This Is My Improv

If you’ve been watching BBC’s fun new show This Is My House, you might have spotted a familiar face! Dalu joined ComedySportz at the start of 2020 and was about to have his first live show with us when lockdown was announced. Below he reflects on his journey into comedy and shares some of the lessons and advice he has learned over the last two years.

My Journey through comedy has been a great experience within the last 2 years. It initially started with me continually acting like a clown and telling bad jokes at home. My wife having had enough of my poor jokes, decided for Christmas 2019 to get me a place on the Beginning Stand Up course with ComedySportz Manchester.

My tutor was John Cooper a great tutor who gave us insight on the important factors of stand-up both in theory and practical application, it was brilliant meeting new people I still to this day maintain a relationship with. At the end of the course there was a showcase to which we all performed a 5-7 min stand up gig, from there we as a group continued to do stand-up gigs across Manchester and support one another within chasing the dream, which was really nice to do feeling like you’re not alone chasing something, whilst also learning and developing with others.

I have always enjoyed acting from a young age, and for many years left that dream to pursue the corporate ladder, and at 35 the itch returned with full effect. At the time I was taking the stand up course I was also in a play with my church developing acting foundations, skills and experience. And by Spring 2019 I was completely back in love with performance so I requested as a birthday present the Comedysportz Foundation Improv course, which I thoroughly enjoyed as I got to combine the elements of performance I enjoy most, comedy, improv and storytelling.

Comedy Improv has taught me a number of things:

  • Follow your instinct – allow for your natural self to come out.

  • Character development and commitment- focusing on what makes the character unique.

  • Allow your mind to wonder- in adulthood we are taught to constrict thoughts, ideas and dreams. Improv allows you to completely do the opposite of that. It helped me embrace my inner child again 😊

For those who are not sure improv is for them I would say, ‘what have you got to lose’? The course is 6 weeks of fun, frolics and a great chance to make a good bunch of friends with similar interests.

The improv course helped in all aspects of my life; in my day job, in my presentation and communication skills, in team working and developing ideas outside the box. For 6 weeks of fun in a safe workshop environment it certainly will help anyone in need of a confidence booster.

As a performer it really helped me refresh, refine and learn so much more about delivery, timing, engagement with audiences and thinking on the spot. Without ComedySportz Manchester, and of course my wife, I wouldn’t have been complete in the last year.

Whilst everyone’s journey is different these skills have allowed me to pursue my dream career. So far I have said “Yes, And” to:

  • 5 paid web infomercials/commercials.

  • 2 Voice over roles

  • Over 100 online shows – as a member of ComedySportz now

  • Two episodes of BBC One’s new game show This Is My House (where the casting criteria was specifically for ‘Improv Actors’)

  • I’m plotting to write a sitcom, with another new friend I met via ComedySportz courses.

Whatever your reasons for taking an Improv course, do it – it might just change your life!

Inspired by Dalu’s story? We still have a couple of spaces left on our next Online Foundation Improv Course. It’s a great way to build confidence, get creative and make new connections. Whilst we can’t guarantee that everyone who completes the course will get to appear on a prime time BBC One show (we really can’t), we can guarantee lots of fun! And you don’t need a performance background or desire to be on stage or screen, like Dalu says, learning improv skills allows you to develop communication and confidence whatever your background or reason for taking the course. The next course starts Thursday 8th April – book now!

To mark Dalu’s TV appearance we devised a ref challenge inspired by This Is My House. We have online shows every Wednesday and Saturday at 7pm BST. Don’t forget to to subscribe to our youtube channel and never miss a match.

This Is My House airs on BBC One Wednesday’s at 9pm BST. You can catch Dalu’s episodes on BBC iPlayer.

Find out more about our Workshops


We’re excited to announce that our 27th February match is an LGBT History Month special featuring players from across the CSz Worldwide family. UK players will be captaining teams will LGBTQ+ identifying players from CSz Chicago, CSz Indianapolis, CSz Philadelphia and CSz New York.

Never seen a ComedySportz match before? Two teams will be competing for your laughs with improvised gags and games inspired by your suggestions. Who wins? YOU decide!

As with all of our online matches, the show will be free to watch (link below). However, where we would normally ask those who can afford to do so to make a donation to help support our players, for this show will be asking audiences to donate to local charities The Proud Trust and Rainbow Noir.

The Proud Trust is a life saving and life enhancing organisation that helps LGBT+ young people empower themselves, to make a positive change for themselves, and their communities.

Rainbow Noir is a volunteer led social, peer support and community action group, which celebrates and platforms people of colour who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and/or Intersex.

We know that the ongoing coronavirus situation means that not everyone is in a position to make a donation. This is why we have kept the show free to watch so that anyone can enjoy the show as we celebrate our LGBTQ+ players.

If you’ve ever taken a class in improv, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “Yes, And” which places acceptance of others at the heart of everything we do. In improvisation we share our ideas to communicate, collaborate and grow our scenes and games – and it’s how we like to approach life offstage as well. Our newest player Ben Hodge wanted to share a little something of his own journey into improv and saying “Yes, And…”

Hi! I’m Ben and I have been a part of CSZ Manchester since summer of 2020. I guess it’s also good to mention for this article that I am a gay, transgender man. I came out as trans when I was 16 and started testosterone at 17. I came out as a gay man at 18 and had my top surgery at 19. There was one thing that got me past the low points and the waiting times and the constant questions around my identity, and that was comedy.

I think that comedy has a lot of power when looking at identity, it has helped me to educate audiences and show them that people like me exist and we can thrive when given a safe and understanding space to do so. Joining ComedySportz, I felt that I had found that space, and that my identity wasn’t up for question or debate, as long as I ‘yes, and…’ then everything would be good!

Ben Hodge

It’s hard coming into a new space when people don’t necessarily know your past, and when talking to some members about my identity, they have been so respectable and eager to listen to what it means to be me. And I am grateful for them for taking the time to listen and understand who I am, and I think it has probably helped me put more trust into our relationship as improvisors. I even took part in an LGBT match at the online ComedySportz World Championship, where I played with all LGBT-identified players and got to interact with people who had been in this community a lot longer than me and had worked hard to make ComedySportz as inclusive as possible. It was truly a wonderful experience and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of something so great!

I think that improvisation offers such a safe space for the LGBT community as people don’t care who you are as long as you make them laugh or create a good scene. There is so much room in improv to explore and express different parts of yourself that you never really have to ‘out’ yourself if that is something you don’t want to do. I’m currently organising an improv session for my LGBT+ support group from back home, as they invited me back as an ex-service user to talk about my identity and how comedy has supported my activism and my growth. Improv has offered me so much in supporting my own exploration of identity and expression that I think it’s something that the LGBT community should embrace and join in!

If you are reading this and you are an LGBT person currently struggling to find where you belong or you’re currently exploring what it means to be you, just know that you are not alone and there are so many safe spaces for you to do that exploration. There are several organisations in the north west as well as around the UK that offer support for LGBT people and they will always welcome you with open arms. Or come and watch one of our shows, and know that you belong and we are always happy to have you involved!

Ben’s documentary about his transition “1 Year” won the 2020 Into Film award for Best Documentary. Despite the COVID venue closures meaning Ben has only ever played online shows with us, he has quickly become an audience favourite and we are delighted to have him be part of the ComedySportz Manchester family.

You can catch Ben in our LGBT special match on Saturday 27th February. The stream will go live at 6.45pm GMT with the fun kicking off at 7pm GMT. Watch live at the link below!


All Upcoming Shows

About The Proud Trust

About Rainbow Noir

Adjusting To The Online Stage

This has been a challenging year for everyone as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Now, more than ever, people need to keep laughing, smiling and connecting. With venues closed, improvisers, comedians and theatre companies who have so enjoyed the immediacy of an audience’s response and laughter have had to adapt. We don’t just perform live, we perform live-stream!

ComedySportz UK had big plans for 2020 with new shows, festival appearances and more. Those plans are now on hold indefinitely or out-right cancelled. Perhaps that’s what happens when a bunch of improvisers start to make plans in the first place…

The improv community worldwide has responded wonderfully to the ongoing situation with a real “Yes, And” attitude. But it has not been without difficulty and challenge. The immediacy of connecting with a scene partner or player in the same room has gone. We have had to find new ways to absorb the energy and enthusiasm of our audiences who we can no longer share a space with.

In improvisation, anything can be a gift, something that adds to the scene or game. Improvisers have had to find those gifts and opportunities. We have had to adapt. We have had to… improvise.

Luckily, that’s what we do.

In this post ComedySportz players are going to discuss some of their personal challenges and how they have found the positives in the situation. This article will also share 5 tips for improvising online that we hope will be useful for improvisers anywhere. It’s a long read but hopefully an insightful and entertaining one.

Sean Mason


This year we were planning to launch our Totally Improvised Musical, bring ComedySportz to more venues and guest with more groups across the country. This would have been our biggest Edinburgh Fringe Festival yet. It’s been difficult and painful to let those plans go even though we know it is the right thing to do. Performing without an audience makes every game and gag feel like Schrodinger’s joke, you don’t know if it got a laugh or died.

However we have adapted to this “new normal” (yeah, I hate that phrase too)  of online improv with a positive attitude. We have learned to engage with audiences in a different way, with a more open dialogue in the livestream chat. We have to engage with the audience and embrace the situation. Otherwise we might as well be performing to no-one. In many ways the audience has gotten to know us better as people – returning to venues and seeing each other again is going to feel like that moment at the end of Die Hard when McClane and Officer Al meet in person for the first time after already getting to know each other so well.

It’s also been a real pleasure running some of our digital drop-ins. Frustrating in that many exercises I would love to do are no longer possible but fulfilling in that it has given people an opportunity to play, connect and, if only for a couple of hours, forget the ongoing situation and have some fun!

Even though we are isolating there is also an irony in that we have been able to connect and play with more ComedySportz teams around the world than we ever normally would and that we are doing more shows a week than ever before. In many ways this distance is bringing us closer together and making us better improvisers. Online improv demands an even greater focus and connection. It’s tiring but it’s worth it.

To give me a sense of “touring” I’ve performed everywhere in the house from my bed to our office to our kitchen and our garden! You can’t say I’m not versatile!

Brainne Edge

Teaching improv through an online medium has been an interesting experience. I was on week 8 of a 12 week (5 hours a week) module ‘Intro to Improv’ with my University students when we were told we could no longer go into our campus building.  My initial reaction was panic, but then I realised that for the most part my students already had a solid grounding in improv skills.  So the switch from live to screen was less daunting than if I had to start from scratch all online.  We worked on how to adapt games to this medium, how to play with the space (my students really excelled at this, especially as most were using phones which meant they could literally move around their house and gardens doing/using anything relevant to the scenes and games) and how to connect well through the lens and screen.

The possibility of teaching foundation level improv solely online potentially looming in the months ahead (and I know other companies have already started on this journey) is something that I personally find a challenge.  For me the joy of our Foundation in Improv course comes from seeing a group of strangers form often life-long connections and friendships.  Getting to know people through a screen is certainly possible, but a longer and harder process, in my eyes.

I am heartened, however, to see that our ongoing Drop-Ins have proved successful with returning workshoppers as well as some new faces – sometimes from around the world.

Our improv shows, however, are the most fun I’ve had in years!  We get to play with a new style of performance (Auto Cue is currently my favourite game), play with our surroundings and most importantly for me, chat to our fans constantly!  One other extra element that we realised rather quickly was that we could have our American friends (being part of a Worldwide family does have its perks) join us!  3 months in we have been able to play with other ComedySportz players from the East to West coast of America. It has also meant that ComedySportz Manchester player Ash, who moved to Germany last year, has been able to return and perform with us!

Performing improv comedy onlineChris Tavner

Lockdown has meant that any opportunities for live performance have been curtailed.  Venues have been forced to shut, performers and audience members having to stay at home. We now perform on zoom instead of a stage.

Performing this way presents all manner of challenges.  Improvisation relies on ‘listening’ to your partners offers, and this is as much visual as anything.  Even with the best hardware, issues to do with lag, and other audio and visual limitations can present difficulties in communication within a scene.

All that being said, all performance spaces present their own challenges as well.  For instance, perhaps the stage is really small, or the audience is a long way from you? These factors affect how you perform, and in the case of short form improv, the types of game you chose to play in order to give yourself the best chance of entertaining the audience. So being adaptable has always been a key skill.

Using Zoom also has many benefits for improvisation.  For instance, the option to screen share the whiteboard, where players can draw a story that is narrated by another player. Other great games have included ‘Pechakucha’ or ‘Public Information Film’.  Here, you are narrating to random pictures or films you have never seen before, speaking on a subject that has been thought up on the spot from audience suggestions.

These kinds of games have been great fun to do, and are ideally suited to this format.

Of course I miss performing on an actual stage, and certainly I miss hearing the laughter from an audience.  As a stand up, as well as an improviser, I am missing out on a significant amount of income, and am thankful that I still maintain my majority income from other sources.  However, I am thankful of the fundraising we are able to do with these online shows, with fans generously making donations, including the purchase of our merchandise.

Overall, doing improv online during lockdown may not be perfect, but I’m so glad under these circumstances to have it as an option.  I get to play and having fun with friends, even though we are in separate homes, cities, and even countries.  We play games that would not be possible on a stage, and best of all, I get to do these games without leaving my house or having to put on pants.  Surely the dream for any performer!

Kate McCabe

Improv is both the best and worst thing to do online!

As improvisers, we need to focus on each other during play. We can’t just fall into familiar patterns or dialogue and play by rote. Connectivity needs to be in place and observed. Though we are living in an age of technological miracles, live streaming isn’t perfect. It can be a challenge to focus on your scene partner when you have to deal with eye lines vs camera placement, audio lag, and technical glitches. Furthermore, we are playing without stages, environment, and the theatrical thrill of responsiveness from a live audience.

However… Improv has what it takes to make it work. We can hurdle obstacles, justify glitches, and figure out how to make games work despite the challenges. A good improviser is both a problem solver and a people pleaser.

Every day, we’re learning about how to work with the tools available. We’re finding our way to adapting old favourite games to online play AND inventing new ones born out of necessity.

It’s exciting and though I’m looking forward to being around my team again in person…I’m glad we’re not surrendering. We participate and find the fun.

take an online improv class


5 Tips for Improvising Online

The screen is your stage – make use of the space!

Don’t get stuck on the backline or remain static. In many ways we need to start thinking cinematically instead of theatrically. We can create humour and drama by playing with the edge of the frame and how we enter/exit the audience’s view. By changing our position to the camera we can create intimacy or distance between our scene partners. We can still give a sense of space and physicality and we are not bound by the frame.

The screen is not a barrier.

Likewise we can play with the screen, “passing” items back and forth (whether physical or imaginary). We can still connect with our scene partners physically even if we’re not actually in the same room. Devise games that specifically play with these “limitations” and embrace the technology.

Adapting the way we look at each other is also vital. We need to check in with our scene partners and observe what they are doing more than we need to maintain eye lines by looking directly into our cameras – which means it can be even more dramatic/playful when we do address cameras directly.

Stay Focused!

It’s important to stay focussed on your scene even though from home you’ll have far more distractions around you than you would in a darkened theatre. Keep listening to your partner and try not to get too far ahead of what you think they’re going to say in an attempt to beat lag – you might end up talking over them and missing a great gift.

A great exercise to practice is “last letter, first letter”. Use the last letter of your scene partners sentence as the first letter of yours. It’s a great exercise for tuning in to each other and really paying attention to what your scene partner is saying.

Staying hyper-alert for a performance on an online platform such as zoom can be tiring so when you’re not “on stage” turn off your camera and close your eyes. Keep listening but allow yourself a moment to rest without getting distracted.

Things Will Go Wrong… And That’s Fine!

We always want to put on the best show we can but the audience understands that we are performing in less than ideal circumstances – they’re living with them too! So take that pressure off to be as slick as you might in a theatre of comedy venue. Don’t see lag but an opportunity for a gag! Play with the glitches and see them as an offer to change up the scene. For instance, in one match the ref recognised a player was having connectivity issues that were garbling their dialogue so switched the game to “uncle gibberish”.

Yes, And.

The core tenet of improvisation is to “Yes, And” or “Accept and Build”. If we as a community of artists and entertainers embrace the challenge of improv in the age of COVID-19 we will continue to find ways to innovate and overcome these difficulties. Keep playing, keep making it fun and see every challenge as an opportunity. We’re improvisers – adapting on the fly is what we do best!

live streaming comedy to your homes during coronavirus lockdown

Online Improv with ComedySportz

We hope it will be sooner rather than later that we can all laugh and play in a theatre or comedy venue together again. Of course we want to do this safely, so even if lockdown restrictions are lifted in the coming months it may be some time before we can perform in a physical shared space together. This means performing online is likely to be the only way to see ComedySportz for some time.

Luckily we are currently doing several online improv shows a week! You can watch new live-stream shows every Wednesday (7pm BST), Friday (12.30pm BST) and Saturday (7pm BST). On Mondays at (7pm BST) we will be releasing full versions of shows filmed prior to lockdown. You can find a full schedule of shows here. You can also see ComedySportz teams play around the world by checking out the CSz Worldwide website.

If you’d like to learn with us, we are running weekly digital drop-ins and what looks likely to become a semi-regular online Stand-Up comedy course. Each digital drop-in covers an improv skill and is designed to help us learn whilst adapting to this new online stage. They run Saturdays 3-5pm BST and cost just £5.

We will continue to review what output we are able to deliver online and will be making more announcements for our short and longterm plans in the coming weeks. Until then stay safe and keep laughing!