A recent article in the Guardian on Canadian improviser and improv teacher David Shore has stirred up a lot of feeling among the London improv community. And by ‘feeling’ I mean ‘indignant anger’. The article, which was essentially a puff piece on Shore, can also be interpreted as a hatchet job on improv in the UK.
Broadly speaking improv in the UK lacks some of the panache and forcefulness of its overseas cousin. It’s frequently viewed as the poor relation of stand-up here, and doesn’t have the same tradition of innovation and broader respect within the comedy community that it enjoys in Canada and America. But it’s getting there. And rubbishing it was definitely not Shore’s intent.
According to him in a response he posted to the article, “The article itself contains a few errors and some of my statements were taken out of context.” I believe it.
The piece, written by Andrea Hubert – a former student of Shore’s – suffers from a distinct lack of research. Not on the origins of longform improv, how advanced the scene is on the other side of the pond, or Shore’s background – those are all covered off well. However, she definitely doesn’t seem informed on the scene here.
I mean the whole article does not once mention Marbles. That’s a stunning gap in basic research, that’s for sure.
She’s put to rights in the comments, which are as interesting a read as the article itself. They correct a lot of the misconceptions and factual errors.
But for all the strong feeling (much of it justified) that this article has generated, I think people will eventually see the bigger picture.
Longform improv got a big article in The Guardian! The Guardian is a national newspaper, and a tastemaker for a lot of potential audience so this can only pay off for the community as a whole.
And the subject of the piece is a talented and accomplished performer and teacher. He’s got the gravitas and chops to get an article in The Guardian, and deserves respect for that. Yes, an opportunity to spread some of that love around was missed, but let’s rectify that by using this publicity to invite more.
And the contentiousness of the piece is actually another huge positive. The article has gotten a bunch of London improvisers all hot and bothered. I’m expecting that heated botherness to turn into a greater enthusiasm for the craft, a deeper belief and pride in their own abilities and what they’ve accomplished, and redoubled efforts to step up their own game.
And hopefully, rather than ultimately dividing the community, David Shore’s Guardian article will get improvisers talking to each other more, and working together to bring longform to a wider audience here.