It’s the final Dirty Picnic Club before a brief hiatus until the summer! In this blog, we spoke to this month’s special guest Daniel South (Impromptu Shakespeare, Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes).
1. Tell us a bit about yourself as an improviser – what’s your background and who do you perform with?
I grew up, as I’m sure many improvisers did, with an unhealthy obsession with Whose Line Is It Anyway? The short form games of the U.S. version in particular seemed perfectly suited to YouTube binging (even now, I can’t see an Irish pub without hearing Ryan Stiles declaring that there’s blood in his stool, or hear a song by the Backstreet Boys without picturing an Arctic tern). They used to show old episodes of the U.K. original on TV, and I would hop between the faded fun of those Channel 4 offerings and the pop hilarity of Wild ‘n Out on MTV. The slippery slope of another obsession with Saturday Night Live led me to consume every piece of American improv I could get my hands on – Upright Citizens Brigade DVDs, old Second City sketch compilations, biographies, etc.
When I got to the University of Kent to study Drama, I made it my mission to get into the short-form group (then named Play It By Ear, themselves an offshoot of fellow Kent alumni The Noise Next Door). Whilst you could not pay me to watch any recordings of the shows we performed back then, I have many fond memories of the group, and learnt a lot while performing with that cast (including Liam Brennan, Tom Tokley, and Ed Pithie, who are still very much involved in improv, and Bruce Langley, who has moved on to a more lucrative part of the acting world that none of us will ever mention ever, because of a jealousy that burns hotter than the sun).
I think of my ‘proper’ start in improv performance as coinciding with the time in my life when I met Lucy Fennell, Dirty Picnic Club‘s illustrious creator and director. She introduced me to people, ideas, and opportunities that I knew nothing about, and I’m very grateful to her for kindness and constant enthusiasm (luckily I’m spared the embarrassment of her seeing this, as I have it on good authority that she has never learned how to read). I’m now based in London and (after taking in time with Upstairs Downton, Slow Loris, and the University of York’s The Shambles) perform as regularly as I can with Impromptu Shakespeare, Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes, and Screwball! (also coming soon to the BIT).
2. In January, you performed at The Bristol Improv Theatre for the sold-out Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes. How did it go?
I had a criminal amount of fun. Tom Wilkinson and Caitlin Campbell are some of the funniest, sharpest, most generous improvisers I know, so it was bound to be at least two-thirds good. The highlight for me was meeting a hen party in the bar afterwards – they were so lovely to speak with, and I am so sorry for plugging our Twitter six times.
3. Who are your theatre, comedy and music idols?
I am a big fan of idolatry, so there are far too many to name here – but a broad representative sample from this moment in time would have to include Declan Donnelan, Lucy Kirkwood, John Mulaney, the sketch group Tarot, Joni Mitchell and the band Big Thief.
4. You will be performing at Dirty Picnic Club this Sunday. What are you expecting?
Everything. Nothing. I have cleared my mind of expectation, as per the frankly exploitative and (I am told) legally binding contract I signed with Lucy.
5. What are you most looking forward to doing on the night of the show?
Having a bath in my Premier Inn.
Dirty Picnic Club is on Sunday 8th March. Tickets are £7 and can be purchased here.