We spoke to another BFF of ours, Colin as a part of our Friends of the Bristol Improv Theatre blog post series!
We would like to provide a disclaimer that the Bristol Improv Theatre is in no way responsible for the “interview” he scripted on his own or the tummy ache from laughing too much after reading this!
Hi Bristol Improv Theatre! Good to chat. You’re looking well.
Let’s start with an easy one. What is improv?
I’m pretty sure you should know that. You’re the Bristol Improv Theatre. Do you also need me to explain ‘Bristol’ and ‘Theatre’ to you?
OK, I’ll re-phrase. What does improv mean to you?
Improv (noun; informal): improvisation.
Come on, Colin.
Right, sorry. Improv is anything that is made up. Before I got involved in the world of improv, I really only thought of it as Whose Line Is It Anyway? games – short, sharp, silly. Nothing wrong with that, but it was really eye-opening to see how much else improv could encompass: sketches, plays, songs, musicals, monologues, duologues, triologues –
When you think about it, every tree is a triologues.
Is it fair to say you don’t have to be funny in order to get involved with improv?
Harsh. But yes, that’s true – I think absolutely everyone should give it a try, and certainly no one should hold back because they don’t think they’re funny enough. Some improv isn’t even supposed to be funny.
What was your introduction to improv?
A friend from university was into it, so I did a couple of workshops with him and watched his Whose Line-style group a few times, but the first professional performance I saw wasn’t until many years later: the Groundlings in Los Angeles. The second one was Austentatious at the Bristol Improv Theatre – back when you were still the Polish club and they were outstanding. I tweeted about how good they were, and mentioned that I’d like to have a go, and they replied: “We recommend all people do it! Is hard but FUN!” What with one thing and another, though, I didn’t get round to doing anything about it until three years after that.
What made you take the plunge?
I’d made a list of 40 things to do before 40, and by putting ‘do an improv course’ on the list, I kinda forced myself into it. That was the push I needed (from myself) to sign up for Discovering Improv, in the summer of 2018.
A 40 by 40 list sounds fun. Anything else interesting on there?
Stroke a pigeon.
Anyway… Discovering Improv. What was that like?
Life-changing. Honestly. Taught by Stephen Clements & Caitlin Campbell, the wonderful thing about it was how welcoming it was: almost all of us admitted at the start that we were nervous about getting involved, but everyone had a great time. There wasn’t any emphasis on being clever or funny-
Lucky for you.
Is this still about that triologues joke? You were much nicer in 2018.
Sorry, please carry on. You were saying that you’re not clever or funny?
Instead of trying to wow the entire room with our genius, we were encouraged to help each other out, to quash our inner critic, and to have fun. Still great advice, whatever level of improv you’re at.
Was there a key moment for you?
I remember one game, where my friend James & I were creating characters without using words, and reflecting back what the other was doing: grunts, facial expressions, body movements etc. We both ended up collapsed on the floor, and it was a great moment of casting off inhibitions. The key thing, though, is that we weren’t prodded into it, or made to feel discouraged if we didn’t push ourselves further than we wanted to go. Some drama groups can make you feel bad if you don’t “throw yourself in”, but this course – and all the ones I’ve done since – recognise that we move at different paces, and that’s OK. They encourage you to try new things, but not to make yourself uncomfortable.
Would you say that an atmosphere of generosity and support is what sets the Bristol Improv Theatre apart from other theatres/groups?
Yeah, I would.
Can you say it, though? We might need a pull quote.
I would say that an atmosphere of generosity and support is what sets the Bristol Improv Theatre apart from other theatres/groups.
Lovely, thanks. Where did improv take you next?
Having done a number of courses with the BIT over the years, and taken the opportunity to perform when possible, I’m now in a group called Beansville with five others who came up through the courses – just some of the many friends I’ve made through the improv theatre, most of whom I would never have met otherwise.
We’ve talked a lot about learning improv – what about watching it?
There are so many great shows at the BIT! Some have established themselves as classics, and for good reason: Murder, She Didn’t Write, The Bish Bosh Bash and Steves & Wooster are three of my favourites – there are also groups on tour (These Folk earlier this year was phenomenal), and there are always newer groups joining the scene. For example, last year saw the launch of Beansville-
Calm down – this is a blog post, not a Beansville advert.
Sorry. Can I just mention our Instagram page?
Anything else you want to say about the other shows at the BIT?
There’s so much wonderful stuff, and there really is something for everyone. There’s always a chance that watching improv will inspire you to try it out yourself (as it did for me), but even people who would never dream of treading the boards will still have a whale of a time. Check out the website – and bring your friends! They’ll soon be hooked.
Speaking of friends, what do you think about the Friends Scheme?
Up until this point, my only friends had been human beings. Plus the occasional animal and much-loved teddy bear. This is the first time I’ve been friends with an actual organisation, and I have to say I’m loving it.
Aww, you’ll make me blush.
That seems physically impossible.
Not very ‘yes and’ of you.
Sorry. The Friends Scheme is a great way to support the theatre and all the amazing work that is done there, and I’m really happy to be involved. There are a number of benefits that come as part of the scheme, but for me the main thing is being able to give back to a place that has given me so much joy, and where I’ve met so many wonderful people. And had so much wonderful pear juice. But I’ve not seen that at the bar recently. What happened to the pear juice?
I’ll look into it.
I don’t think you will. But don’t worry, we’re still friends.
If you could describe your time at the BIT in one word, what would it be?
Seriously, though. Improv-tastic?
I stand by it.
It’s not even a word. We can’t use that.
We have standards, you know. We won’t publish just anything.
Perhaps I need to revisit that thing about quashing my inner critic.
If you could describe your time at the BIT in a different word – an actual word, say – what would it be?
Let’s say… joyous.
Thanks, Colin. See you soon.
You can count on it.