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Comedysportz workshop

Alastair McCall tries to prove he’s a funny f**k*r by going back to school at the Comedy Store

Published on October 23rd 2008.

Comedysportz workshop

“What’s in this box?” asked John, holding an imaginary box.

“A banana,” I said, with a certain degree of confidence.

“No it isn’t,” said John. “Try again.”

“All right then, it’s a bunch of flowers.”


Right, I thought, I’ve had enough of this: “Well John, it’s an ornate chair made from the skin of an African tribal elder.”

John raised his eyebrows.

“Yes, it is,” he said.

I was standing on the stage of the Comedy Store and John was a member of the Comedysportz team, a group dedicated to the art of improvisational comedy.

The box game, I was told afterwards was an exercise designed to get ideas from your brain to your mouth faster and to “break down your social filter”. Now, I’ve been working for years to build up my social filter, I started to worry.

Improvisational comedy is something that we don’t do a lot of in this country.

Maybe our British sensibilities don’t like the fear of the unknown: we’re much happier listening to a man with a microphone and a set routine. The Americans love it, there’s no shortage of loud-mouths over there that will happily yell out suggestions to even-louder-mouths on stage to be funny with.

However, there is an improv scene right here in our fair city, and it’s led by the guys from Comedysportz. Their show involves two teams of performers fighting it out in totally unprepared scenes and games, the inspiration for which comes from suggestions from the audience. The audience then decide who they thought ‘won’ the battle, all of which is overseen by a referee, who ensures that the teams stick to the rules, including keeping the show family friendly. It’s a format that is well known in the States, but the Manchester branch is the only licensed Comedysportz group in the UK.

The shows aren’t the only branch of the Comedysportz tree, they also run workshops for schools, companies and members of the general public. It was, of course, one of these workshops that found me on stage with John talking about my ornate chair.

If I’m completely honest, walking towards the store, I was dreading the whole thing. Over the years I’ve found myself in quite a few seminar rooms pretending to be a tree in order to get to know the people around me. On first impressions the workshop lived up to every one of those fears. Firstly it was run by Bron, a grinning loon with purple hair, giving the distinct impression that she was, God forbid, wacky. She then made us all dance in a big circle, making me want to curl up in a small ball until the wackiness had gone away.

But I didn’t curl up in a ball, I did the opposite, I sucked it up and got on with it. I danced like no-one was watching, I let my brain run riot about what was in the box and what it was doing there, in short, I let go and had a bit of fun. Bron actually turned out to be a proper teacher, gently guiding the class in their techniques, whilst keeping the whole experience a positive one. “Don’t try to be funny,” she said at one point, “if you try and be funny, your brain will seize up and you’ll end up not saying anything” a brilliant piece of advice that led to some of the funniest scenes of the day.

Comedysportz are appearing as part of the Manchester comedy festival on the 25 October in a UK vs USA special, with our Manchester lads and lasses taking on a team from America, find out more about this and the workshops they run on their website www.comedysportz.co.uk

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bronOctober 23rd 2008.

WACKY LOON? Hehehe... yeah, I'd buy that ;)BRONx

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