Improv Comedy Mumbai popularly known as ICM, have made their mark on the Indian Stand up circuit by introducing a new art form of comedy in India known as Improvisational Comedy. Improvisation, or improv, is a form of live comedy performance in which the characters, story and situations are made on the spot; the improvisers start the show by taking ideas from the audiences and take the comedy act forward.
ICM has come up with with never seen before, innovative stage games like ‘Story Story Die’, ‘Character Switch’ and have mashed it up with ideas from the audience for a fun filled improv-a-ganza. Their acts are spontaneous, hilarious, and entertaining. But just like every great act of genius, you’ll have to see it first to experience and appreciate it.
In an era which is dominated by Teleprompters and scripted standup comedy acts, Presenting Imrpov Comedy Mumbai, a group of trained artists who are mentored by Adam Dow who have pioneered the art of improvisational comedy in India and are gigging across the globe with jam-packed shows, read on as ACTFAQs interviews the genius behind unscripted acts.
1. Till what level is the audience ready for Improv Comedy as a standalone genre of comedy in India?
It has been supporting our shows for the last 7 years and already there are groups mushrooming in other cities. ICM has a partner branch in Bangalore called Improv Comedy Bangalore. And with the success of shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway” in India, We think India now needs to get its own Improv TV show.
2. How has the genre of comedy evolved, since ICM’s inception in 2009?
Comedy has really come into its own in the last 7 years. When we started out, comedy acts (including stand up or Improv) had to find venues like bars and clubs to host them for a show once a month. But now every corner of the city has a venue hosting an open mic night. Due to this the reach of comedy has grown and this has started inspiring people to get out there and explore the funny within them. Comedy right now is the biggest genre across the globe and is now taking over the digital and commercial spectrum here in India too.
3. Improvisational comedy is all about being on spontaneity and carving a way out of the unusual how has this form of art helped in real life?
Improv helps one to find a path in conversation, daily routines, etc which forges ahead of the usual. One’s response after an improv class is a conversation starter and not a conversation closer. Life follows no script, and neither does improv. It builds the moment to its full potential. And it imparts that same philosophy for practice in life.
4. As the show is all about improvisation and the audience could come up with the most absurd and idiotic situations, what performance measures does the group take to turn these situations into an act of a genius?
Hours & hours of practice about noticing the moment and being true to it. Genius is only 1% inspiration, same goes with us. We have spent hours, days, months, years working on our craft. And only then are we able to apply our artistry to create the truth in the comedy. Every true comic does that and if someone says they were born great, then we say that isn’t true.
5. Since AIB Roast, there has been a rising trend in cracking offensive jokes, what is your take on this?
We don’t believe in being offensive as we want the audience to be in the journey of the show with us. There are only a few ways of offending someone and being funny. But there are infinite ways of laughing with someone.
6. What’s the worst criticism you have received from your act?
That we do it so well that it looks rehearsed.
7. Indian audiences always tend to have a shy approach towards participation in the shows, how does the troupe manage to break the ice with them?
By making them feel celebrated for their suggestions that inspire our improv scene work. We never pick on people in the front row, something that is not easy for us to explain as audiences are apprehensive after visiting stand up shows.
8. A lot of people are still not well versed with the genre of Improvisational comedy in India. How has ICM as a group helped to take this form of comedy forward?
We run 3 levels of classes and through them we are expanding the reach of improv. We are always traveling to improv festivals abroad to showcase indian improv and bring some of their knowledge here. We are not working with well-known comedians like Biswa Kalyan Rath, AiB, Sahil Khattar, etc to do improv shows and expand the reach of improv into a broader market which doesn’t necessarily know about the existence of performance comedy.
9. Having done shows in abroad, has it been easier to tickle the funny bone of western audiences as opposed to Indian audiences?
Our humour finds it flavour in our country. Audiences here are quick to understand the subtleties of our work. However, they sometimes aren’t so open to the idea. Abroad, the audience might not understand all our cultural references but their engrossment and engagement in our work is higher.
10. The audience had high expectations from ICM Popcorn as it is a mashup between Game of Thrones, and Improv comedy, how did guys plan to manage this impossible feat?
We have been workshopping this genre for the last few months. Along with endless hours of viewing the show again & again, we have practiced the hell out of the plot points and characters. We are possible the only troupe in India who might know a great deal about this epic saga. Now the audience needs to sit back and give us our suggestions so we can perform this Dance of Fire and Ice
11. Any word of advice for the improvisational comedians in the making?
Keep observing. Believe in the truth of the moment and remember that the humor lies in you.
12. What should the readers expect next from ICM?
We are currently working on ideas for the next show- A tour, some videos on youtube and a whole lot of Comedy.