YBY ep 257 : Llaura H_Improviser on passion and performance opportunities!
This week on Yes But Why, I chatted with UK based improviser, Llaura H_Improviser.
Llaura H_Improviser has been performing long form (mostly narrative) improv since 2016. In the before times (and hopefully soon again), Llaura has been performing with the amateur improv community, Unscripted Players, a group linked to The Bristol Improv Theatre (where she also worked as company director from 2018-2019).
With the daily mantra of “life is improv”, Llaura didn’t let the pandemic stop her from performing. Since the lockdown, Llaura has connected with improv theaters all over the world to perform Zoom improv. Llaura is a member and regular performer with Improv Chattanooga in Tennessee. Through the World of Improv, an international online improv collective, Llaura performs with an all female/non-binary group called Don’t Mess Comedy. She is also a founding member of the Say What You Mean show run through Zmack out of Shanghai!
Llaura H_Improviser is an internationally connected improviser and I had a great time chatting with her about the global improv community. Llaura tells me about her love of creating new shows and connecting with people online. She says “Give me an opportunity and I’ll say YES.” We talk about keeping your eyes open always for possible creative opportunities. Llaura is really passionate about working with improv communities all over the world and that is so cool.
Support Llaura H_Improviser by checking out one of her shows online. Check out Improv Chattanooga! Watch “Done Mess Comedy” through World of Improv! Tune in to the “Say What You Mean show on Zmack Virtual!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com to join in on the fun.
#YesButWhy #Podcast #HCUniversalNetwork
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded zoom meeting on 3/1/2021…posted on 4/5/2021)
Transcript by otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why episode 257 – my chat with UK based performer, Llaura H_improviser. But first, let’s talk about our sponsors. Today’s episode of Yes But Why Podcast is sponsored by audible. Get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Audible has been making a lot of original content lately and you should check it out. Like this hilarious satirical spoof, Master Lecture Series: History of the Third Robot War. Yeah, that’s the actual name of something somebody wrote, performed and got published on Audible. Your stuff could be good for this kind of thing too. Dream big, my theater kitties! Head on over to audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY right now and download the app. You’ll get a free audiobook and access to hundreds of books and podcasts that are included with your membership. Now’s the time. Get Audible. Yes But Why Podcast is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. My husband and I run the company, PodcastCadet.com because we really want to help people with podcasting. We can help you with some little detail you can’t figure out or we can help you with all of your podcast episodes! Connect with us now at PodcastCadet.com . Use promo code YBY20 to let me know you heard this ad and you’ll get 20% off the first service or workshop you buy! This week on Yes But Why, I talk to Llaura H_Improviser, a performer based in the UK who does Zoom improv shows with theaters all over the world. I had a great time chatting with her about the global improv community. Llaura tells me about her love of creating new shows and connecting with people online. She says “Give me an opportunity and I’ll say YES.” Support Llaura H_Improviser by checking out one of her shows online with Improv Chattanooga, World of Improv and Zmack Virtual! I now present to you: yes but why episode 257 : Llaura H_Improviser on passion and performance opportunities! Enjoy! I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why Podcast. Yeah. Let’s jump in. Let’s do this. So my first question to you is, what was the first time in your life when you did a performance or something creative where when you did it and you were like, Oh, yeah, this is the thing that I want to do all the time.
Llaura H_Improviser 03:24
And, oh, interesting question. If you ask my mum, she’ll say one thing. And if you ask me, it’s a different thing. So I and the reason I had a conversation with her a little when I say a little while ago, and the before times 2019 we had a family trip to Edinburgh, in Scotland, and we were taught we were reminiscing me, my mum reconnecting about when I was young. And so she would say the first time that I really enjoyed performing was actually my first performance when I was, I would have been like nine or 10. And the school I was in did a production of Bugsy Malone. And Bugsy Malone is one of my favorite all time movies. If no one’s ever seen it, it’s like a gangster movie based in the 1920s with all kid actors. So like Jodie Foster when she was like 14, she was one of the main characters, and I played her character to Lula when I’m nine or 10 and my I find a traumatic experience. Remember remembering back because I had to kiss my best friend miles at the time I was taught I had to kiss him only on the cheek, but it felt really really devastating. Like this is going to ruin a real good connection I have with this guy who’s a friend. Don’t mind me kiss him but it happened. But my mum remembers that moment remembers me being on stage singing and enjoying it and she thought that I would go into acting and she just thought she said from that moment, I know that you’re going to go into acting or knew I was I didn’t just spoiler and go straight from then. But then when I went into secondary school, so like high school American equivalent, and they also they did another Bugsy Malone and I would have been like a junior Yeah, I’m in high school. And I got the part of fizzy who’s another main character. And in the Bugsy Malone film, he’s a black boy that sweeps around sweeps, the the the speakeasy. But he also wants to be a dancer. And I got that part, much to the dislike of all the real seniors who are thinking that no Junior would get a main part. And I got that main part. And that was when I knew that I was going to love acting, because I think there was a little bit of ego of like, yes, I’m really young, and I’m getting a really big part. But also adults were casting like as the teachers as like adults, obviously seeing something in me. But the thing I really liked wasn’t necessarily the acting, it was the singing element. I really like musicals. And I am a karaoke themed. So whenever I go on holiday with my husband, we have to find the karaoke bar. And, and that’s the thing I enjoyed the most was more the singing rather than the acting. But saying that anytime I acted in stuff, I’d always memorize the whole script. So I would, I would remember everyone’s parts and purely because I like to know, the whole story. And it was never to be an understudy or to show anyone up. But it was great when I was performing or practicing with other people, because I could always help them out. I could always if they if they forgot their line, I could kind of give them a little prompt myself while we were in practice. And that made me realize that I really like helping people. So it’s not, yes, I like singing and yes, like performing, but it was actually the community helping others out. Which still to this day feels a bit odd, not to me, but I see a lot. There’s a lot of egos out there where it’s kind of like let’s step on other people and not support people. Not so much in the improv world. There is like the improv world, but not so much. So I think Yeah, when I was in high school, playing fizzy and Bugsy Malone was the first time I realized that I like performing as for me, but then my natural the way that my childhood took when my parents separated when I was 10, which meant living in different going to different schools, moving to different places. I ended up in Germany, for like the end of high school before I started college. And they didn’t really have any performing opportunities there at that school. So in a sense, I had to stop performing because it was forced, there was no opportunities for me. And then I kind of just took the natural career path of like, Okay, get a proper job. Because in my eyes, I didn’t know that there was you know, acting and performing and everything that happens behind the scenes is profit, proper work. But it was just nothing that I had exposure to because of that gap, I guess. CSI ended up just having normal jobs, like call center jobs became I became a trainer and trading psychology. So there’s still the helping other people and learning about human nature kind of carried through from that initial wanting to help other people perform well remembering everyone’s scripts to then finding improv in like 2016. So that was a big gap. of like, what from 2001 to 2016? Probably the only performance I did was karaoke.
So 2001 was that? That fizzy roll that you were like, Oh, no, I love it too much.
Llaura H_Improviser 08:19
No, fizzy roll would have been earlier than that. So fizzy roll would have probably been 1999. Right? Um, and then yeah, 2001 was when I moved to Germany. So that’s kind of one of my opportunities to perform stopped. So yeah, so after the fizzy roll, I did like at school talent shows. And I remember doing I can’t remember what I did, but I remember doing like, little like, parts of scripts. Like I remember doing some stuff on Greece and I remember some other stuff but I but like the two things that stick out for me being Tallulah and fizzy and Bugsy Malone those Yeah, those were kind of my my peak I picked I picked back then in the theater world. Yeah, that those are the two I remember the most but yeah, my mom would say it was when I played to Lula is when I she knew I’d want to do some form of acting. And for me it was when I was fizzy.
I love that it’s the same play though.
Llaura H_Improviser 09:14
Like that’s such a funny detail like I definitely did not do any plays twice. So I think it’s fascinating that you would have been in two separate productions did they? Did they? Was the end result production different? Like in the design or whatever?
Llaura H_Improviser 09:34
Yeah. Oh, yeah, completely. Yeah, the first one because we were just kind of real young kids. It was just more in the auditorium. But a couple of tables, a couple of chairs, not much fancy stuff. And then when I was in the fizzy version that was on a proper stage with full lighting backdrops, everything. Yeah. With proper, proper, proper audience, you know, audience that had chairs not having to sit you know Little baby seats in the auditorium like the high school gym. And so yeah, so yeah, big contrast between the first one and the second one.
I like how in your story, you mentioned that you learned all the lines, and you’re like, No, I didn’t do it to, to show up anybody. I think a lot of people do it because it’s easier. Right? Yeah, I heard it from a few people and also famous person that does it. Will Smith, Will Smith learns all the lines in the movies? I don’t even think because I think it’s just so he gets the flow. You know what I mean? And it’s easier, I think, for me, I think it’s easier, if you know, everything so that like, you know, if you’re gonna lose something, it’s likely you’re gonna lose something that’s like, not as important to you, if you have this much knowledge, you know?
Llaura H_Improviser 10:51
Yeah. So yeah, it’s the same, it’s the same as like, was different, same and different. But in the, in the scripted world, where there is a script that you can read, and you can, you can read everything from the stage directions to what the characters are saying, you remember all and you’re trying to remember, you can kind of fit in Okay, well, what does my character know when it gets to this point? And what is, you know, what would my feelings be about what’s happened before. And I compare it to the improv world where there is no script. But if you need to still listen to what’s going on, because then you know, when you come back on stage, or if you come on stage for the first time, how you feel about what’s happened beforehand. And some, and like, people say there is a big difference. And I’m like there is but I think either way, you’re listening, but either you’re listening through reading a script and understanding all of the people that are in it, and the characters and their journey, or you’re listening on the side of a stage, or the without your camera on and zoom, and the virtual improv world of just you’re listening to what’s going on so that you know everything that’s happened beforehand, but I appreciate it’s difficult in the improv world, because you, it happens as it happens. So you can’t always be 100% present. But I think that’s the that’s how I’d compare it. So when people are used to doing reading scripts, and they’re a bit fearful of going into improv, it’s like, no, don’t worry about it, because you can make it up. And yes, it is scary, but everyone else is listening to you. So they know how you feel and how their character is going to feel about you. Which is hopefully, they like you, as we do, say an improv we should like everyone that we’re playing with, and we should also like who were playing. And then the vice versa, when people in improv are saying, you know, actually, it’s quite scary to go into script. It’s like, actually, it’s probably easier because you’re just told what to do. And you can, you know, build on that. So yeah, that seems to be a fear in both worlds to kind of join the other camp. But I see a lot of that at the moment where there are a lot of improv, and acquainted to comedy doing like improvisers for actors, and maybe act thing for improvisers the other way around as well. But trying to combine the two communities together, which I think is quite exciting to see. Because I think no one’s really thought well, they might they maybe they did think about it beforehand, but I’m only getting exposed to it now in the virtual world when we see more opportunities available that aren’t in our local cities.
Yeah, you know, I think I whenever I think about improvisers to actors, actors to improvisers, I think of it as almost like, they’re, they’re creating a different sort of situation like, like when actors use improv, they’re not doing improv the way we are when we’re doing a show, right? Like, for instance, if you get a, I do some commercial acting, and a lot of it will say, looking for actors who can improvise, they’re not looking for somebody who can do a fully invented show for them. They’re looking for somebody who has the ability to soak up the lines so well, that they can then live in the space and the character and add little bits here and there. On the edges. They don’t want you to change it. I’ve definitely been in, like commercial shoots, where they’re like, yeah, feel free to like, improvise here. And my lines are the lines that like are the product selling part.
And I’m like,
I don’t, I don’t know how, what would you like eat? Would you like me to say different things? You’re gonna say it differently. Like, I appreciate improv, and I know what you’re trying to do. But my line sells the product. So I don’t know how I can change it. Like, yeah, it’s still the same thing. I have to tell the audience like you’re getting this deal, like so. You know, so I and I, when there’s acting in auditions for movies, I feel like their version of improv is more like being, you know, sort of open. So I feel like what you’re saying as far as like, learning the script and being on point with the script to the point where you then are comfortable in the world. You know, what’s, you know, what’s happening in the story, and you can kind of move around it like it’s like, Yeah, I know that me and this wolf have to get into a fight. Maybe We can chat about it a little bit more before we get to, you know, know hey, you know my grandma you know sort of scenarios. It’s like Whoa, what’s Red Riding Hood? Now? What’s Red Riding Hood for me? Like how do I play this character that’s slightly different to, to adjust it. And I think the reason why there’s classes has a lot to do with people just being fearful. I mean, I the number one I teach level one most of the time and that’s pretty much my job is to calm people down and to debunk the It’s so scary from people. So I don’t know, I think I think that’s sort of the point on both sides is like, Hey, don’t worry actors and perhaps not as scary as you think it is. And then he improvisers Don’t worry. acting’s not as scary as you think it is.
Yeah, you know, it’s like, what’s
the worst that could happen? Yeah, it’s still gonna work out Red Riding Hood. Yeah, we’re gonna try to hang out with her grandmother and it’s not gonna work out. There’s gonna be some of them said, there’s a wolf there. You know what’s happening. It’s fine. You know, we’ll still get to the end, right? And same with improv. It’s like, oh, what if I do my favorite part is when somebody goes, What if I What if I laugh? I go, Well, a nice thing is you’re likely to play a character who laughs So find a way to turn that laugh into scene related laughter.
I go it Go ahead. Laugh. Yeah,
whatever you whatever emotion you have, have it. Just make it in the scene. Like, laugh yourself silly, if you’d like right in the middle of that bank robbery? Yep. Why not? Like, people laugh. You’re playing a character. You can be a character who laughs You know? Just like debunking fear.
Llaura H_Improviser 16:47
Yeah, I find it so nice when people laugh in the scene. Because one it shows they’re listening. It shows that they were listening to their partner. And yeah, they found what they were saying funny, which obviously is reassuring for other people to know that they’re funny, although that’s not what improv has to be. But yeah, I have had many times where I’ve laughed and just made it part of the scene, or used it very well to make it not sound like I’m laughing and it makes me cry instead, because it was not appropriate at times, sometimes for laughter. Although then again, you can play with that as well. laughing at a funeral does happen naturally, a lot of us get a bit nervous and we laugh at nervous times, or inappropriate times. But yeah, I think it’s quite as an audience members. Well, it’s wonderful to see someone inappropriately laughing but making it part of the scene where it becomes justifiable. And you’re like, Yeah, no, I completely see that you as a human were laughing. But now you’ve justified it as a player in the character in the scene. And I like it even more. And then it makes me laugh even harder as an audience member, because you kind of feel like you’ve got an end then you can kind of like, Oh, I feel connected in both ways.
Yeah, totally. Man, I never thought of it that way. That’s a that’s even better. Thank you. That’s I’m gonna be using that one. Next time. I’m reassuring someone it’s okay to laugh. But, man, you know, it’s funny, you know what it makes me think of back in the day. Based on the based on the years you’ve given me, I’m just maybe three or four years older than you. And so my, my SNL cast when I was in high school, which they say is the one you associate with the most. I had Jimmy Fallon and him and I always got mad at him. Because he would laugh his way through every sketch. He would never stay it like he would just break constantly. I made me so mad. And when he became the like, Tonight Show Host I was like, This guy. What? Why? I don’t get it. He’s even like, know how to do a scene without like, breaking. Now I have, as I’ve gotten older and done more improv sort of appreciated the idea of him laughing in a way that’s like, Oh, well, you know, he was just enjoying himself. He was having a nice time. Like, why do you mad at this guy who’s just like having so much fun being a cast member on SNL that he’s just like, giggling his way through it, and he seems to be giggling the way through his whole life. So I mean, that’s just who he is. But now, when you mentioned this idea of like, the laughter actually, like, shows the audience this person’s humanity and like, makes me like, Oh, he’s like me, he thinks it’s funny. I think it’s funny. We’re like the same. I always have my brain like, explodes with like, a well, that’s why he’s that tonight show host because everybody’s like, he’s just like me. So he’s the host, because they’re like, yeah, it’s like, I’m hosting the show. Like,
you really opened my mind to this idea of like, like, extra making it good for laughing and breaking on stage in a way that’s like, it’s okay. The audience is in on the journey and they want to be your friend. And when you laughter like he’s laughing.
Llaura H_Improviser 19:50
It’s a bit like and if you have watched like the panel panel shows where they’re obviously not there to be funny, but they aren’t. Normally they’re funny people and they end up in the UK we call it corpsing, but I don’t know what they call it. In the US, but it’s why you just can’t stop laughing. And that then gets everyone else laughing and then you and it’s the cut. Obviously, that ruins the show because no one can stop and they have to kind of call for a commercial. But that is kind of watching that where it feels like you’re in the living room. You know, you’re in a living room with someone else and you’re just all a group of friends and it kind of bring it draws you in rather than Yeah, being closed. So the guy you’re right, that is probably why do you make all that job? Most your dislike at the time? Well, you see why, yeah, man.
I mean, you know, I the beautiful journey of being part of, you know, the arts and sort of theater film, the culture of artistic you know, choices is watching how not only how things happen, like in like, I’m like, Oh, I wonder why. All of a sudden, there’s a bunch of movies about this topic. Oh, it turns out the culturally we needed to deal with that topic. And all the artists were like, let me delve into it. Now all of a sudden, we get 17 movies about superheroes, you’re like, Oh, I see that we’re dealing with, we need a hero. Let’s find one like, so. I always watch those kinds of patterns. But I hadn’t even thought of this one. For me. I’m
like, dude, you’re getting my brain
going. I love
So you are so you got involved in improv? Well, after you know, you were working and getting out in the world and stuff like that. I find that that is common. You know, it is a common thing that people are like, yeah, I’m not going to be a full time theater person. So let’s just get a regular job. Do you feel like you’re was there pressure from your family or, or, you know, community to be like, oh, Laura, you actually have to get a job, a real job. You can’t just be a theatre person. That’s not a possible No,
Llaura H_Improviser 21:51
no pressure at all. So the great thing about both my parents and my my stepmom as well, because my dad remarried, my mom remarried as well. But she’s on that set now. So we don’t really talk about them. They both my parents have been so supportive, that they’ve always said, you know, it’s your body, do what you want with it. It’s your life, do what you want with it. And just be, you know, ready to own up to your mistakes and appreciate that you can’t really blame anyone else apart from yourself, which has been a great lesson for me to carry throughout. So from finishing. Yeah. Yes, that they are so supportive. And I think and so I’ve got some great matches I carry through a life which I’ve always had the one which is life is improv, despite never doing improv until more recently and down life, but in the sense that you can’t plan anything, just go with the flow always say yes. And if you say no to opportunities, it’s your own fault. You can’t blame other people. Because you didn’t go down that route. So I’m not a big believer in fate, but I’m just a kind of, you know, you do what you do and things happen and just enjoy the ride, even if it can be difficult at times. So very optimistic, half glass half full type of gal. But no. So parents did not tell me what I need to do with my life. The interesting thing from the age of five, I always said that I wanted to be like a solicitor or you know, something in legal as well as performing and singing. And then I started reading law after school and within a matter of days, it’s like this is definitely not for me. And by Yeah, my granddad giving me lots of stuff. I mean, really enjoying, I think I probably it was just over hyped on films and documentaries and stuff. And I really enjoy reading thriller books, murders, crime, anything like that the dark, the darker, the better. And I still do that now. But I realized that law wasn’t for me, because law seems to be too much about the money than anything else. Well, that’s how it was pitched to me when I started. So I stopped that and just took a call center job like a basic call center, like home delivery supermarket delivering food kind of cold sentence, all the old ladies that hadn’t gone on to the internet yet. And then yeah, and then from that took all the opportunities that came my way. So became, there was a leadership program. So I took that leadership program and unfortunately, when any, like managerial roles at that company, but that was fine. But my husband, we’ve been together 16 years now. I think we met at that company. We’ve worked at different companies together since but we don’t we now work at the dining room table together. So it’s not the same company, but it’s the same space. And But no, so I naturally and I ended up moving it was quite Oh yeah, this is weird. Obviously nothing to do of improv, but just kind of how I take opportunities. So I was leaving that call center company. And I went for like a I went to a recruitment agency and I was being interviewed to work for an IT company. But behind me, I could hear someone being interviewed for a role for a company that was fine, literally five minute walk from my front door. And so as soon as I finished the interview with the IT company, I turned around to the other recruitment agent and said, are they hiring still at this place is really close to my house. I think I could do the job. And he looked at the specs that I’d filled in and he’s like, yeah, you can start on Monday. I worked at a free lab, I worked there for 11 years working my way up to becoming a head of training. And then from that role have moved to where I am now. But yeah, I just kind of take any opportunity that seems to come my way and and go with the flow, man. I’m
Llaura H_Improviser 25:15
Yeah, I know. Yeah, exactly. Listen to everything that’s going around you I love people watching I love which I’m really missing in these current stay at home time. Because I used to love sitting in a coffee shop just with my book, and then just what not really listening more watching people on the outside, I don’t really care what’s really going on in your life. I want to make up my own story about it. And you know, you’ll never know if it’s true or not, unless they end up in the papers. And then that gets a little bit dark. But yeah, maybe that’s why I like improv, because you just get to make up stories of all these people that you’ll never meet.
I like that you’re you’re like acknowledging the like darkness but sounds like from the book. So you like reading that? You like reading the dark stuff? So
who knows? Oh, man, I
- Yeah, I will never be murder buys a cappuccino in front of you. You never know.
Llaura H_Improviser 25:59
I was gonna say I was gonna say I would never be the person in the paper. It would never be me like, Oh, she was always a nice person. You know, the, the neighbor next door who you thought was fine, but then becomes a serial killer, but I would definitely have read everything about that person. Yes, I do like the dark stuff. But I think because I think there’s an element there. I mean, there’s truth to it. There’s light and dark in life. And I prefer the dark stuff. And I don’t know why. But I just do. I don’t really like the light and fluffy maybe because that’s a little bit unto realistic in my eyes, the light fluffy romance rom com may stuff don’t mind watching them or reading them every now and then. But I’d rather get to the nitty gritty.
Well, there’s something about, you know, the idea of the darkness sort of being the truth versus like, like nobody, like a romantic comedy is literal fiction. Like, it will never happen that way. No matter what. Every romantic comedy is not a true story. Like it never there’s no one person who’s like, Oh,
actually, you know, it’s
crazy. exactly happened the way that movie portrayed for me and my husband like, no, that’s not that’s not what’s gonna happen right at all. It’s way more complicated. There’s way more details that you have to like, you know, wade through and like, you know, muck you have to figure out like, Oh, what’s this all over me? You know, but that’s just life, you know? Yeah. And I feel like that’s what is definitely draws a lot of us who are artists to, you know, portraying characters and creating these worlds, is the complicated nature, right? The way that, you know, my favorite thing that I like telling my like, level one improv students is like, if you’re playing, if you’re doing a comedy scene, and you’re playing a comedy character, that person is going to make every wrong decision. If you’re like, hmm, is this the right decision, then that’s if it’s something that you would really do in the real world, don’t do that. That’s not what you’re doing. This person’s not gonna learn lessons, they’re not going to figure it out. And it’s like, in that moment, we can find a way to make that funny. In the real world, when people don’t learn lessons. It’s really sad and tragic. But like, it’s still that level of complication. And, well, when I do comedy, I also like to create scenarios where it’s, there’s something you can rely on. And I’m like, if that guy keeps tripping over his feet, keep doing it. Because then other people can rely on that as an action as a thing that’s happened, and they can build from there. But we need a few things we can rely on. And in the world of us all making it up all at once. There’s not a lot to rely on. So if you make a decision that your you know, Susie cries a lot, that’s fine, just keep crying. Don’t stop crying, she’s not gonna feel better. It’s not gonna work out. Like keep it going, because that’s how we need to build everything around it. But I wonder, did you ever you mentioned reading a lot of interesting you know, sort of dark crime novels. Have you? Have you written stories or since you’ve been involved in theater? Have you created any darker pieces?
Llaura H_Improviser 29:03
Get I’m not as dark as the stuff that I would read the writing, but yes to creating. So one of the things. So one of the things I enjoyed about improv or and I still enjoy about improv is that you don’t have to be funny. There’s obviously clear people that try to be funny, but I find I like the grounded realism of life of like, life is funny, even the tragedy there is funny in that. And so one of the great opportunities I had, I want to say in 2018 Yes, it was 2018. And that was to direct a show. So the Bristol improv theatre, which is the closest improvised theatre near me, had an amateur troupe called the unscripted players and there’s about 110 people members. And one of the things that they used to do was three times a year they would put on shows, and they would be pitched and directed by the members of the improv community and They would put two shows on every word say three times. Yesterday I had a show and there was another person had a show at the same time as me. And so we auditioned for cast members and directed the show. So when I pitched it, I feel that one of the reasons I got I got the pitch and that people voted for me was because of the essence of everyone could connect to it. So I am, because I moved around a lot. As I was a kid and made new friends, I realized morbidly, that if I died, my six closest friends have never met each other in real life. And still to date, they’ve never met each other in real life. So if I died, the only thing that would connect them is me. So my pitch and then ultimately, what the show was, was that we start with a funeral. And there are six friends coming together who only who only know the deceased person. And then the the contact with the show is that the person that has died has left their memories in this book at the funeral at the week, for example, that the improvisers are reading, which turned out we as the gap from the audience beforehand, so in the bar beforehand, we’d ask them to write in the book, How did you meet your best friend. And so we pulled those, yeah, we pulled those as inspiration for the show. And we only read a number of them out, but they weren’t, you know, the ones read out weren’t always the ones we didn’t use them all. As, as improv, you know, you just use them for inspiration. And but we played then two person scenes, but the idea was that you see, you saw them, we kind of did time hopping. So you could either start when you met, you could start when you’re in your 30s, or you could be older people. And the idea is the the two people, the two improvisers that came on stage first, they had to stay together. So they had to either start when they were old, let’s say 30s, I was gonna say middle age, but that’s not middle age, or kids. And you say you Sorry, the how you know where their relationship was in the olden days, and then how they met or whatnot, and so that we ended up having jumped through time. And then the show ends with one of those six people as is the dead person, you just didn’t know it till the end of the show. And they sit down and get the book out. And that book was the another gap from the audience in the bar, which was if you could give one piece of advice, or what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received. And so then that improviser at the end, then gave a piece of advice to every single character in the show, connecting it to what the audience had written down. And we always read what the audience had written. But they linked it so well to how that show had gone. Because it was all improv. So the only two things we had was the get at the start and the gets at the end to try and connect to all. But that was mine. So we ended up doing three runs. And the middle one was hilarious. And I think that was because my cast, it was a different it was a day show rather than an evening show. So there’s obviously a different feel when you’re an improviser, anyway, if you can see daylight or not. And then the evening shows ended up with people crying at the end, and there were tears, but they said, you know, they enjoyed it was funny throughout the show. But then the kicker at the end, when you realize that one of those six people you’ve been watching and seeing their life unfold, is the person that died, really made them think like the great feedback I had was that someone’s like, I need to go home and call my best friend now. Or I need to go home and tell my mom that I love her. And those are the connections that I wanted to make with that if that actually, yes, this is a funny show. But there’s also realistic elements to this, and you should be able to connect it to your own lives. And that was the best thing I’ve ever done in the improv world, I think and I just loved it. I loved my cast. And I just loved the reaction from the audience. And it is also what I pitched it. It’s what I told the cast, the potential cast members. I said for this show, I ultimately want people to cry at the end. I don’t want this. Kathy clap, clapping. I want people to be crying. And if there’s silence at the end of the show, I’m more than happy with that. And obviously, there’s lots of happiness and puffing as well. But yeah, that that is how I connected my dog and my realistic love of life to the improv stage. And it was Yeah, loved it.
Oh my god. I love that. That’s so great. I think also, I feel like it’s like, such a perfect premise. You could do this show 1000 times everywhere. Yeah, no, I mean, like, you could redo this all over. You do it at like, you know, when when we’re in the after times, you can do it at international festivals. And all these people never met each other, but they can be the six best friends like crackling Oh my god, such a god wide. And also like what an interesting detail of your own personal life that like your people who you consider your closest friends are kind of all over the world and have never met each other. Like that’s so interesting. Oh, man, what a way to bring it all in. So cool. Now, did you tell the audience like that’s how it got started? Or they were just in the thing? Okay. Yeah.
Llaura H_Improviser 34:40
So the audience just turned up. They just knew that. Yeah, they just knew it was a show called what a difference a friend makes. And, you know, we told them how I guess they when they saw the book for the guests, they probably just assumed it was gonna be like a best friend. Like how do you know how the best friends live their lives kind of thing? If because you’ll make assumptions based on the get of what the show is going to be about. I like watching movies. And one of the movies I ruined for everyone in the cinema was six cents, because I shouted out, he’s dead in the cinema, because I can always figure out what’s going on. So I ruined the movie, I ruined Titanic for other people as well. But come on, we all know what’s gonna happen. And so with the six cents thing, the great thing about the star and some audience members, when they spoke to me afterwards said they didn’t get it at the start. But at the start, two people walk on, and they’re holding an urn, or we ended up using a vase, but it was supposed to be an urn. And the other characters that Come on, don’t talk to these two people sat at the table. And the idea for that was the two people sat at the table talking and reading the book couldn’t die, because they’re obviously in a physical world talking to each other. But the other four players stood behind who were leaning in, you know, eating from the buffet card, drinking some wine, maybe giving a nod to other people. And any of those four were allowed to die. So it was a quite interesting because it had the Sixth Sense feel because some audience members are like, Oh, I could clearly tell it was a funeral. And some people I didn’t get it was a funeral till the end when they’re reading the, you know, the best piece of advice. And then it wasn’t until afterwards, someone said, Well, how do you know which one’s gonna die? And it’s like, we don’t know. But it has to be at least the four at the back, because the two sat down interacting with each other. And I didn’t it isn’t a room full of dead people. It’s just one dead person. So that was the only kind of stickler where some audience members like, Oh, I clearly knew that that had happened or somewhere like, Oh, my God, you floored me, I have no idea how you planned it. And that’s when they start saying, Oh, it’s obviously scripted. It couldn’t be improv. Because How do you know? And I’m like, Well, the only rule was the rule of four, one of those four has to die. One of those four improvisers has to remember that they one of them can die. Because Wouldn’t that be interesting if no one died at the end, because no one could remember who was sat at the table. We had that a couple of times in practice. But that’s the whole, that’s the nice thing about doing a long form format like that, where you can as a troupe, you know, come together and practice the format a few times, so that your least you can remember where those beats are in regards to the funeral, the two person scenes and then the book at the end.
Yeah, totally. Yeah. And people are always like, why would you need to rehearse improv? Like, well, there’s a lot of reasons why you need to rehearse improv. Especially if it’s a format and show like this that has like a specific effort. It’s like, if we all have to know how to do this, right, I used to do a musical improv show. And even though we made up the whole thing, the idea was still that it was a narrative story. And none of us had been educated in narrative improv we had done like, sort of, I don’t know what it’s called. But like, where it was, like montage, like the scenes are unrelated like, and but we wanted to do this project together. And so we ended up calling in coaches that had experience in narrative improv and asking them to help us create, like a format, so that we had little spots during the course of the show where we knew where we were at. And, and also ways like, the other thing I was gonna say about rehearsing improv is my big thing about rehearsing improv is that when you’re a troupe, you need to get to know each other. And if you don’t, if you’re not, like totally attuned with everybody in your troupe, and the way they like to play, then you’re not playing to the best of your ability. Like, if I can look and be like, okay, here are my five troupe mates. And this guy likes to play animals a lot. This guy wants to be high status, this person really enjoys creating weird abstract situations like so I know a little bit about what they like to do, what they tend to do, what kind of characters they create. And with the musical improv where we were doing this narrative, this limited narrative show, we also established which one which ones of us were better with keeping time when we were in a show, versus like, when I start a show, I entered this world of the show, and then like, I don’t know what time it is, I don’t know where I am. I’m just there. You know what I mean? So I’m not the person who you want to be the person on top of like, Hey, everybody, we’re halfway through the show. I’m not back down, right? Yeah, there were a couple people in the troops who are good at that. So they were like they were tasked with making sure to communicate without saying directly. Hey, guys, halfway through the show. They had to communicate to us that we needed to move forward. Right. So they were the person in charge of the clock. And, and so yeah, I really love the little things that we do to create these shows and to develop now did the actors that you cast in this particular show? Were they already people that perform together on a regular basis? Or did you cast them from a larger community and then they had to get to know each other in rehearsal?
Llaura H_Improviser 39:49
Yeah, so they were cast from a larger group of the community. And a number of them had played together, but it just in jams, so you know the free jams that you can turn up to and do short form games. That’s probably the only interaction they’d had. And I remember picking my group and I’m not gonna I’m not gonna name any names, if they’re listening to this don’t know who I’m talking. I don’t know, I’m talking about them. But one of them one member of the troop was a lot newer than the rest and very naive to the way of improv, but also a huge ego. Thinking that, you know, it’s easy, who needs to practice who needs to, you can just get on stage and do stuff. And it was quite interesting, because when I picked my cast members, I had a mentor at the time, I had a couple of mentors, but one of my mentors is like, Are you sure? Are you sure? You definitely want this cast person and the ensemble and as I actually, yeah, because we all knew at some point, we all need to go through those lessons we all need to learn. You know how to work with other people how to interact, I didn’t see it, it’s just a learning curve. For that newer person, I saw it as a learning curve for everyone in the ensemble to like, you need to respect the newness of improvisers as well, because they come with fresh ideas. And I guess the great thing of having a troop leader or a director or whatever label you want to give it is they do need to have to be confident enough to draw the line and say, Actually, I’m going to make the decision, and if it’s needed, but I guess the great thing about a troop that work well together is that you organically make those decisions and those agreements together. But in this instance, there were times I had to just say, No, this is what we are doing. And but that created that was fun, because I ended up because I think maybe because of the nature of my story was, which was about friendships, we spent the first couple of rehearsals, you know, so maybe the first two hours together, just learning about each other’s childhoods and who was their best friend, and what best piece of advice that they received. And also understanding people’s boundaries and what people were and weren’t happy to cover. And weed and weed obviously do that check in every time because people’s boundaries change. Just because I told you one thing last week doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same, or there wasn’t anything different the following week. So that was good. By the end of it, you could tell we were really nicely knit troop, because we could do games where you know, you have to try and perform perform something as another person in the troop, and the rest of troops have to tell you who they’re doing. And you could tell that it was became so natural and easy for everyone to play each other to their strengths, especially you know, mentioning about someone that likes to high status, someone that likes to fall over a lot, some person that’s quite forgetful, we could all naturally play the part as if we could be in their shoes. And that was lovely to see. Because I think one of those great things is if someone wants to try something different in their troop, I’m naturally a initiate, I will always try to initiate first just to kind of get the ball rolling, and tended to go high status a lot in the before times, but don’t do it all the time now in the virtual world of improv, but at least you know, if the high status person stays high status, you’ve got that reliable element list, the high status persons try something different than everyone can feel comfortable in the fact that they’ve still got all their own normal things to fall back on. So if someone tries to change something, it doesn’t feel so scared and weird, because everyone would be like, okay, they’re changing it up a little bit. But I can stay in my normal funny zone. Or as you said, like the clock timer person, or whatever that might be. So it was quite nice, because then we found people stepping out of their comfort zone and trying things different, which is why our middle show out of our three rounds was the bit funnier, because the the the newer improviser, decided to throw out the rulebook and not listen to anything that I had ever said in any direction. And, and tried to do trying to change the format of the show, which made it really funny show. But then afterwards, when we did notes before the third show, I was like, Can we just go back to what it was supposed to be please. And then that’s quite the interesting thing, because with my show, I didn’t perform in it. So I think one of the interesting is is as a director, and as you as we all know, it’s improv. So as soon as the show starts, who knows what’s gonna happen, and that was an interesting learn for me, is to be able to step back and just let someone else take control. And I’m a very, in my own personal life, I’m very controlling in the sense of like, I don’t like to wait for things. I don’t like I don’t I even did an agenda for my own wedding. That’s how like, organized I am. I told everyone what they were gonna wear and where they were going to be. And so yeah, so in my personal life, that’s difficult. For me, yeah. It’s just needed sometimes. Because if you if you hang around with a lot of people that just go with the flow all the time, you’re like, No, we need some firm decisions. And yeah, he’s
been an organizer. I’ve always been a producer or director. I’m the first person to be like, Yeah, what is your paperwork? I’ll do the paperwork. It’s fine.
Llaura H_Improviser 44:22
Oh, I love a good, like tech sheet. Like a quiz a little thing. I can do all that then questionnaire questionnaire when you want to get up in the before time. I was gonna say when you’re on a plane, and they give you a questionnaire about how good your travel was, my husband just passes out straight to me. He’s like, Hey, you live a good question. And yeah, I’m very much like that. And yeah, a restaurant group of friends. I’m the one that just takes the receipt and figures out how how much everyone knows, because they’re too drunk to figure it out most of the time. And also, I just want to get out of the restaurant. I’m like, I’m done. Now. Can we go but the only way you can go is if we pay the bill. So I’m like, Okay, I’ll just I’ll keep everyone organized. Just keep Paul
Oh, absolutely, man, I hate the restaurant figuring out the thing. Like, I only go into restaurants when I know I have enough money to pay for everybody. Or it’s not. I mean that that clearly means I go to restaurants like once a year, but like, but at least when I go, I’m like, Listen, don’t worry about it here. Credit Card done just fine. Yeah, I got out. Like I’m not doing math right now. I just had a great time.
Oh, my God. So funny. Yeah, I also have a have a controlling vibe to me as well, which is kind of what made it really super hard to get into improv. And I didn’t get into improv until later in my life as well. I did theater. And I did plays, I was a stage manager for a long time, man talk about control. I was like the lady with the binder for many, many, many years. And then I was like, hey, I want to perform. I did avant garde like, performance art slash stand up. And I say avant garde performance art slash stand up, because it was like one of those was just a super weird, open, migrate, you could do whatever you wanted. And I didn’t know what I was doing artistically. So like, every week, I just try something super weird and new. And it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I found out improv was a thing. Like I legitimately lived in New York City when UCB was starting. So you know, I, I bang my head against the wall on a regular basis that I didn’t like, join it while I was there, because I was so right there. But it just wasn’t my scene, like I was with a totally different crowd of artists and doing something totally different. And it wasn’t until I moved to Austin, Texas. And, you know, it had been after a weird relationship that I hadn’t done any theater for a long time. And my girlfriend was like, let’s go to a comedy club. You like comedy? Let’s go see what’s happening in this town. And so we went and that was it. I was like, what’s this? I want to do improv every minute. And, you know, it allows me to have some control here and there when you’re, you know, like you said, the director or you’re producing something or, you know, whatnot. But it also sort of forces me in my, like, I want to be in full control, but I can so I gotta step out on the tightrope and be like, I hope it works. And it’s that excitement, I think that keeps me going back. It’s like, exactly the opposite of what the voice inside of me says I want to do. But once I get out there, and I’m with the other people, it’s like, magic. So it’s no no, it’s it’s such so antithetical to being like having a controlling streak, though.
Llaura H_Improviser 47:45
I think that’s what’s so enjoyable at improv, especially why I kept on going back is that like, in the day to day job and my normal job, like you have that conservative with a little bit a small C, but you know, you have to be behaved, you can’t swear, you know, things have got to work out, you can’t just go in willy nilly and hope that it works. Like you have to plan stuff out. And so with the fact of improv where it’s just like, sod it, do it, happy fail, like, I love the idea. And I kind of see that in life, though, because I teach people managers, I deliver management training, and you know, how the fact that we should embrace we should brace embrace failure, but fail quickly. So in the sense of learn from the lessons and, and improve rather than continue to make the same mistakes again. And so I kind of like the fact that in improv, it’s kind of like we’ll enjoy enjoy the fails, because everyone’s just going to enjoy them with you. And actually, sometimes that’s where the best stuff comes from. Because sometimes we get in our heads too much. I know I do in my normal day to day, you get in your head, you’re trying to, you know, the organizer in us. So an improv, you can’t do that you can’t organize, you can’t plan. I know we’ve talked about directing and having some form of, you know, element of planning, but really, there’s no planning once you get up on the stage because anything could happen. And I think that’s the thing I enjoy so much that makes me keep on going back is that one you can’t plan you can’t really plan what you’re going to do. And if you do people know you’re doing it so I ever find that’s really new improvisers that are trying to plan or just really egotistical improvisers that try to force your hand and you’re like, I see the game you’re playing and I’m not playing it with you. So let’s, you know, you end up playing a game within a game really of stopping them from getting anything they want to they want to do. Which the first one of the first games I end or games not really a game but um, you know, one word at a time. And that was something that was shown to me, which I now use in leadership training just to show people that you know, the element of listening and being present. And I think that’s so interesting with the with one word at a time and having to, we try and force the other person’s hand but as soon as they say something that’s out of the norm. In the improv world, you’re like, just go with it. Yeah, you wanted them to say peanut butter and jelly, but instead they said peanut butter and giraffe and you’re like, yes, giraffe is now a thing that we put on our sandwiches. And in the corporate world that I’m in, you know, people are just like, you can’t know that there’s a structure, but showing them that actually if they’re present in the moment and in the conversation, you You put your own agenda aside and you’re it’s actually all about the other person. And that’s how it is an improv, you know, you make your partner look great because you’re listening to them and being present in that moment. And that’s how we should be as humans just in our general conversations. But you tend to find that not the way, especially with managers, and they’re angry is word subordinates. I’ve never used the word subordinates before, but it’s come out my mouth, so I’ll use it. And people that direct into you as a manager, I’ll never use it again. But now it’s been recorded. I can’t go Yeah, don’t worry. I don’t feel bad. It’s my life. I said the word now it’s I mean, word is a fine word. Fine word, I might end up using it more now. And yeah, you find that, you know, you’re always trying to push an agenda and in a leadership world, and I think you actually, we need to just be open to everyone being the same, which leading back to when I was talking earlier about the lessons my parents had given me. I don’t know which parents gave it to me. But it was the element of always treat everyone the same. So whether you’re a cleaner, or a CEO, treat everyone the same, there’s no, there’s nothing better or worse about every individual. And I’ve always seen things that way. Which means that I’m never nervous. So you can put me in front of anyone with a title. And I don’t get shy. I’m not nervous at all. I also don’t get I personally don’t understand, you know, when people get really excited about seeing someone famous, I don’t personally see that. But I think the reason for it is because I just see everyone the same, like you’re all human beings, that’s your job. You become famous from it, but great, you know, you’re a CEO of a company and great, you earn lots of money, but you’re still a human being that took choices to get where you are. And yeah, and yeah, which really helps me to improv as well, I think, because I’m just like, Who cares? I don’t care who’s gonna see me, I’m a human person, I’m just gonna say something. And people are like it or they don’t, but I really don’t care
must really help in your work training managers, too. I mean, you’re talking with these people who could potentially be, you know, you’ll be doing a meeting with like, CEOs and staff, and it’s like, lose, people are really important. And you’re like, that’s cool. But you’ve come to me because you need to develop a skill. So sounds like you’re all just students to me.
Exactly. Yeah, yeah,
students have like Higher, higher or lower in status. In fact, again, it’s kind of full circle around the use of the word subordinates. It’s like, it’s like that is a word that is used in with like management and then subordinates. But if you can wipe away that idea, from everybody’s mind that the manager is high status, and the subordinates, despite even the word are less than, then you can create a wonderful community that can work together a lot better.
Llaura H_Improviser 52:27
Oh, yeah, I was, I was talking to someone the other day actually, about mentoring. So you know, like the mentor and the mentee. And I think actually, we’re all mentors, because we’ve all got something to teach each other. So there’s no status, even you know, if and this this, yeah, so this is a really weird conversation. But actually, the mentor is the for us would be a lower level employee, because they’re teaching the more seniors about how to be more diverse and inclusive in the workplace. But we’re actually saying, really, everyone’s a mentor, because everyone’s got their own life experiences to teach each other as long as everyone’s open and willing to listen. And so yeah, so that’s kind of links back to from an improv perspective, doesn’t matter whether you’ve been doing improv for a day, or years and years, no one’s really well, you could say people are better than others. But there’s an element where everyone’s got their own experiences to bring to the table. So you shouldn’t say, well, because I’ve been doing it for so long, or because I’ve trained of x, y, and Zed. I’m better than you. It’s actually like, No, I’ve just got different experiences to you. And I’d love to hear what your experiences are.
Yeah. Plus, like, they don’t have a leg up in that scene. You’re all making up. It’s not made up for them to they might have been buying it for 20 years. And you’ve been doing it for two weeks, but you’re still making it up together. Like, yeah, three minutes ago, it wasn’t a thing. But now it’s a thing. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, he can have studied it every day of his life, if that’s the case, still got to use those skills right now. Also, the other thing, and it made me think of it earlier, when you’re talking about like lawyers and doctors and stuff is it’s like, yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of info you got to pack into your brain sometimes to do certain work, but at the end of the day, it’s Can you accomplish it when the when you’re right there in it? Like when you’re in the court? Can you do the work you’re supposed to do when you’re in the you know, when when you’re a surgeon and you’re doing surgery? Can you do it? Like, it’s great that you learned, it’s great that you took classes, but in the actual act of accomplishing the task, when someone presents to you an improvised scenario, and you have to live in the world? Can you do it? So no matter how much training you have or not, you have to be able to do the work part of the whole thing.
Llaura H_Improviser 54:33
Oh, yeah, yeah. And there’s a difference between being cognitively able to take in information and then being able to apply it afterwards or wanting to apply it afterwards. I’ve seen a number of people come to workshops, who have learned the same as everyone else, but they don’t apply it afterwards, either because they feel that that wasn’t the right tool for them or they just, you know, feel that it’s not needed or they weren’t actually listening. They weren’t they were present but not listening.
Sometimes, too, I feel like it’s it’s like general lifeline. Lessons where it’s like, sometimes you have to hear it six times before it makes sense to you. Or sometimes you have to be in a different place in your own mind to accept it. You know, it’s almost like the Jimmy Fallon thing I was saying earlier, like, I didn’t like him until recently. But it was only because my mind had to shift from like, understanding the way that he was doing what he was doing, and how people were reacting to it. Like, yeah, I didn’t like it. But that didn’t mean that like, literally apparently, all of America doesn’t like it because they do they love that. You know, they love what he’s doing. And, and so it’s not that my opinion makes anything right or wrong. It’s just I’m either understanding the way the group is understanding it, or my mind is holding me back with some other thought. Making me be like, nope, my way my ways the right way. That’s it. I’m not bending. You know, that happens a lot. You know, did you do you mention your you’re like training these managers and you’re doing what sounds like, improv workshops. Did you do these things before you learned improv?
Llaura H_Improviser 56:06
Yes. So yeah, so I, from an educational perspective, I’m an organizational psychologist. And so I’ve learned about training and development and leadership and how humans work within the workplace. And then it wasn’t until I started doing, and so we did a lot of listening exercises and how to treat people as adults and humans. And I’d use a lot of my life experiences. But since doing improv, I try and bring a little bit of my improv exercises in like one word, one word story, because one, it’s fun, and it makes people squirm. But it also does show them is that it’s a nice way to apply the lesson to real life in black. Oh, yeah, I can, I noticed I wasn’t listening, I noticed I was pushing my own agenda. And I have for some of my teams to arrange for them to have, like three hour improv workshops not delivered by me, delivered by other teachers, because it’s just better for it not to be delivered by me. And from an impartiality point of view. So I’ve tried to show people that actually improv can really be applied to the workplace, because it’s all about that, you know, working together, listening, being present, which are human traits that we should be trying to apply in any interactions we have with each other. So that’s, yeah, so I was doing I was doing that job before improv, but just improv I think has helped me. And then also in my in my improv life, as well as directing the show, but you know, being members of troops that have to commit to, you know, the rehearsals and doing shows, and for a period of time, not all my years escape me. But I want to say, September 2018 to September 2019, I was company director for the UN. I only say it because as a year period, but I definitely think was in September, I was voted in as part of a AGM. So an annual general meeting by the scriptor players community in Bristol improv theatre to be their director, so to be their actual company director to make. So I worked with a kind of production manager and like, an events manager so that we could keep the community together and do fun stuff, like going to play bingo and going to movies together and whatnot and putting on like social events, but then also running those three shows a year that I mentioned. So that was done by other people before then. But then I was voted in to do that. So then that ended up me running the whole show for like, a year, which is scary, but also when I had to stop doing improv because I found it really difficult to perform improv, while also looking after the expectations of about 100 other improvisers because you just don’t have the headspace. Plus, I had a full time job and I was studying for my masters at the same time. I’m an organized person that does a hell of a lot. And it’s crazy. Yeah, it’s crazy. So then September 2019, stopped. I stood down as I can’t do another year of this as as the company director, and then stopped doing improv until the unfortunate lockdown. So from September 2019, to like March 2020, then do any improv because I was like, I’m so burnt out from improvisers and improv in general. I think I auditioned for a show. Yes, I auditioned for what would have been a marathon and didn’t get the part. And then the notes I got in regards to why didn’t get the pot. They’re like, you need to have more fun. And I’m like, Yeah, I did. I didn’t I definitely wasn’t having fun in that audition. But it was purely because I was all in my head I was still too focused on the things have to be done a certain way from, you know, running people and and trying to meet too many people’s expectations. So the great thing about the great thing about COVID The great thing about COVID in a positive way is the lockdown and us having to seek performance, but in an alternative fashion. And so it wasn’t until April 2020 that I noticed that there were elective courses like improv workshops, just you know, a couple of hours workshop or a day, being hosted online and being shared across Facebook. And no longer was while people were still talking about what was happening in the real world, but more improvisers are being vocal online. Which made me think well why not I’ll I’ll dabble in this online improv. I ended up doing which again pushing myself on being someone that always says yes to stuff. teacher called image and Palmer she was doing a course called words that burn which was improvised rap and poetry to genres. I’d never done an improv musical improv Yes, but not specifically poetry or rap. So I did that elective course. And then from there, members of that class I, they, they invited me to perform with their companies around the world. And so from that, I’ve then ended up doing quite a lot of online improv now. Yeah, yeah, formed lots of troops and been parts of loads of competitions. But it I think I needed that gap from September to being forced to be in my home all the time to then find this new world of zoom prov as it’s being referred to, not just by me. Yeah, which has been really, really delightful. Not just by me, they’ve been really delightful. Because also now I can see that there is improv outside of the city that I live in. Because that’s all I had been apart from, you know, watching TV shows and whatnot. Mainly, Whose Line Is It Anyway? And I said, owl, an owl, I am Yeah, I hadn’t really been exposed to any improvisers outside of the city or who had visited my city. So this has been lovely to actually now reach out and have many more sofas to be able to sit on what I do a world tour of improv when we can start traveling again,
man, the global improv community has really stepped up during COVID. For sure. I mean, like, I feel so much closer to friends of mine internationally, because of this, I’ve made good friendships, like, it’s been really amazing. You know, as far as using this time, that could be really terrible. And instead, like, connecting with people and making friends, I mean, I feel like, just across the world, it’s more unified than it ever was before. I mean, to the point where you’re right, there’s classes everywhere. I mean, you can be taking classes in anywhere in the world at this point, because every school has opened up to it being online. So like, you know, no matter where you live, you live in a small town and you feel like, wow, there’s nobody else around me that you have the internet. And you can meet people everywhere in the world that want to do stuff. Like there’s just something so amazing about that. I mean, I’m lucky Austin is a great improv town. When travel is up again, please come it’s a good time. Yeah, there’s there’s five improv theaters currently to without spaces right at the moment, but still maintaining as communities. And you know, just good people who like, do different styles. There’s not even like one style of improv that everyone in town is doing. It’s all different. And so there’s always been that I have legitimately, it legitimately met people who I should have known for the last 10 years of my life that I never met. Like, and there’s lots of reasons but like, you know, I interviewed the last interview I did right before you was another girl who lives in Austin, who it’s like, how is it that we’re not friends? She’s like, I don’t know, how have we never met? And I was like, I don’t know. Like, we could live literally a block away from each other. And we didn’t check. But, you know, like, it was like, we could be so close. And we just don’t even It’s so weird how, you know, we kept ourselves distant in our own ways. We did our own things, and stayed in our towns or felt like, Oh, this is all I can do. But now, now everything is open. Now. It’s like, you can be friends with people who are and the other thing we were talking about with status and stuff. Like some of the people who I’m closest to are like, yeah, bro runs an improv festival in Norway. Like, are you kidding me right now? Like that is? That is a big deal yet? It’s
like, Oh, yeah,
I talk to him every day. You know, like, what, how is that crazy? You know, like, just certain connections. I mean, like, even you and I randomly connected on like, an improv Facebook group. Like, How fun is that?
Yeah. Like and random and great, man.
Okay, so, I want to ask you one final question, which is like, what is the thing now that you’re, you know, taking classes online and you’ve gotten yourself a bit more reignited into the improv community? I’ll be it online. What is the artistic thing that is your jam right now? Like, what is it? That is, you know, keeping you going? What’s your group? Where are you taking classes? What’s the show or, or vibe that you’re working on right now? In the improv world and your improv world?
Llaura H_Improviser 1:04:54
Yeah. So three things come to mind. One is A show that we set up. So there’s a guy called Asad Khan, who’s based in improv Mumbai. And he set up last year a thing called the world of improv, which he runs every couple of months where he gets loads of improvisers together, randomly allocates us and asks us to make new format shows that we host over one weekend. So last year, myself and a number of women throughout the UK and America came together to make a woman only non binary show called Don’t mess. And the reason we call it Don’t mess is because when we saw the list of women put together, we were like, yeah, you don’t want to mess with that. And so we called it Don’t mess and it says, zoom. It’s a Zoom Room format. So we were obviously playing on the fact that we’re all locked in zoom. And our format is about why would you be in a Zoom Room, and that is a lovely show, which we have continued doing since and we’ve had residencies in impro Theater, we’re going to do a residency with pack there to which we’re both in Los Angeles. And we’ve done the nursery Theatre in the UK. And we thought, why not, it’s online, we can just host our own shows as well. So we’re going to start hosting our own shows from next month, which is going to be great. And then the one of the other things is, so this is one I’m really proud of so smack theatre, which is based in Shanghai, and the Asian hemisphere because Kurt’s mulberry has just launched smart virtual. So we are going to be in a purely virtual Asian hemisphere performance theater. And he has asked me to run the long form show there which is called say what you mean, which is a long form show, which mixes mind reading puppetry, arts, and two person scenes, which can be humans or items, which I actually created with a group of improvisers following a six week course. But I’ve been asked along with a Filipino improviser called Andy Faye for us to both coach that group going forwards. And but that’s really exciting because it’s the 12 years of smack theatre. And they’re celebrating that this April. So we’ve just launched ready to audition people for that long form troupe and some short forms, NGOs and everything else. So that’s really exciting. And then the other one, which I really, really love is improv Chattanooga, based in Tennessee. Steven Desborough, who runs out there. So he is the first person that reached out to me in let’s say, it was April 2020, to say, Do you want to come play with us? And that was his mistake. Because I came I came back every single week. So he just said, Why don’t you just become an international member. And now he said, I need to stop calling myself an international member and just be a member. But the great thing about that theater, because he jumped to being online, is that every month we do something different. So in October of last year, in a sense to kind of stick the tongue out to the political stuff that’s going on in America anyway. But we did our own soap opera, we did a political horror soap opera throughout October, not based on what was really happening. It was all improvised, and that we made it about Gods and stuff. And it was really interesting. And so it’s nice that they try new things. So every month, we’re like, what do we want to try? Let’s do something different. So it’s gonna be really exciting. And every month we do we try out a new format. So it’s been great. So yeah, you asked me for one thing, but I gave you three key. I’m really just really passionate about working with loads of people around the world and being really honored to be asked to be part of these opportunities as well. And as I said before, I’m always a yes person anyway. So give me an opportunity. And I’ll say yes.
Give me an opportunity. And I’ll say, Yes, my life might not get any sleep. But yeah. You’ll be spending your whole life sitting at that dining room table next to your husband.
I love how your three things are all across the world. Yes, that’s a different time zone. Yeah. Yeah. And none of them located where you are, which is super funny. No, there’s a lot of great, great UK improv, but now jagad out, meet all the other you can meet them later. You can walk over there later,
know exactly. But now you get to hang out with all sorts of people. Oh, man. So great. Thank you so much, Laura, for chatting with me for sharing your stories. It’s been a really great chat with you about all the ways to be creative. And I also really appreciate how you know the work that you were doing, at your at the job that you work at, you know, seems to be sort of improv related, even if you never intended it to be initially. Like you clearly have these skills and you found a way to use them in the business world. And then we’re like, hey, wait, I need to get into this improv world cuz they’re doing it for fun days, and not with CEOs who are a little rougher around the edges. Oh, man. It’s so great. Thank you so much for being part of the podcast and thank you so much for sharing everything. Thank you for having me. Really enjoyed it. Great. Thanks for listening to yes but why podcast? Check out all our episodes on yes but why podcast calm or check out all the content on our network at Universal and HC Universal Network calm