Comedy improv (and for gawd's sake, don't call it stand-up) is bigger than ever before in London. We caught up with Cariad Lloyd and Paul Foxcroft at The Old Queens Head in Islington — one of the many venues the duo appears in across town.
Cariad and Paul met when the director of the weekly satirical sketch show NewsRevue who perform at the Canal Cafe Theatre hired Paul to create an improv show to raise money for a new piano, and Cariad was brought it by Sara Pascoe - one of the cast members - as she knew she'd done some improv before. The show went well, the two got chatting and formed their own group called The Institute. This was in 2006, and from then on improv has just grown and grown.
"Improv in London has actually been happening since the eighties, but it's really taken off in the last few years", says Cariad, who recently appeared on Have I Got News for You. "Cities all over the UK are developing their own voices though, which is how I think it should be. But obviously London has a lot because there's more people and more places to perform here".
Yet out of all those places to perform, London still doesn't have its own improv theatre. Why the heck not?
Explains Paul, "If you look at the Upright Citizen Brigade in New York, they got their first space because the mayor had gentrification grants. So if you were willing to take an old club and turn it into anything other than a strip joint, you would get massive subsidies".
A scheme like that would be great in London, but until then, improv continues to burgeon wherever it can — mainly in the upstairs rooms of pubs, such as that at The Old Queens Head.
Says Cariad, "The scene has hugely grown in the last five years. There's loads of different types of improv and shows every week, festivals too — every year it gets more exciting."
We were going to list some places to see and do improv in London. But then we realised there are a lot. So we'll write a full-blown article on this soon.