Improv – having fun and making it up at the same time

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-30 18:13:01

Performers on stage at Shanghai's first improv festival Photo: Courtesy of Zmack

Some of the quickest wits from across Asia gathered in Shanghai last week for the city's first improv festival. From October 23 to 27, seven troupes specializing in improvising scenes on stage had audiences in stitches at venues across the city, as they created hilarious on-the-spot pieces, heavy on audience interaction. The Global Times checked out a few of the shows to ask audiences and performers their impressions of the event.

Julien Bertrand, Zmack performer, France

I'm part of local improv group Zmack, and very proud to work with the People's Republic of Comedy (another Shanghai-based improv group) in bringing seven different teams to the show. It's been a blast. We decided to hold the festival as Shanghai's comedy scene is exploding with all the stand-up and improv here. People should come and improvise in Shanghai to have fun, and discover what improv is. There are always lots of first-timers at our shows. They can see that it's very easy to enjoy and it's crazy and silly. Also, you get to influence the show by giving your suggestions to the performers.

Erik Barnes, Zmack performer, the US

I've been in Zmack for about two years. I did the workshops before I joined the main group, then had to audition. I was always impressed by improv, how people could think on their feet and link things together to make people laugh. I'm a professional trainer, so I was in front of people all the time, but didn't get a chance to make people laugh. I'd also been involved with toastmasters, doing speeches, so I got into improv to take it to the next level, creating scenes on the fly. The first improv festival here is history in the making. I've been to a few other festivals too. It's great the energy that people bring, different perspectives on improvisation come through. We have an admiration and appreciation for each other's craft as we know how difficult it is, especially to make it look easy. If you're in Shanghai and interested in improv, you should come out and attend the classes we run at Zmack, and get some stage time.

Curt Mabry, Zmack executive director, the US

I am very proud and humbled by the massive success of our first improv festival. The shows were hilarious, but the best part was seeing so many talented people join together to create this event. Improv is a life philosophy for me, and I was thrilled to introduce this comedy style to new audiences, who were able to try it as well in our workshops. That's the great thing about improvisational theater, anyone can learn to do it - we all did it as children, but somewhere along the way we forgot as we got older. Studying improv helps spur creativity, improves our social interactions, gives us more confidence in most any situation, encourages us to take risks, improves listening ability - and frankly it's just plain fun. Improv helps you be more you!

Hannah Cameron, landscape architect, the UK

I've been to improv in Shanghai before. I was pretty interested in seeing the other improv groups from across Asia. I also wanted to see what an improv festival was like, as I haven't been to one before. I thought it was really enjoyable, I laughed a lot. I especially enjoyed the Taipei Improv group, the Shanghai improv groups and the 3 Dudes from Hong Kong.

All the different improv groups had their own games that they played and different types of sketches. They all had their favorites, so it was really interesting to see. The 3 Dudes had singing, the Taipei group had a detective sketch which I hadn't seen before.

One of my favorites was the People's Republic of Comedy group sketch where one of them had to work out from another performer's mime why he was late for work. It turned out he worked in a unisex toilet inside a whale, and that he was late because he had been castrating Kim Jong-il's dog.

Performers on stage at Shanghai's first improv festival Photo: Courtesy of Zmack


Joe Klocek, stand-up comedian, the US

There has always been a rivalry between improv and stand-up, but the two came together under one roof. At one point there was an improv show happening upstairs and my stand-up show downstairs. It's great that audiences were exposed to so much comedy in one place. In the end, each had sold-out crowds with non-stop laughter, unexpected turns and memorable lines that people will be quoting for a while. I'm glad I was included, and I hope to make it back next year.

Rich Bailes, teacher, the UK

I know about improv from TV and the exercises we used to do in drama class at school, but I've never seen it live. The performances have been great. A lot of variety and always funny. It's good to see stuff being built up on stage and, as a member of the audience, you feel really involved with what's going on. I'll definitely check out more improv and comedy in the city in the future. Maybe I'll even work up the courage to give it a try myself.

Quinn McHale, student, the US

One of our professors, Andrea, is actually in the People's Republic of Comedy, so she invited us to come out. This is our first time seeing improv. My hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, has an improv scene and I've been to one or two shows. The shows here were really good. I'm amazed at the on-the-spot creativity - it's cool to watch.

Global Times

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, City Panorama

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