- Comedy is a Universal Language – Slapdash is an international festival, bringing improvisers from a range of countries together in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. People in general, and improvisers specifically, often seem more interested in identifying our differences rather than our similarities. It was therefore an enormous pleasure to watch every audience member, night after night, unite with each other in laughter. All the teams, from all the nations, brought their A Game, and whether their style was more physical, verbal, artistic, or another flavour entirely, each one brought a joy and humour which speaks more loudly and clearly than any language differences can.
- You Never Finish Learning – In theory I’ve been doing improv for 20 years, in practice most shows make me feel like it’s my first time on stage. Slapdash16 had more teachers, from a bigger range of improv backgrounds, than ever before. This presented a great opportunity to focus on the skills I rarely work and the styles of improv I don’t often perform in. More than this, while I’m known for my love of UCB and have completed a significant amount of training with this school, I was reminded that there is always a fresh way to look at what I think I know, by taking classes with teachers I’d yet to work with.
- Diversity will not Solve Itself – Ironically, the severe lack of diversity in improv is a problem which unites the art form, no matter where in the world it’s performed. We worked incredibly hard to book an enormous range of shows, styles, teams and classes for Slapdash16 but, once the offers went out and the festival started forming, it was disheartening to see how much of this creative range was being taught and performed by the same narrow field of performers. This has inspired myself, along with the rest of C3?, to work even harder to ensure the improvisers we put on stage are as diversified as the improv.
- I acted in 4 promotional videos and helped make over 10 of those. Producing content for Slapdash might have been hard work at times, but the afternoons shooting funny sketches for the festival were as much of a learning opportunity as a happy endeavour
- The human body is a beautiful machine. Sleeping less than 4h a night and eating popcorn and protein bars for a week, while working hard to put on a festival, doesn’t kill you.
- I was on stage twice during the Slapdash, performing in the mixers with improvisers from all over the world. I did at least a workshop a day for a week with wonderful teachers and improvisers. I’ve watched amazing improvisers do great things on stage. I finished Slapdash 16 a better improviser.
- IMPROV SPIRIT The spirit of improvisation is like a unique language and that was demonstrated with the coming together of people from all over the planet. Running the International Mixer shows was a fantastic experience and I was able to put forward styles and concepts for shows that none of the improvisers had done before and the resounding response from all who played in them was YES! The mixing together of all different styles and approaches to improv was a beautiful thing to be part of. It didn’t matter what school you came from or what language you spoke. As long as you got out there, had your scene partners back and jumped on and supported their ideas then it would not only be good but it would be fantastically funny!
Also with one or two last minute changes our teachers were just brilliant in helping to not only plug holes and help where needed but they done it with such enthusiasm that I ended up being thankful that things had worked out exactly as they had. Kudos to all of the teachers, teams that travelled and people that took workshops as well as the fantastic audiences we had each night.
BODILY NEEDS The human body is capable of incredible things. It has the ability to consume fifty bags of Propercorn popcorn in a single 24 hour period and survive on that alone, coupled with two-three hours sleep before getting up to do it all again.
COMEDY There is a plethora of just brilliant comedy out there. We should be proud of the Improv Comedy scene here in London and I was told by many teachers and students that we have a really good thing going on out here that we should be proud of. London truly is an international hub of improvised comedy. But having witnessed the teams from all over the planet and taken workshops with the team members and been lucky enough to perform with several of our international friends, in certainly planning on jumping on a plane to check out other international improv festivals. I can’t wait for Slapdash17 and I’m already salivating thinking of the groups that we might have over next year!
Make do My personal soundtrack to the festival was a J-Zone and Pablo Martin album “The Du-Rites”. J-Zone is an rapper/producer from Queens infamous for his “fuck it I’ll do it my way” approach. The Du-Rites album is gritty, self-produced with broken and borrowed equipment and the perfect backdrop to the behind the scenes chaos of “we need a flyer/video/streaming projection set up … now”. And the constant, fresh technical challenges such as “shoot a bunch of promotional videos in 4 hours, with a single camera, microphone and Keith’s acting ability”. But you make do.
Commitment I first trained with Alex Berg 4 years ago in a Component Game Theory class in New York and have since seen him in various locations all over the world. And he has never not rocked his camo shorts. That’s commitment to a bit and something I can respect. As my old comedy partner Will Sirl (Noel’s Hat Party, The Magic Mad Hat Show) used to say “If you don’t commit to your bits, you ain’t shit”. There’s nothing worse than non-committal improv … except maybe Storyteller die. I may dislike short form improv, but I found Berg’s shorts form improv inspiring.
Showbiz Sucks I almost got a tattoo on my wrist that read “And this too shall pass” to remind me that good and bad moments are just fleeting. But a permanent tattoo to remind me of the transitory nature of things felt like over-commitment to a bit. (This was before the true meaning of Berg’s shorts had sunk in). I’m not an actor and am barely an improviser, but as a writer it was very satisfying producing comedic moments and watching them connect with a room full of people. And the very next day attending a poorly attended show where one of the acts, after I’d explained the running order, lights and tech set up said “… sorry who are you?” was less satisfying. 24 hours after a sold out, standing room only show that people seemed to love, I was on the floor of the Horse & Stables monitoring levels for a loop pedal. But that’s “doing it”. The only thing worse than Showbiz is not being in Showbiz.
Sidenote about a sidenote about Diversity
I give a shit about trying. We tried to book two of the best improvisers we’d ever seen (who happen to both be lesbians) and they couldn’t make it. It’s a shame as they would have blown your tiny minds. And we also tried to get three incredible black ladies who would have been lit. Again unavailable as two of them booked TV shows. Fortunately the UK doesn’t reward female talent in quite the same way so were lucky enough to have the incredible Playground perform. We do take diversity very seriously (I would like to have less entitled people talking to down to me with a near constant barrage of microaggressions) have organised some free workshops to ensure people who don’t look like Jules feel more welcome on improv stages. Come along.