There were 475 online improv shows in the UK during the first half of 2021. That works out at nearly three shows each day, reflecting a huge amount of effort and energy as the pandemic entered its second year.
Almost all of these were runs of weekly shows, with a wide range of teams contributing to the scene. As in 2020, Comedy Sportz and Extreme Improv led the way here with almost continuous production throughout. Special mentions also for Mischief Theatre, Showstoppers, The Noise Next Door, Monday Night Improv, Virtual Improv All Stars and Shoot From The Hip for the quality and quantity of their performances.
The biggest producter of online content in the Midlands was from MissImp. Their theatre karaoke show Gorilla Burger allowed audience members to join in if they wanted or just sit back and enjoy the show, and the Taskmaster-inspired gameshow Larklord allowed the Nottingham improvisers to show their ability to rise to any challenge. In addition, stand up comedians came together for Alex Leam’s Awkward Question Time and James Cook’s Board Game Smackdown.
As live theatre returned in the summer, many Midlands groups returned to the stage. There were 89 improv shows in the Midlands in the second half of 2021. This is just over a 50% fall compared to the same period in 2019, though by November events were back to pre-pandemic levels.
Each month brought something new. In July there was the Buxton Fringe festival, featuring Impromptu Shakespeare and Cast vs Crew. August saw the debut of Leamington Spa’s first improv group LeamProv in August and in September a new monthly showcase began Upstairs At the Western. Jumprov began a residency at the Birmingham Hippodrome in October, the Nottingham Comedy Festival had a dozen improv shows in November and recordings a new radio comedy Dead British completed in December.
It seems the move back to in-person entertainment is nearly complete, ignoring any short term blips caused by Omicron over the coming weeks. I am greatly looking forward to seeing what improv delights 2022 will bring and hope a large amount of spontaneous joy finds its way to you in the coming year.