Bristol’s most experienced harold team will be supporting Do Not Adjust Your Stage presents The Wunderkammer this Friday. But who are “Jazz Police”? We spoke to group member Maeve Scally to get the inside knowledge.
1. Tell us a bit about the group, when and how did you form?
I was asked to join a pre-existing group called The Cuckolds. It was soon after this that the members of The Cuckolds realised that the term is not known today as a fun Elizabethan insult for a man who whose wife is sexually unfaithful, but is in fact a type of erotic behaviour most commonly exhibited in pornography. We quickly decided to change our name and chose Jazz Police Improv after the Leonard Cohen song.
2. Who are you inspirations in the world of comedy, music and theatre?
My comedy inspirations have changed over the course of my lifetime. I have found that different comedians have had disparate things to teach me at important stages in my comedic development. Early on, I can remember being inspired by comedians and comedic actors such as Rik Mayall and Miranda Richardson. Later, from watching Miranda Hart, I realised that it was ok to be a tall, eccentric female who takes joy from making herself and others laugh. Lately I have taken inspiration from female absurdists such as Lucy Pearman, whose comedy duo LetLuce taught me the mantra of ‘comedy before vanity’, which I try to remember always. The most important inspiration to me has long been my drama teacher Mr. Levy, a Texan who introduced to me to impro (as I knew it then) in a small lunchtime club at school. He brought something into my life that has given me so much joy, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I’m less conscious of inspirations in music and theatre. I think it’s because I like what I like from what I happen to see or hear. I guess I never go seeking inspiration, but I’m most struck by monumental performances that stay with me for the long run. In terms of musical performances, this is undeniably Paul Simon’s last European public performance in Hyde Park. For the encore, a musician exited the stage at the end of every song, until he was left alone to sing his swan song. It was so simple and so beautiful, it really demonstrated how effective performances can be when they emphasise the importance of the music itself. I think I carry this in my improv, as I believe that you can do whatever silly introductions and narratives you like, but what really matters is the content you produce. For theatre, Punchdrunk’s the Drowned Man was a scale of performance I had never seen before. I was lucky enough to have a one-on-one interaction with a drag queen when he cornered me in his dressing room after I had found a secret entrance. He drew a pattern in ink on a piece of paper, and said ‘the closer you get to the spotlight, the harder it is to see’. This advice is probably not the reason I’ve stuck to small-scale improvisational comedy, but I hope I am able to give the audience even a fraction of the pleasure and challenge that these performances gave me.
3. Are any of you real police officers?
I am afraid I am not able to disclose that information for legal reasons.
4. Are any of you real jazz musicians?
I think I come the closest as I love to sing jazz, especially with a live band, and I can play the saxophone. However, we decided it is not an entry level requirement for the troupe.
5. What are you most looking forward to doing on the night of your show at the BIT?
I love the moments where we gather as a team just before and just after we go on stage. Before, when we are full of anticipation and excitement, we take a moment to still ourselves and say ‘I’ve got your back’ to each member of the group. What we do wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t work as a team, and ultimately have everyone’s best interests at heart. I also love the exhilarating moment when you come together for the first time after being onstage, particularly following a really good set. It’s the moment you realise that people have paid you to entertain them and you haven’t let them down.