Jinni Lyons created her solo improv show, Jinni Lyons is an Only Child, in 2013, which she has toured nationally and internationally, including a headlining slot at the Women in Comedy Festival in Boston, USA. I spoke to hear this week to find out what advice she had for solo performers.
Hi Jinni, I’ve seen your solo show so many times and always loved it! And wondered do you have any tips for improvisers wanting to create their own solo show?
Jinni: Gosh, this is an oddly tricky question, but I will try to answer it:
1) Ask yourself why you want to do a solo improv show. You need to know that there’s a solid reason for doing it – whether it’s because you think it looks like fun, because you want the challenge because you have a great idea you want to try out… Doing it because you feel like you should do one to tick that particular performance box won’t support you as you develop the show.
2) Get an outside eye. Even more so than when working in a group, you need someone to tell you how your show looks, what’s working, what isn’t, what needs to improve. It’s hard to assess your own performance, and much easier to have someone else direct a rehearsal so you don’t just eat biscuits and stare out of the window, telling yourself that you’re ‘thinking about it’… You don’t necessarily need to ask a solo performer, but do ask someone who improvises in a way that you like!
3) Use a notebook. I don’t have anyone to debrief with after shows, so I make notes the next day – what I did, what I liked, what I want to work on. I also write down nice things that people said, to look at when I’m feeling insecure and wondering why the hell I’m putting myself through this!
4) If you’re going to be playing multiple characters, you need to work on characters. All the time. Work on how to create believable, individual characters that are obviously different from one another – whether vocally, physically, or emotionally. Preferably all three.
5) On the other side of that coin, if you’re going to be moving between multiple characters, you need to have a good ‘neutral’. Use that neutral to move between characters, so the audience just sees the characters, not you moving between them – if you’re dashing from one end of the stage to the other, it’ll look like one big mess, without clear distinctions.
6) Listen to yourself and keep it simple. I don’t need to say any more on that, because I’m keeping it simple!
7) Play! It’s your show, and you can do what you goddamn like with it. You can change it in rehearsal, just as you’re about to go on, or even when you’re on stage if you want to. It’s YOURS. Enjoy it, enjoy yourself.
Thanks Jinni, this is great!! See you on the Hoopla stage again soon x
You can see Jinni in improv action in Jinni Lyons Is An Only Child, Bumper Blyton and hear on Destination podcast.
She regularly teachers at Hoopla. Her next course is a Solo Improv Course. https://www.hooplaimpro.com/solo-improv-course.html