American Improv & The Edinburgh Fringe


This summer I attended the annual Comedysportz Championship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for shows and improv workshops. Then headed straight to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. It was an intense and enjoyable three weeks of of improv training and performing.

There's nothing in the UK that's really comparable the annual improv championship. It's not really a competition,  more a convention of comedy shows and improv workshops where performers from all over the us - and UK - come together for one week to collaborate and learn new skills.

An improvised singing workshop taken by Jim Ansaldo from Indiana.

Improv is on the rise in the UK, but no where near as well established as it is in the US, with it's dedicating schools of improvisation, not just for performance skill, but also as a tool for learning. This annual event attracts some of the worlds best teachers of improvisation. During the week I took workshops in diverse topics such as character types, status, building emotional connections. There was also a brilliant workshop on how to teach improv, weighing up the feedback approach versus side-coaching that It really got into the nuts and bolt of how teachers teach.

The Manchester Comedysportz team play home team Philadelphia
Morning briefing. A theatre full of improvisers.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

A twenty four hour turnaround from landing the Manchester improv gang regrouped and headed to Edinburgh for our twelfth year at the fringe. I've taken up solo comedy shows in the past, and it a lot less stressful to be part of a team.

During my ten days there I was performing in four shows per day including the regular ComedySportz show, guest spots, comparing a couple of night of Salfunny, and a late night improvised true crime show.

Compering Salfunny.

Salfunny was a showcase for students studying the comedy degree at Salford University. One of their performers, Erika Ehler, went on to win the Chortle new comedian award.

The Royal mile - on a quiet day.

There were more improvised shows there this year than ever before, and while and that's a good thing for recognition of improv, it's important to keep the quality standard high. With stand up comedy and improv, there is no barrier to entry, to learn the skill is a choice. There are some great places to learn improv best practice around the UK, and hopefully some day soon improv will be as well recognised as a teaching skill as it across the pond.

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    John Cooper
    Comedian & Improv coach
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