Things they don’t put in business books
Britishness In Comedy
The London Impro Theatre plans are coming along nicely. At first I was thinking of suggesting some kind of Second City style, but then actually I back tracked a bit on this and thought a kind of corporate impro/comedy land arriving slap bang in the middle of London would be a mistake.
We love the Britishness in comedy. We love little venues hidden down back streets, we love Edinburgh shows in a cave with water dripping in, we love wobbly tables and beer in different styles of glass, and too many posters stuck all over the place for shows that have already happened.
If there is a London Impro Theatre we won’t have flat screen monitors that display the impro shows with movie clips, we will have a chalk board, preferably one that we’ve forgotten to update and someone has drawn a cock on. And the toilets better not work and there should be a leak in the ceiling otherwise nobody will come.
In fact part of me even thinks that we love that the tubes are on strike and the councils have forgotten to grit the road, it’s just so damn British.
Quite a few improvisers I know recently have got onto various professional things, such as serious play tours, musicals, panto and even starring in the next British Horror Movie. Well done you guys. They weren’t just improvisers by the way, but hope it helped. Casting Call Pro website is also churning out a steady stream of really interesting looking jobs, both professional and unpaid. From hosting auditions it also made think….people should do more auditions. If you don’t get in it’s no big deal and you learn something, if you do then you’re life changes for the better and you embark on an adventure.
Miller Next Year
Going to be going to Tuesdays AND Wednesdays next year which is very exciting. It’s also probably going to be gradually turning into being called something to do with the London Impro Theatre to start raising support for that, and make it a more open place.
It’s going to need a MASSIVE marketing, press and pr push though to get the audience to support all that. So any volunteers please get in touch. From the high and mighty strategic plans to the front line handing out flyers outside London Bridge station in January. In fact the flyering might be fun. Yep, we’ll combine it with beer and cookies in The Miller.
Scat Pack and Music Box
First off The Scat Pack are AWESOME! Go check them out. I saw them do one of their best ever shows. I think they have the exact style that I like. Very very very funny, colourful, great characters, silly while still telling a great story that makes sense. Also I hadn’t actually seen Henry Lewis do the acting bit before (he was usually narrator) and he was excellent. It was really funny see someone so clever play a really stupid character with such intelligence, if that makes sense. Sort of perfecting stupidity. Kind of demonstrated when his character “Tony” ducked down when the bad guy turned around and shouted “I am dead” to avoid being found. The narrator asked him to replay this with an internal monologue, and I think everyone thought “Tony” would curse this decision as a bad idea but instead he ended the scene by thinking “Nice One Tony”. Also little touches like lighting a match and then burning his fingers when he hadn’t thrown it away on time. Dammit! That doesn’t come across in writing does it? Trust me, they’re really excellent.
The Music Box show was good but wasn’t quite as full on fun and funny as the last one based in space. At least I could get some ideas why, the usual stuff like platforms, not just doing the thing we’re talking about etc. So still onwards and upwards. It was great having Jon perform with us for the first time. Before going on stage with him I was fully expecting him to freeze up a bit and not initiate much, as is usual when doing a first show with a new group. So I went on and was about to initiate a mad painter intent on destroying all other art other than his, and then Jon calmly started up a Councillor scene which was tonnes better – and I had all the passion of a mad artist to channel through a Councillor instead, and he sang a great song, and basically was awesome and felt like he’d been doing it for ages.
Saw Armstrong and Miller at Wimbledon Theatre and liked the way they kept the connection between each other at all times even when not moving or talking much. Looking for exercises on keeping the pattern of exchange, the connection the kinetic dance going all the time.
Things they don’t put in business books
I’m in the very very early stages of building up a working business that supports myself, so I don’t propose to be an expert on these matters, but some observations that have popped up since I’ve started (I’ll probably change my mind about all these again at some point, ask me in five years!):
– Business is friendly. In fact more than that, it’s human, and natural, and probably more natural than other ways of working.
– Don’t be a cock. The English can spot someone being a cock a mile off.
– Don’t compete. That especially seems weird. But if I spot myself competing with someone I either do the compete opposite to them (which finds a whole new world) or team up with them and work together on something.
– This is similar to the “Tottenham Court Road Effect” – as in, Tottenham Court Road has loads of electrical outlets all together. Are they competing, or working together, or both? The whole audience for electrical goods in the area grows. There’s a similar street for jewelry near Chancery Lane. This is how I see the future London Impro Theatre.
– If it’s a new and growing market, it makes more sense to work together to grow the market than to compete over a silly little portion of it. This has lead to me this week already talking to John Cremer (Maydays), Jules Munns (London Impro Theatre) and Remy Bertrand (Imprology) to see how we could help each other out.
– Ideas are easy. It’s quite easy to say “have you ever thought about doing….” and the constant pub brainwaves come all the time. It’s making things actually happen and become reality that adds value to things.
– Loads of people give you really bad uninformed spontaneous advice really early on in a business, and actually only really support the idea once it’s working already and really obvious.
– Some people give you really good advice.
– It’s time consuming. The Penny Dreadfuls said that they thought any of the leading comedians and comedy groups at Edinburgh were also the hardest working. All of them. The best groups rehearse for weeks full-time before their shows. The worse groups don’t. If you’ve read ‘Outliers’ you’ll also know about this. I actually think comedy is more about hard work than natural talent, especially when it comes to the final icing on the cake.
– Make it good. I know this sounds obvious but if you’ve got a rubbish product it’s not going to go anywhere, but if it’s really good it will eventually do well. Of all the things I do the things I’m most proud off are the workshops I put together, so it’s not a surprise that these are the things that take off by word of mouth.
– Business is human.
– Marketing is most of it. When you’re in ‘a job’ the marketing department gets looked down at as an annoyance, but actually it’s the core of a business working.
– People who work by themselves tend to organise hugely inefficient meetings in completely different parts of London with other people who work by themselves, probably just to combat loneliness. But I think it’s important. I’ve just three days or more redesigning bits of the Hoopla website and now I’d quite like to be punched in the face just to check I’m still part of the human race.
– It’s a living breathing thing, as it’s made up of people, it never sleeps. This is the weirdest thing to comprehend. At first you think people just hear about stuff when you actually directly email them or whatever, but actually there’s constant changes of information going on.
More uneducated ill-informed and unproved opinions to follow!
Originally posted 2nd December 2010.