In recent years British comedy has been making some changes at a grassroots level. Changes that are seeing a new wave of institutions setup, inspired by the prodigious North American comedy scene.
These new platforms are all about invigorating an introverted and stand-up saturated comedy scene, bringing more variety and better representation for other comedy forms.
Back in 2012 the idea of a SketchFest in the UK was just coming about. In North America the festivals had been going strong for over a decade and contributed to a healthy and varied comedy scene. The decision to start SketchFest in London came out of necessity, to create a platform for the underrepresented in comedy.
For a while now, comedy in Britain has been synonymous with stand-up. You say comedy and a man and a mic comes to mind. Whenever performing sketch or character or improv, definitions are made that it’s not just comedy but it’s a ‘special type’ of comedy that’s going to be performed. This caveat is part of a wider problem that was going on, seeing stand-up becoming the only recognisable form of comedy an audience would expect to see.
For the new wave of producers coming forth, this was a bad sign, limiting the potential of British comedy and restricting its future to an indistinguishable array of people holding microphones or occasionally playing a keyboard. The eccentricity and wacky inventiveness of the British mind was becoming imprisoned within the stand-up format.
Many of us looked over to the American comedy scene with envy, they had it all, stand-up, sketch, and improv all complimenting each other. Many of our favourite comedians had gone through the ropes and honed their craft in a variety of formats to find themselves.
In the skillset of a comedian, sketch and improv are very important, they teach them to draw comedy from different places for different uses, creating new and unexpected ways to make you laugh.
However in Britain there was very little support for any of these forms. Go back 5 or 6 years and awards for anything other than stand-up comedy where pushed together as sketch/variety/character award. There was very little to celebrate comedians working in these fields, so for many, why bother?
Thankfully however the change has begun. This May not only marks the third annual return of London Sketchfest (who have helped champion sketch comedy with the likes of The Pin, Gein’s Family Giftshop and This Glorious Monster) but it also marks the arrival of the next big thing from across the pond – The Second City.
With the help of Comedy Blogedy’s Sara Shulman and Angel Comedy, North America’s biggest comedy school the Second City will be coming over to the UK to give a needed boost to the improv scene. And we are simply thrilled about it!
Second City has spawned multiple comedy empires, almost everyone in the business of American Comedy has come through one of their courses over the past 50 years and is widely recognised as the most influential training centre for comedians, actors and directors alike.
It has also played a big role in training scores of SketchFest troupes as the two institutions celebrate a healthy mixing of comedy forms, one lending to the other.
For a limited run of two weeks this May, following on from this year’s London SketchFest, UK performers will get the chance to take part in workshops aimed at teaching and honing the techniques and skills that have inspired so many prominent stars, such as Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and John Belushi. Following which a festival on the Angle Comedy stage will present a new run of comedians.
So it seems a new age in British comedy is coming. And along with it a new month in the comedy calendar, as May plays host to the new series of festivals celebrating the rise of alternative forms and a breath of fresh comedians.
For more information on Second City’s UK programme click here
For information on Angel Comedy who will host the programme click here