Some tips for improv teams staying together.
1 - Get a coach. Have someone watch your rehearsal runs, they don't have to teach. Getting honest notes from an unbiased opinion forces you to think about how you're communicating to the audience. You want to get genuine laughs, not just entertain your teammates with in-jokes.
There are loads of experienced improv coaches in the UK who can really make a difference to your team, and who charge very little.
Even the most mediocre improv teacher can be the best audience member, and their opinions matter. They can find things you won’t be able to spot while you’re busy exploring your scene.
2 - Get the keen beans! Some teams put on auditions to get new people in their group. Spending too much time looking for the ‘right’ person can be risky, and may cause arguments. Go for players who genuinely want to be in the team, and they seem like decent folk. They might not be as experienced as others, but they make up for it in effort. These players usually end up improving way quicker.
3 - Spread out the work. It’s not healthy to have one person do everything for the group. Marketing, bookings, ticket sales, tech, it’s not a one person job, even if they’ve self-proclaimed themselves to be in charge of the group. Spread that shit out, be involved. You’re not showing up to perform, that’s what guests do. You’re in a team. Work as a team, on stage and off.
4 - Stop improvising all the time! Go out. Do something together. Get a drink at the pub. Have a movie night. You shouldn’t have to be funny 24/7, give yourself a break. Too much improv is a problem, believe it or not. Have the time to relax, get to know each other outside of improv too.
5 - Warm ups. Do your warm ups before every rehearsal and show. Don’t ever assume you don’t need to warm up any more. Ego’s don’t survive in improv teams.
6 - Don’t feel pressured. If you really aren't feeling the group, If you would rather spend more time in another team, If you’re constantly missing rehearsals, If you want to give improv up for a while, You have the right to leave. You’re not letting anyone down. Improv comes second to your life. Teams only work if the players all want to be there, and there’s no shame in taking time off.
7 - Stick to your format. Commit to the format/structure that you’re doing. Keep doing it until you remember all the beats. Continue doing it until your shows become consistently good. Continue doing it until it becomes second nature to you. Continue doing it until you get bored of it! Only then decide as a group what format you want to do next.
Don’t assume you’ve mastered the format after five shows.
8 - Money isn't everything. You’re not going to make good money doing this. Don’t start a team for the financial rewards, it’s a fool's errand! Do it because you love the show, you love your teammates, and you love the experience.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for money, if you want to make a monthly night and charge audiences, that’s great, but that money will most likely go to rehearsals, paying other guests/teams, and marketing.
9 - Watch other teams. If you’re at an improv night, do stick around and make an effort to watch the other teams. Maybe you might think they’re not very good, or it’s not your style; don’t be a dick, stick around and support. It’s good to watch other improv teams, see how they’re doing things differently, apply it to your team or your personal style, and talk to your teammates about it. At the end of the day, everyone's here to support the art form, so the least you can do is give them a clap at the end of their set.
10 - Look after each other. It can be the worst feeling in the world when you screw up in a scene. You feel like you’re letting your teammates down, you’re letting the audience down. It sucks. Make sure you’ve got each other's backs. If someones feeling really down after a show, know how to help them. Take them to one side and talk about it, encourage them to continue, talk about the good bits, or if they need space, give them space. Don’t alienate them by ignoring it. Support each other in the best and worst of times.