Lizzy Hawley joined Off the Cuff last year, not long after old-timer Pete Strong flew the nest to concentrate on his stand-up career. Here, the two very-nearly-co-performers ask each other a few burning questions.
Lizzy interviews Pete
In your memory as a founder member, how did Off the Cuff come to be?
We all went to the Edinburgh festival about ten years ago and saw improv and thought, “Hey we could do that!”. And did it. Badly for a bit, then we got a bit better. It just kept growing, I suppose. I can’t believe we’ve made it to ten years really. Although at the same time I can very well believe it. We’ve had some really good times. I hope they continue for many more years.
Do you use much improv in your own stand up routine?
Surprisingly…not really. I’ve often thought about it but for some reason it just feels a very different thing. Also, since I read bits and bobs out of notebooks while on stage it can sometimes need to be more scripted. I definitely want to try and blend the two more though. But it has to come naturally I suppose. There’s a similarity in that I think a lot of my stuff comes from trying to be very honest – mostly about my own shortcomings, admittedy – while good improv also comes from honesty and truth, just in a slightly different way.
What does Improv and comedy do for your life?
Therapy! Pressure release! Showing off makes me happy! Also I just really enjoy making myself and others laugh. My favourite moments are when you get a quiet, quiet, BANG of laughter. Hearty laughter exploding out of something really uncomfortable but kind of honest is the best.
What comedians inspire you?
Lots. Simon Munnery is just the best ever in my opinion. Wil Hodgson is so compelling. John Hegley made me realise poetry could be everything. Claudia O’Doherty really blows my mind with her high concept stuff. Josie Long’s passion is outstanding. Rob Newman’s stuff is incredibly interesting and educational. Alistair Green is incredibly, brutally, spectacularly honest about himself which is somethng I’ve wanted to do more.
I could name dozens of others but that would soon get boring.
And finally, what inspired you to have ‘It just is’ tatooed on your arm?
It was about acceptance and getting on with things – I try to live in the here and now and not stress over what I can’t control. Acceptance! An improv virtue I suppose!
Pete interviews Lizzy
What on earth made you decide to start doing improv? And why Off the Cuff?
My meeting with Off the Cuff came through Calum’s course (March 2014). I had messed around with Improv previously in other courses at school, college and university, and I had really enjoyed the freedom, exploration and silliness of improv so I was delighted at the opportunity to join Off the Cuff.
What do you enjoy about doing improv?
I enjoy getting into the flow of a scene, getting laughs, connecting with the other players and being part of the scene’s story development. I still find improv a real challenge that sometimes makes me quite nervous, so I’m proud when I have a good time and get a good reaction off the audience – whether it be in rehearsal or a show.
How do you prepare for shows?
Before a show I will put on some loud music, have a shower, and make myself look nice. During the day, if I’m on form, I will make sure to be drinking water throughout the day as that seems the best way to get my brain working, because I find in improv I do need to use a lot of concentration.
What has been the highlight so far of your time in Off the Cuff?
The highlights of being in Off the Cuff (which will be a year at the end of October), have been the Brighton Fringe, meeting other groups and troupes, and getting to be part of something – to feel the support everyone gives each other on stage and in rehearsals.
Who’s your favourite comedian or improviser?
To be honest, I am very disconnected from the mainstream and underground culture. It seems I live in a bit of a Lizzybubble; most of my humourous inspirations and favorite comedians are from the people around me, and the ironies found in life.