Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: [email protected].
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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/improv-comedy-club-london-bridge.html
Pre-Party 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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/launch-pad-improv-show.html
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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/impro-jam.html
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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/late-night-improv.html
Castings: We occassionally post casting calls for our new shows at https://www.hooplaimpro.com/improv-comedy-performance-opportunities.html
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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/improv-networking.html
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 https://www.hooplaimpro.com/london-comedy-improv-courses.html
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 roups, sometimes experienced, famous troupes) and multiple chances for the audience to get up and jam together too. https://www.facebook.com/DuckDuckG
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. www.cityimpro.com
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 www.thecrunchyfrogcollective.com 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 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 Kings Head
The Cockpit Theatre
The Dog Star
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. http://www.freeandfunny.co.uk/
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. [email protected]
Up The Creek-open mic. http://www.up-the-creek.com/
Cavendish Arms -comedy virgins. https://www.facebook.com/groups/123466400999807/?fref=ts
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.
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
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?
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.