Improv Conspiracy Blog

The latest news, opinions and more!

  March 17, 2015

David Evans is a former Improv Conspiracy student and performer who moved to Sydney last year. Rather than come back and play with us, he wrote a fantastic article for our blog. We'll take it!

No one teaches you how to manage people. It’s not a skillset likely taught alongside your first job possibly folding jeans at the GAP, lifeguarding at the local pool or if like me, spending your summers scooping ice cream for hungry tourists. The skills that teach us how to inspire, instruct, trust, and motivate others is a talent that somehow gets lost in our current education system and absent from the majority of our professional development training. If you’re lucky, you work a job for a number of years, follow the rules set up by some senior team and wait for your time to crawl up the ladder. In the meantime you pick up the habits of your previous managers whether good or bad and typically adapt their methods on how to communicate information, lead others to success and how to support people through uncertainty during stressful times. It’s a continuous cycle and normally a broken one where the blind are left leading the blind.   

I’ve spent 12 years working in professional environments and found myself either at the mercy of really bad management or in the glow and awe of some brilliant ones. When I recently began to lead my own teams again I found myself unconsciously drawing upon my improv experiences and the lessons learned from performing Harolds again and again to help influence and strengthen my own people management skills. For anyone who’s taken improv classes or a weekend workshop you quite often hear about how the skills highlighted in those courses are applicable not only for the students who dream of one day being on SNL, but also for those who dream of being CEO. It soon became clear to me after aligning my personal management style with the principles of Improv, I became a much better manager. Within days there was a noticeable difference in the daily interactions of my team as people engaged with each other instead of hiding behind email. The overall mood in the studio seem to lighten as people slowed down and listened to each other. Productivity increased as individuals worked together to accomplish tasks instead of working independently. The changes were profound. 

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  March 16, 2015

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with the super busy Mario Hannah. Mario performs on Harold Night team Endless Cash, directs Harold Night team Shake-A-Stick, and will be seen during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of Now Showing: The Improvised Movie and his sketch team Trillcumber.

Mario Hannah: You guys get comfortable, we're going all night.

Mike Brown: 24 hours. Hi Mario.

Hey Mike!

So how long have you been performing for, and how did you find yourself a member of The Improv Conspiracy?

I think this is, I just had my two year anniversary. I found Conspiracy just by googling it one day.

By googling improv?

Yeah I was looking for improv classes. I was at a point where I had been trying to do stand-up for about a year with just random open mic gigs, and it was going terribly, and I thought ahh this will help with my stand-up. I just googled classes and that was the first result that came up, and that's it.

Transitioning from stand-up to improv classes, with stand-up you're always chasing your own spots, you might not be performing for weeks due to their ad-hoc nature. How was it having weekly challenges to build on in classes?

That was one part of it - that regular routine that just kept you on star. The other thing was having an actually supportive community around you when doing something together. Stand-up can be a pretty isolated.

As soon as you've done your spot you can leave, you're done.

Yeah. I never really committed to it because you don't really have anything that you need to commit to. The other thing is that it's lonely writing in your room by yourself, with improv...

You develop together.

Whether it's training or performance you have that instant gratification which is always nice, of hearing people laugh or support you.

Growing up, what did your parents want you to be? What did you want me to be?

I don't think my parents really cared, they weren't very pushy. I always wanted to do something money-ish, like finance-y, like a stockbroker.

Or investment banker of some sort?

Yeah. When I was a kid I was obsessed with money for some reason. Mum said that I'd always ask questions like "Are we poor?"

[laughs]

I don't even know why! We were just a normal middle class family, but I just had this fear of being poor. I always had these ideas of things, some sort of money making person.

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  March 11, 2015

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with Broni Lisle. Broni performs with Harold team Friends at the End, and will be seen during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of Now Showing: The Improvised Movie

Broni Lisle: Hello iPhone.

Mike Brown: Do you always introduce yourself to iPhones?

Well actually in Perth; Tim [Quabba], Ryan [Zorzut] and I were trying get Siri activated from my bed. It was hilarious.

Because when it's plugged in you can activate Siri with speech.

Yeah but from three meters away she's terrible. She'd be like "what is it?" and I'd say "Can you text Ryan and Tim," she'd be like "what do you want to say?" "Tell them-" "I'm sending tell them." It's like no I haven't finished! It was the worst, I got really mad actually.

Does technology steam you up?

[laughs] If it's that dumb. It's like, come on man.

You've gotten used to technology being so good.

Yeah! Yesterday I was listening to a podcast and the host said "Are you serious?" Siri activated herself.

[laughs]

And said "That's me!" I was like, "aw fuck you".

We'll see if we can get Siri activated during this, even if it's just me tapping on the phone.

[laughs]

What did you do today Broni?

Today I went to a friend's birthday in Croydon. That's where I grew up, around that area. There's a brewery out there, we had drinks, and he turned 26, so I gave him a hug-

And wished him a happy birthday.

Yeah and bailed to here.

For Sunday Night Improv Conspiracy.

Yeah I can't miss at least half of it. I'll miss half of it [laughs]. Then I'll probably go home, because you know when I'm not on stage, I don't want to be here. [laughs].

Oh wow that's going to read really well Broni. [laughs]

No no no! Put in my facial expressions! [laughter]

Laughter.

Happiness.

Someone smug. Smiley.

No I love watching everyone.

What's your favourite thing about improvising?

Freedom. The fleeting moments of it, 'cause I'm a songwriter as well and now since I've been doing improv so much I find it hard to commit my words to paper and/or recordings forever. Because it's like that means my opinion is there to be heard or read forever, and what if it changes? So improv for me is like, I can say anything at any time and it's like that's just that person at that time.

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  March 2, 2015

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with Courtnee Johnston, who performs with Harold team Shake-A-Stick.

Mike Brown: Hey Courtnee!

Courtnee Johnston: Heyyyyyyyyy!

It's been ages!

I know! It's so sad.

So sad.

I need to see you more!

Yeah because we did the Conspiracy workshops together back in the day! Back in the day, a year ago...

I know. We were like the tightest team there ever was, seriously.

Oh my god. I still talk about that Level 3 grad show to people.

I know me too! It was the funniest time I've ever head. And was it Floyd [Alexander-Hunt, former Conspiracy performer] doing the news report as well?

Yep. Oh no, it was Tess [Dobre, former Conspiracy performer]!

Oh it was Tess too! And we were all grinding up on everything.

That scene with you and Lauren [McKenna, Harold Night team Bass Drum Kitten] where you were mapping stripper terms to a ice cream shop...

Yes. I thought we were in a strip club, and she thought we were in ice cream shop, and we said it at the same time.

And they both melted perfectly together, just like ice cream.

It was one of my favourite shows.

So yeah we know each other.

Very well.

Do people know you. Like how did you come into the Improv Conspiracy? Had you been performing before that?

Yes so I had been acting since I can remember. I had always been in drama, back home in Tassie, and I had always done tons of theatre back home, and musical theatre. And then when I moved to Melbourne, I went to 16th Street [Acting Studio], graduated there, and I really wanted to find something comedy because that's what I love, comedy and improv and everything like that. And Tess, happened to say she found Improv Conspiracy and do I want to do it. So if it wasn't for Tess I wouldn't have known, because I'm hopeless at social media. I feel like she did a stand-up thing and found out about Improv Conspiracy through that, I think that's how it happened. She asked me, and she also said it to Tim [Watson, Harold Night team Bass Drum Kitten], and yeah, the rest is history.

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  February 21, 2015

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with Tim Quabba, who performs with Harold team Endless Cash, and will be seen doing during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of Now Showing: The Improvised Movie.

[Tim turns on Dream is Collapsing by Hans Zimmer from the Inception soundtrack. For maximum effect, play this song on a loop whilst reading this interview]

Mike Brown: You have background music for this. You think background music is important for a successful interview? This is a first.

Tim Quabba: I'm going to put this on repeat.

Do it! [pause] Yeah, imagine when I'm typing this out in like, a week or so, and I'm just hearing music and no talking what-so-ever. The music is just dominating the conversation! It's like I feel like the answers are going to come in those kind of waves, where the answers get more and more dramatic as the music builds.

It's on the soundtrack to Inception. Look it up. Have you looked it up?

No I have never looked up the Inception soundtrack.

Mike. Hans Zimmer.

He did like, The Simpsons right?

I'm not sure! 

Let me look it up. He's done a lot of films, I'm familiar with the name. I'm probably just mixing up the names with another composer [note: The Simpsons was often composed by Alf Clausen].

He did Inception, he's done a lot of the Christopher Nolan stuff. He did Man of Steel, collaborated with Will Ferrell in that. Anyway.

With Will Ferrell!?

Yeah he was on the drums.They had drumsets in the orchestra...

And Will Ferrell's playing them all?

[laughs] One of them.

Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom! 

He's a man of many talents.

Acting and drumming. What's your favourite thing about improvising?

It's fun. It's so fun. It's free and.. you can just free yourself on stage and everyone's just so supportive and lovely. You know that you can do anything, absolutely anything and have 100% support from everyone. That is the best part for me.

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