Dan Starkey | An Actors Foundation

Dan Starkey is an actor appearing in television series such as Doctor Who, inside No.9 and Class Dismissed on CBBC. He’s performed with many improv groups and done improv marathons.

I’m a massive Doctor Who fan, and seeing Dan improvise some online shorts for Doctor Who, a big TV production,  made want to delve into how that came about and find out more about Dan’s work.


Bullet Points

Links: Dan on Twitter | Dan on IMDB

Direct Link

Adam St John Lawrence | Improvisation for Innovation

Adam is a customer experience consultant with a background in stand up comedy and psychology.

“We are going to break your ideas”. Adam uses improv theatre techniques to drive design and innovation and is the co-initiator of the world’s largest service innovation event, the 48 hour Global Service Jam.

In this interview we discuss how Adam brings his skills in theatre, marketing and design together with improvisation. Using the ‘yes and’ in service design,  showing client’s how to embrace uncertainty, understand the world they sell to and deliver a better product and service. We touch on the subjects of conformation bias,  big ideas versus cheap experiments and allowing flexibility within structure.


Bullet Points

  • The handicraft of emotion
  • Treating design prototypes as offers
  • The iterative stages of innovation & customer centric innovation
  • Removing risk in product design
  • Using improv to generate ideas, break them and get better questions
  • “We’ve got this idea, how do we sell it?” – understand the world you’re selling to.
  • Confirmation bias. Defending our own ideas and getting precious about them…
  • ideas generated by a group are my readily accepted.
  • Get up and try stuff, get your hands dirty and enjoy the uncertainty
  • Micheal Schrage, The Innovators Hypothesis – “You don’t need big ideas, you need cheap experiments”
  • Service design & design thinking – moving away from a linear approach
  • How do you lead a non-linear, improvised approach to design?
  • A brief word on agile design & scrum
  • What works for you might not work for me; Allowing the flexibility for a great performance.
  • Tom Peters – If it’s rock and roll you can smell it.
  • Global service Jam

www.workplayexperience.com | Adam on Twitter

Direct Link

Neil Mullarkey | The Business of Improvisation

Neil Mullarkey is one of the founding members of the Comedy Store players and probably one of the most recognisable faces in the world of improv.

He has a string of well known movie and television credits appearing with other improv alumini. Just as impressive is the list of companies he’s worked with, where he has brought improv theatre techniques into businesses like Barclays and Google.

In this interview we talk about Second City and the early days of the comedy store players. We also dig into Neil’s work applying improvisation and performance in his workshops. How he encourages people to enjoy uncertainty and identify offers, and re-frame a ‘yes but’ into a ‘yes and’.

We cover a lot of ground in our conversation:
Structure in improv, the 7 stories.
‘Get on with it’, introducing improvisation into a workshop.
L Vaughn Spencer, costume disguise in character comedy.
Agile workflow for teams.
VUCA: Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

The show notes for this episode are pretty extensive. Neil has an encyclopedic knowledge of improv and I’ve tried to capture most of the reference’s that came out during our conversation below.

Neil’s Book on soft skills, should he call it ‘Squidgy’? Tweet him your suggestions



www.neilmullarkey.com | Comedy Store Players | L. Vaughn Spencer

A lot of mentions in this show, here a most of them;

Direct Link

WordPress, Podcasts and ‘Real World Clients’.

I’ve just delivered a couple of talks at ‘WMUG‘, a group run by Mike Little one of the co-founders of the crazily popular WordPress system. The first was on the podcasting and the second was on  ‘Real World Clients’.

I’ve already posted on how I created the podcast over on my design blog, and if you’re interested the podcast itself, interviewing people who use applied improvisation in their work, it’s here.

Real World Clients.

Despite doing stand up comedy forever I’ve never got up and talked about my design work – ever, let alone my experiences with clients. I’m totally comfortable getting up and talking. In fact chatting to the group beforehand, I think that was my worry. In comparison to being Danny Pensive this was a ‘zero pressure gig’. My desire to entertain, rather than inform could easily take me take me way off topic very quickly. Without high stakes I could get sloppy.

Having said that I was really worried about throwing myself under the bus. There would be other developers in the room and I wasn’t just telling stories, but also talking about my work processes, potentially laying myself open for judgement. So actually there was a bit of pressure, but not the kind that i’m used to. That’s good, a bit of performance pressure is better than not at all.

So I dipped back down the last five or six years of work history and picked out a dozen or so projects, then mashed them all together. Mixing old real world situations I’ve come up against with a bit traditional narrative structure. A call to action here and a stink of death there and pretty soon had something I could work with and relate back to WordPress.

It was a success I thought, in fact putting my comedians head back on…I think there might be a show in this.




Mary T. Curtis | Behavioral Health

mary-tMary is a learning and development professional. She trained with Second city and combines her skills to deliver dynamic experiential learning programs.

Mary uses applies improvisation techniques in the area of behavioural health. Working with business in professional development courses and families, she helps people manage issues such as stress, anxiety and addiction to fulfil their peak potential.

When I started the podcast in 2016, Mary was on top of my list of people to talk to. In this interview we talk about how improvisation can be applied to increase  quality of life. By being present, utilising the fundamentals of ‘Yes And’ to accept and commit to positive change in ourselves and in helping others.



This episode in bullet points

  • A.C.T.  – Acceptance Commitment Therapy
  •  Tony Robbins – date with destiny
  • A brief digression on yoga.

Connect With Mary
www.marytcurtis.com | Mary on Linkedin

Direct Link to MP3

John Cooper

Rocket Steps Ltd

Comedian. Improviser. Illustrator. Trainer.