Bad audiences: an Imp-ossible task?


If  you don’t have the cojones to get up on a stage and be paid to make an audience laugh, don’t knock them. With this principle in mind, sat at the very back of the Wheatsheaf, pint and £3.50 ticket in hand, my expectations for the Monday night are minimal.

Apart from the sound of polite clapping and the lone American students whooping, there are no shout-outs. For an improv comedy troupe based on audience interaction and inspiration, this is a problem. I find myself wishing that I could wave a magic comedy wand and transport them to Late ‘n’ Live at 3am at Edinburgh Fringe. It would be cruel to throw them in with lairy beery Scotsmen incomprehensibly heckling, but they need the challenge. It’s tricky to demonstrate your skill if the best audience suggestion is the half-hearted cry of ‘MOOSE!‘

PHOTO/ Theatersportgroup

What arises is reminiscent of a year 10 drama class. If the class was made up purely of the nerdy class clowns clique and they were capable of making on the spot references to Wordsworth. Yes, instead of some acne ridden 14 year old refashioning a soliloquy about his new Adidas trainers, the Imps keep it clean. This is not the place for dick jokes, although that may be because the audience doesn’t demand it.

When asked to shout an occupation, one girl’s inner Inbetweeners character came out and she yelled ‘masturbating!’ and was promptly told “that’s not an occupation. I’ve tried and I’ve tried to get paid for it, to no avail” before swiftly moving on.

PHOTO / Oxford Imps

So if it’s occasionally ‘miss’ rather than ‘hit’ then you can blame the audience for not shouting out more material. The Imps deal with whatever they get thrown at them with constant good humour and surprisingly imaginative responses considering the shy audience of a room of dishearteningly reticent punters.  Their patience didn’t even run out when they asked for a word to start a song of rhyming couplets and someone yelled “BALTHAZAR” (only in Oxford…) To their credit, they even lasted a couple of rounds. True cojones.

The Imps perform at the Wheatsheaf pub  on the High Street, every Monday during term time at 8pm.


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