The Ghost Sheep

As we approach the festive season, we are constantly reminded of how much Christmas is a time for family and friends. It’s the one time of the year when we give presents to people we don’t really like and get presents from people who don’t really like us. But we always can do with more socks right?

Improv is built on community. Our ability to ‘yes and’ and support other improvisers doesn’t stop when our show finishes.

Not too long ago we wrapped up the second year of Improv Fest Ireland. The festival featured acts from Ireland, UK, USA, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Spain. Many performers were meeting for the first time yet many were reuniting again. One of the employees in the theatre where the festival was hosted commented to me on how large a family I brought to Dublin this year.

He had hit the nail on the head. Improv is one big family.

In many countries, Improv is a growing scene and often underground. No different than other countries, we are working hard on having long form improv recognised as an art form in Ireland. 5 years ago, there were very few improv groups in Ireland. Now we have many acts which perform regularly with a variety of formats and styles on offer. But what is helping build sustainable audiences is the power of community. Improvisers who are working together are reaping the benefits through audience growth and cross collaboration. It’s very easy to realise that there is no such thing as competition in improv. We all share the common goal of raising the profile of this wonderful art form we are part of.

If someone off the street goes to an improv show for the first time and has a positive experience, the next time they see an improv show advertised, regardless of who the troupe is, there’s a higher chance of that individual going to another show. It’s a win/win.

One of the most satisfying things I see come out of the students who train with me is how many become close friends after the courses. They in turn become audience members and bring their friends to shows. I encourage my students to train with as many improv teachers that they can. Learn, grow, network and have fun.


There are many great figures who strive to develop community on top of their own personal or troupe’s objectives. The Maydays have had a huge influence on me (and many others) and are foster community development. Nick Armstrong and Bill Binder of the National Improv Network are tirelessly working at fostering community at an international level. There are many other figures, and its inspiring to follow them.

But what can you do locally? Of course it’s impossible to go to every show. But it costs nothing to ‘Like’ a troupe’s facebook page or retweet a twitter status. There is no completion, just opportunity to grow the family.

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, have a great one!

Welcome to the (Improv) Family
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2 thoughts on “Welcome to the (Improv) Family

  • 20/December/2014 at 2:43 pm

    Beautifully put Neil! I’m actually feeling a bit teary eyed as I read this.

  • 20/December/2014 at 6:16 pm

    Too true Neil, lovely article. It’s wonderful how the spirit of collaboration ripples out from an improv stage into the real world. Highly subversive work this. You are guilty of spreading some pretty positive vibes yourself!

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