstream , showcasing the best shows around. Details at

Launch Pads: These are our nights where lots of groups perform mini 15 minute versions of shows. It's the place for new shows, new formats and new improvisers to experiment and build up performance experience. It is marketed as such so the audience are aware of this. If you want to perform there contact us with what your show is and we should have a space. Details at

Impro Jams: These are open for all impro jams where anyone can turn up and perform. They are a bit like an open mic night for improv. We have different type of jams happening including short-form, long-form, musical and more. Details at

Late Night Improv: In 2015 we are also starting late night sessions after our main shows (after 10pm) on Fridays and Saturdays, with space for groups to try out new shows and various improv community events. Details at

Castings: We occassionally post casting calls for our new shows at
and also through Twitter (@HooplaImpro) and Facebook (HooplaImpro).

Improv Networking Events: We host networking events once per season where improvisers can meet groups and other improvisers and see if they can form teams. Details at 

Improv Courses: Our Performance Improv Course, Long-Form Improv Course and Narrative Long-Form Course all have shows at the end are designed to get people performing. Details at
Improv Nights and Improv Friendly Nights Run By Other People (especially those open to new performers/groups)

The following are other popular nights for improvisers to get involved with performing. Although the improv London is rapidly growing it's still small enough that you can meet everyone pretty quickly. By going along to nights at The Miller, The Nursery, C3Something, Duck Duck Goose and more you can get performing quite often and get to know everyone. 

Most of the nights below should pop up on google, let me know if I've missed anything. 

The Nursery: This is a great theatre run by our friend Jules Munns, based near Southwark Tube, that puts on loads of improv shows and events.

The Slapdash Festival: This is awesome. An annual improv festival, also run by Jules Munns at The Nursery Theatre. Open to international acts.

C3467X/C3Something: They host loads of great shows, jams and events and are incredibly encouraging to the growing improv scene.

Duck Duck Goose: It's on every Monday from 8pm at
I'klectik Art Lab & Cafe, Old Paradise Yard. There are always at least 2 acts (sometimes new groups, sometimes experienced, famous troupes) and multiple chances for the audience to get up and jam together too.

The Maydays: They perform loads and also host nights in London and Brighton that are open to guest groups. In addition to their workshops and shows they also put on awesome improv symposiums in Edinburgh that get people together, and also an annual Residential Improv Festival. 

Shoot from the Hip: They host various improv nights around London including jams.
Austentatious Presents:  A once a month night of shows curated by the cast of Austentatious with guest groups.

City Impro & Friends: Recently started, great group of people, and looking for groups to join their nights.

Giggle Loop: Great new group running regular nights with space for guest groups and jams.

Stand Up and Improvise: Improv sets inspired by stand ups, with guest groups and performers. 

Population 8: Long-form group running nights with guest groups and jams.

Upstairs Downton & Friends: Featuring 3 top acts from sketch standup and improv each time.

London Impro Jam: A new international improv festival, looks awesome.

You’re Up Next: They run regular comedy variety nights at The Comedy Pub near Leicester Square and various venues around London and are always looking for improv groups to come and perform.

The Idiot Factory: This is a regular night run by Richard Verrill and is improv and clown friendly.

ImproFest UK: A week long improv festival at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre run by Sprout Ideas. I was really impressed by the last one, they did a great job on the marketing as it brought in a large audience new to improv.

Blanket Fort: This is a group based in Brighton and Nicola Tann has been doing a grand job of getting London groups to come down and guest perform.
Love Explosion: Remy from Imprology runs regular nights that are open to guest performs, with a very cool and open to all format.

RH & Friends: The RH Experience run regular nights with guest performers.

Bristol Improv Festival: The Bristol improv scene is awesome and they've been working together to bring in big audiences, and have visiting guest groups from outside Bristol.

Edinburgh Fringe: Loads of improv there, more on that below.

Theatre Sports: This is an annual event run by The Spontaneity Shop and raises money for charity.

The Comedy School: They also run a Theatre Sports night sometimes and are open to new groups. 

The Free Association: New long-form night with guest groups.

Also check out as that lists lots of nights. Let me know if I've missed anything. 
Improv Friendly Venues

These venues host lots of shows by different improv groups, and would be good places to run a new improv night:

The Miller, London Bridge 
The Nursery 
The Camden Head (both of them) 
The Islington, Angel 
The Comedy Pub 
The Soho Theatre 
The Leicester Square Theatre 
The Etc Theatre Camden 
The Hen and Chickens 
The Old Red Lion 
The Pleasance 
The Kings Head 
The Cockpit Theatre 
The Dog Star

The Horse
The Udderbelly Festival 
Stand Up Nights

Some stand-up nights have improv on too, it can be helpful to add variety to the night. It's useful to have different lengths of shows available if approaching a stand-up night promoter, and also have an idea of what kind works at the night.
Angel Comedy-Wednesdays New Act Night.
Downstairs at the Kings Head-New Act Night CALL 01920823265 between 9am and 11am on weekday mornings to books a spot.
Comedy Cafe New Act Night.
Up The Creek-open mic.
Cavendish Arms -comedy virgins.

Street Improv

We've just started doing street theatre, lots of good opportunities with this. 
Edinburgh Fringe Festival

There's still nothing else quite like it. There's a big audience there, and with the right promotion and a good show groups can really take off. There are also various shows you can guest perform in. Performing 30 times or so in a row will really teach you about your show, you as an improviser, the audience, and make or break you!

One thing to be wary of though is that Edinburgh from the outside appears to be an experimental fringe festival, but actually it's more of a comedy trade fair. So it's worth taking a show you like, and do the work before you get there!

We have more details on Edinburgh on a previous blog How to take a show to Edinburgh.

Other Festivals

In addition to Edinburgh Fringe there are loads more festivals that are suitable for improv. Especially popular these days seems to be The Camden Fringe, Bristol Improv Festival, Brighton Fringe, Buxton Fringe and there are loads more listed on our previous blog List of Fringe Festivals.

Also there is the Slapdash Festival of Improvisation, London Impro Jam, and ImproFestUK Improv Festival in London every year, and at some point we might put on a festival too.

There's also a lot of great improv festivals in Europe and across the globe, and many London groups have now starting performing at festivals including The Del Close Marathon in New York, Barcelona, Brussels, Portugal and Germany. 

Run Your Own Night

I'm surprised more people don't do this one, as when I started out it was the normal thing. Find a room above a pub, or rent a small theatre, invite some people along, badaboom badabing.

Running your own night means you get to perform when you want on your terms to your audience, and learn loads. It's awesome.

When I started performing (with Edgar Fernando, Rakesh Mistry and Joel Butler and more) the best thing we did was say we would perform our show once a month for a year no matter what. We booked The Bedford in Balham and religiously rehearsed every week and performed every month.

Some of the shows were terrible, with me hiding under a table afterwards until everyone left (true), and some were awesome. We had a rule that we made it fun for the audience, we chatted to them all afterwards, played good music, and made it fun. By the end of the year we'd moved into the bigger room at The Bedford and were playing to 150, it was awesome!

Running your own night and putting your own show is when you really learn and find who you are as a performer.

London is blessed with spaces to perform, so find a space you like and book it in, develop an awesome show, promote it, perform it, repeat. I'd also recommend booking in an awesome guest act each time too, as it keeps it different for returning audience.

Promoting Your Own Shows

I'll start with the ineffective way to market a show, and also the most used: 

1. Performers don't do anything to market show, even though they knew about it two months in advance. 

2. On the day, two hours before the show, they all update their facebook feed with 'I'm in a show tonight. COME!'. This doesn't work.
To come to your show people have to know about it in advance, and they have to want to come, and then they need to have a reminder. 

Here are some other tips:

Why would anybody want to come and see your show?

Ask yourself this question. If you don't know the answer you haven't thought about the audience, so why should they think about you? Answers to this question could be: it's really funny, it's new, it's exciting, it's a party, they owe me a favour, it's good, it's got a fun guest, they hope someone else will be there, excuse to go out, better than staying at home, they like the genre, they've heard good things. 
What is your show?

What is it? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Yes I know it's improvised, but there are loads of different types of improvised. How would you describe your show in one line, title and image?
Audience Shoes

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience member, from when they first hear about the show, decide to go, travel to it, arrive, see it, leave. What was that experience like and how can you make it better?
Who are the audience?

Who do you want coming to your show? What do they expect? What do they want? What do they need?
Three Months, 1 Month, 1 Week, 1 Day, Day

I think for lots of people to see a show they need to hear about it in different ways (flyers, posters, web, fbook, email twitter, word of mouth etc) at least 3 months before, 1 month before, 1 week before, day before, then on the day.
There's nothing wrong with friends and family as audience

I think this is a great start, what a positive thing to do in life, get together to entertain friends and family. And it's a great beginning. Friends who like the show lead to Friends of Friends and then Friends of Friends of Friends, which is otherwise known as 'The Public'. 

Promoting shows is hard work. If you don't do anything there won't be anybody there, because they don't know about it. If you do lots, there will be more people there. It takes ages listing shows with press and all the listings websites, up to you if you do it. Nobody said that being a successful performer is easy. 
Make a quality show

This is the best marketing tool out there. So many people (me included) spend ages getting a website, facebook group, twitter, logo and then barely rehearse and the show is not great. Better off spending that time making an awesome show, that's the best marketing you can have. If your show is amazing people will hear about it eventually, and more people will come. 
Every audience is important

You've just started out, just about to go on stage, and realise that only 5 people are in the audience. Don't be disappointed that only 5 people turned up, be over the moon that 5 real life humans have come to watch. Give them the best show ever. Those 5 people tell 10 people at work the next day about what a great night they had and your audience has gone up to 55 over night. It's the same show for them anyway, and actually they get a better view. Make it special for them.

Workshops are the start not the end

Our courses are designed to kick start people into performing and inspire them to do more. End of course shows could be the start of your improv and performing, not the end of it.

Don't ask for permission
As Mark Beltzman (great improv teacher from USA) said, don't give your creative energy away to anyone. Don't rely on teachers, directors, producers, agents, promoters. Don't wait. Don't ask for permission to do what you want to do. Just do it. Now.

Dump the Fear

Sometimes we're in fear about being shit as an improviser, but the main thing that makes us shit as a performer is if we're in fear. It's like a self-referencing cell error in Microsoft Excel. The only solution is to dump the fear.

Accelerate Your Rate of Failure

This is very Keith Johnstone, and something I live by. If you're going to fail when learning something new, and you are, then fail sooner and faster. It doesn't mean be deliberately shit. It means try your best, create beautiful things, but when failure happens you learn from it and get back into it faster.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers says it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Matthew Syed in his book Bounce agrees and also says that talent is a myth and what is needed is practice with feedback.

Want to do a show? Say that you're going to do a 1000 over your life. It takes the pressure of the 3rd one, it's part of learning.

Learn, practice, do, fail, learn, repeat. Accelerate your failure. If you're going to be a performing improviser, do more, now.

Lots of love,


Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website:

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013 Show Recommendations

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Beginners Improv Course, Performance Improv Course, Narrative Long-Form Course and Stand-Up Comedy Courses starting in September. Improv Comedy Club every Tuesday at The Miller in London Bridge. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website:  

It's that exciting time of year when the Edinburgh Fringe programme thumps onto the doorstep. I've been working through the night like a massive comedy geek highlighting shows I want to watch. I'm mainly geared towards improv, but I've thrown in some stand-up, sketch and kids shows this year too. 

This is based on the first sweep of the programme. I'll be adding some more hot cookies later once I find them, and feel free to contact me with suggestions for shows to add. 

If you want more details on each show please click the link on each show to go through to the Ed Fringe website, which is main website for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Hoopla's Hot Picks

These are shows that are new to Edinburgh that I think could potentially be a breakthrough hit because they are likely to be good. Previous Hoopla Hot Picks included Austentatious, Luisa Omielan's What Would Beyonce Do, Lady Cariad's Characters, Humphrey Ker and Josh Widdicombe, who were indeed all breakthrough hits that year. These don't include already well known shows, they have to be relatively new. 

The Play That Goes Wrong
Mischief Theatre
For years this group were The Scat Pack, performing improvised comedy and one of my favourite improv groups (also see Lights! Cameras! Improvise!). Now they've taken on scripted comedy and this is their first major production. Boy oh boy the buzz about this is incredible. It started out at a small theatre in London and has already transferred to the West End before its even got to Edinburgh. The reviews are already amazing, with The Times and more raving about it. The performers in The Mischief are some of the most charismatic, funny and talented people I've ever seen on stage.I'd buy tickets for this now if I was you.

Joseph Morpurgo - Truthmouth
This has recently been promoted to our hot picks section as five separate people in London have told me it's the best show they've ever seen following his previews. Loads of buzz building up about this. Joseph is also in Austentatious, which is an amazing show, and he's awesome in that too. First 1 hour solo show. Blatantly going for the Ed Fringe Best Newcomer Award. Go Joe! 
The Takeaway Story Show
The You & Me Theatre Company
A cool idea for a kids show where the actors improvise a story based on children's suggestions and props, and the kids then get to download a personalised storybook of the show they help make up. A neat idea and new way to use improv, and there is always a need for quality new kids shows. Directed by Matt Andrews who has done lots of improv at Edinburgh before and I think knows the audience really well. Should be a fun one, and I think worth watching even if you haven't got kids.

Also there are two (or more) improvised Shakespeare shows this year. See both, they both look awesome. 

The School of Night's Spontaneous Shakespeare
This one features Dylan Emery, Adam Meggido, Sean McCann and more from the Showstoppers and Ken Campbell school of improvisers I wish I could improvise like. In fact next time I go on stage I'm going to pretend I'm one of these guys.

Impromptu Shakespeare
The new kid on the Shakespeare block directed by Jules Munns who has been doing awesome things in London with The Nursery Theatre and The Slapdash Festival of Improvisation, and whose improvised Shakespeare workshops recently ignited a massive interest in Shakespeare with huge impro spirit. I expect it to be fun and gutsy.

Random One Offs Not to Miss
Doctor Brown: Bexperiments
Ooohhhh this looks exciting. Clown Doctor Brown performs eight shows back to back over one day, each show taking the best of the previous until he creates the final complete show at the end. I'm sure people will be camped out for the entire duration, me included.

The Wrestling II
One year at Edinburgh I had a day off from watching shows, walked up a mountain, and found I had missed The Wrestling. For the whole of the next day every single conversation seemed to revolve around The Wrestling. 
"Dude we've run out of tea bags." 
"Did you watch The Wrestling?" 
"No. I had a day off."
"Maaannnn, you should have watched The Wrestling."
"I climbed a mountain."
"You missed out."
"I climbed a .."
"The Wrestling."


Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised
Racing Minds
For a couple of years I was put off this show by the alphabetical whore title, and then I realised it had Tom Skelton in it who is possibly one of my favourite improvisers to watch ever, and then I realised that it also had loads of great reviews. And then I kicked myself for judging a book by its title and not seeing it sooner. I'm going to watch this show for sure.

Abandoman: Moonrock Boombox
Improvised hip hop from Rob Broderick and band, really good fun. I used to want to be Rob Broderick when I grew up, and then I realised that he was younger than me, and then I cried into my kebab.

Absolute Improv!
To Be Continued...
Improv group that are actually from Edinburgh, support some local talent!

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Milk Monitors
This is such an awesome show. Improv crowds love it because it's great improv. Comedy crowds love it because it's really really funny. Jane Austen crowds love it because it's Janeaustenlike. Everybody loves it. I can't believe it's free again, people will be queuing around the block so get there early. Earlier than that.

Baby Wants Candy: The Completely Improvised Full Bank Musical!
If you don't think improv is a massive thing then go and watch this and then change your mind. 

BattleActs! Improvised Comedy - Free

Blind Mirth Improv Comedy 

Bristol Improv Presents...
The Bristol Improv scene has been growing even quicker than the London improv scene this year, well done them, and there are some awesome shows like this one coming out of it.

Cariad & Paul: A Two-Player Adventure
Cariad & Paul perform some of the finest improv shows I've ever seen.

Improvabunga - Some Sort of Improv Show

The Improverts

An Improvised Improv Show - Free Show
Well done Luc Valvona for putting this together. If you're an improviser and in Edinburgh go along to this and you can perform and get to network with other improvisers and have a big old jam. 

Lights! Camera! Improvise!
Mischief Theatre
One of my favourite improv shows, I love this group. An improvised movie that is hilariously funny and tells a great story. They also made one of our Hot Picks - The Play That Goes Wrong. 

The Maydays: Confessions
The Maydays are the first improv show I ever saw live, and first people who taught me improv, and the reason I fell in love with improv in the first place. Great show, and amazing what an audience will confess.

Men with Coconuts
Improv FX
News just in! I'm guesting in this one! Fun Scottish improv show with sound effects. 

The Noise Next Door: Soundhouse

The Oxford Imps
Imps alumni populate the elite of improv and comedy around the Universe, this is the show that starts them off. 

Paul Merton's Impro Chums
Guess what? Paul Merton grew up in the same area as me. So I'll be the next Paul Merton! So went my logic when I started out in improv. I blame Wikipedia for these illogical life choices.

Quest For Comedy!
Improv from the Durham University team that has spawned some of our favourite improvisers over the years, many of them end up in London after graduation and they are awesome so looking forward to this.

Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans - Wonder & Joy
The Shambles
Did a show with some of these a couple of years ago and they were loads of fun. That's more of a personal anecdote than a review, but this is a blog not The Guardian dammit. 

Bespoke Comedy for the Discerning Family  
Foghorn Improv
An improv show for all the family, sounds good to me and there is a big market for family friendly shows in Edinburgh so it should do well.

Shhhh - An Improvised Silent Movie

The Showstoppers' Improvised Musical
Massive hit every year, and rightly so. Musicals made up on the spot that are better than musicals that aren't made up on the spot.

This Is Soap: The Improvised Soap Opera

Upstairs Downton
Improvised period costume drama that has been building up well on the London improv scene all year and ready to launch itself on Edinburgh. 

The Wireless Podcast - Free
Racing Minds

Sketch, Scripted Comedy

The Beta Males in ... Superopolis
Their show is becoming a must see every Edinburgh, it's really exciting to see what they come up with, always fresh and exciting. Like starting a school year with a new pencil case and a nice pencil sharpener. 

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience 

The Durham Revue: Friends Without Benefits

Four Screws Loose in Screwtopia!

Henson's Alternative Puppet Up!
The adults only wing of the Jim Henson puppet company.

In Cahoots
Features Paul G Raymond and Luke Manning who are also in one of my favourite impro groups Shoot from the Hip. 

Joy of Sketch
Good way to see lots of top sketch acts in one night in one place. 

Knightmare Live
Cult kids TV show Knightmare brought to life on stage.

Max and Ivan: The Reunion 
Like The Beta Males also a real Edinburgh must-see and different every year.
The Play That Goes Wrong
Mischief Theatre
For years this group were The Scat Pack, performing improvised comedy and one of my favourite improv groups (also see Lights! Cameras! Improvise!). Now they've taken on scripted comedy and this is their first major production. Boy oh boy the buzz about this is incredible. It started out at a small theatre in London and has already transferred to the West End before its even got to Edinburgh. The reviews are already amazing, with The Times and more raving about it. The performers in The Mischief are some of the most charismatic, funny and talented people I've ever seen on stage.I'd buy tickets for this now if I was you.

Shit-faced Shakespeare
Group attempts to put on a Shakespeare play. Different member of the group gets blind drunk every night.

The St Andrews Revue  

I saw one of them in the improv group Do Not Adjust Stage and thought I'd like to see him in whatever he was in. I didn't fancy him, he was just really good at the old improv and acting and comedy. So I've got a good feeling about this one. Edinburgh needs some new sketch groups too since Pappy's, Delete the Banjax and Penny Dreafuls aren't around so this should do well. 

Who Ya Gonna Call?
A bunch of my favourite improvisers in a tribute to Ghostbusters, sounds amazing. I can't believe I haven't seen it yet, really looking forward to watching in Edinburgh.

Stand Up, Clown, Solo

AAA Stand-Up
Bound & Gagged Comedy
Like Spank, another good option for checking out some good quality stand up with three top acts on one bill, different three acts each year. This year with Luke Graves, Max Dickins and Joe Davies.

Adam Buxton: Kernel Panic
Alexei Sayle
That's exciting, Alexei Sayle doing stand up again. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, Steven Spielberg or a 1980s alternative comedian. Alexei Sayle actually was one of those things, so I'm going to see him.

Beardyman: One Album Per Hour

The Boy With Tape On His Face: More Tape
I love this show, I loved the way it made me, my Mum, my Dad and my girlfriend all laugh out loud at the same time at the same thing. How sweet.

Dear Ray
Max Dickins
Good to see an established stand-up doing something different and ambitious, branching away from his club routines to do characters, touching story and his first 1 hour show. I've met Max in improvland and he's awesome funny, especially at characters. Go Max!

Doctor Brown: Bexperiments
Ooohhhh this looks exciting. Clown Doctor Brown performs eight shows back to back over one day, each show taking the best of the previous until he creates the final complete show at the end. I'm sure people will be camped out for the entire duration, me included.
Employees of the Month: Glenn Moore and Friends

Greg Proops
I like to pretend that I personally know the entire cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway and hang out with them all the time. I don't, so this will be as close as I can get.

The Horne Section Live in a Cow
When I was last at Edinburgh people wouldn't stop talking about The Horne Section. "Have you seen The Horne Section yet? You have to see The Horne Section. We're going to The Horne Section tonight. Meet you at The Horne Section. Blah blah blah blah blah." So much so that I decided I would never go and see The Horne Section, just because. I'm sticking to this pointless stand, but you should go, because other people say you should.

Gamarjobat (ga-ma-jo-bat) Rock Out!
Very funny physical comedy.

Jerry Sadowitz: Card Tricks and Close Up Magic
Very offensive, very funny, and very magic.

A Lol-along-a Luc Valvona - Free Show
Late night comedy songs from a friendly bearded man you'd like to take to the West Country and drink cider with until the morning.

Luisa Omielan: What Would Beyonce Do?!
One of our hot picks from last year that went on to have multiple sell out runs at The Soho Theatre and a nationwide tour.

Pun Run
Pun-based comedy club. I should really come up with a pun in this description but it's now 2:47 and I have toothache.

Rachel Parris: The Commission 

Ross vs Violich - Pistols at 3:55pm
Coming out of the successful improv show Fat Kitten James Ross and Steve Violich are now taking on stand-up. I've got a good feeling about this. I haven't seen it yet, but I've got a good feeling about it. James Ross knows his Edinburgh, and Steve Vioich is one of those chaps who is good at everything but you still love him. I think James Ross will make it big in stand-up or governments will topple.

Good place to go to when you're not sure what you want to watch, as you get to see loads of good acts for not much dosh. Proper walls sweating beer in plastic cups what the fuck am I doing here late night Edinburgh experience.


Making News
New play from The Spontaneity Shop's Tom Salinsky. I've heard good things about the rehearsed readings in the build up.


Bespoke Comedy for the Discerning Family  
Foghorn Improv
An improv show for all the family, sounds good to me and there is a big market for family friendly shows in Edinburgh so it should do well.

The Takeaway Story Show
The You & Me Theatre Company
A cool idea for a kids show where the actors improvise a story based on children's suggestions and props, and the kids then get to download a personalised storybook of the show they helped make up. A neat idea and new way to use improv, and there is always a need for quality new kids shows. Directed by Matt Andrews who has done lots of improv at Edinburgh before and I think knows the audience really well. Should be a fun one, and I think worth watching even if you haven't got kids.

I'll be adding to this list as I look at the programme in more detail. Feel free to contact me with recommendations. 

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Beginners Improv Course, Performance Improv Course, Narrative Long-Form Course and Stand-Up Comedy Courses starting in September. Improv Comedy Club every Tuesday at The Miller in London Bridge. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: