The kings of improv return to Dubai
It’s perhaps no idle boast to say that Steven Frost, Steve Steen and Andy Smart are the undisputed kings of British improvisation comedy. Regulars to the Comedy Store in the UK, or viewers of the ling-running improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? will immediately recognise their faces, their snarls, their pregnant pauses, their manic miming… they’ve been doing this for nigh-on three decades now.
Alongside Irishmen Ian Coppinger and Joe Rooney, they bring their unparalleled off-the-cuff comedy to the Madinat Jumeirah Theatre for three nights, beginning May 20 for three nights after sell-out shows in 2014.
Shortlist spoke to Steve Frost about what we can expect…
You’ve obviously been to Dubai before… have you noticed what material works well here that maybe somewhat different to the UK or elsewhere?
Because of the type of show we do, we rely heavily on audience suggestions, so they dictate how the show goes. We adapt to the location, of course, but in general audiences tend to shout out similar things the world over, which is why the show is successful where ever we go. Result!
Is part of the skill of improv to notice what is going down well with an audience and then deliver more in that vein?
Exactly! Play the gig, as we say, and don’t try and crowbar anything in that isn’t there.
Do you need to rehearse/practice these days or is your improv toolbox so well stuffed it just flows effortlessly?
It not only flows effortlessly, it pours out uncontrollably. We’ve been at this game for a very long time. We literally do it in our sleep. “Rehearse” and “practice” are dirty words in our game; if you do that it’s not improv, it’s a play!
Strikers in football talk about seeing goals everywhere, in a window frame or bus stop, and imagining where they aim their shot. Are improv guys the same? Constantly conjuring gags when you’re in a supermarket queue, departure lounge, mate’s wedding...?
Spot on, and it can get quite overwhelming if we’re all in the same supermarket queue. Poor checkout girl.
Have you prepared for audience suggestions such as “brunch”, “obscene rent increases” or “massive shopping mall”…?
No! We prepare for nothing. We just bob and weave like comedy ninjas as soon as we walk on stage. Look out!
When was the last time you genuinely blanked… when literally nothing came to you?
There are five experienced improvisers on stage so if one of us can’t come up with something then one of the others steps in. It’s the improvisers’ code: we watch each other’s back.
Genuine question: do comedians/performers get a list of rules before taking the stage here?
No, but experience and common sense tells us how to behave. We are there to give the audience a great show and have a good time. We’re looking forward to the shows.