2011... The summer that was, and the summer that is to come

The end of another Oxford term, and another set of Wheatsheaf shows.  Raccoons were unleashed on spaceships, tobacconists turned to kidnapping and the Radcliffe Camera burned down, but no one seemed to mind.  We also hosted our IMPenetrable mystery show!  For those of you who missed it, our surprise was the very wonderful Theatersportgroep Parnassos, who joined us for some international improvised fun.  They’ve taught us a few new games, now renamed for an English audience and regularly served up at Imping events:  the Dutch may be gone but the hilarity of “Going Dutch” lives on in the Wheatsheaf. Tis the season to be jolly Oxford-style, and we’ve imped about at many a lovely ball this term (including one at the Other Place – Emmanuel College Cambridge showed us a lovely time).  Shout out for a personal favourite goes to Linacre: they let us dress up as Wonderland characters and unleashed us on their guests to pretend we were rabbits and cats and queens.  Normally when I’m pretending to be a caterpillar, no one will join in, let alone offer me an entire Wonderland themed party to play in.

Other summer highlights included recording some radio exploits for Jack FM, and taking weekend trips to the Wychwood music festival and the Stratford-upon-Avon festival.  Where better to improvise a Shakespeare than in the home of the bard himself?  We’re still hoping that “The Blue Peter Presenter of Leicester” might get picked up by the RSC sometime soon.  All in all, the Imps were thoroughly imped out by the end of June.

However: now that we’ve had a good sleep and a little time for contemplation, tea and a biscuit, I can’t help feeling it’s high time we got back to it.  And it just so happens that there’s a festival around the corner... yes, plans are underway for the Edinburgh fringe!  With less than a week to go until the earliest birds among the Imps make their way to that fair city, our excitement is mounting.  This is our eighth year at the festival, and we’re back at the Gilded Balloon, every day in the Nightclub.  I say it often – too often – but this time I mean it with all my heart: “HURRAH!”

Just to get your Edinburgh appetite going, we’ve prepared a couple of dishes.  First, the lovely folk at Whatsonstage.com have asked us to join their ‘community blogger’ team.  Check out our blogs here to get an insight into the world of the Imps flat (don’t look too closely for your own health).  We’ve begun with our pre-Edinburgh prep...

Take a look!

Second: how do you describe an Imps show to someone who’s never been?  Our wondrous video imp team explains here ...and here.

See you there?  With love and trembling excitement,

Sylvia x

After a few restive weeks...

Imps in Utrecht
Imps in Utrecht

After a few restive weeks (contrary to popular opinion, the Imps do rest, though this behavior can only be observed outside of term time) the Imps went international and we found ourselves in the city of Utrecht, Holland. Oh Utrecht, that glorious city of charm, finesse, and dangerously high water levels.

There we fought the University of Utrecht’s Parnassus Improv Troupe in an improvised battle to the death. Many a rose/wet sponge was thrown at us/Laurie Blair, many a lyric was slammed down, and after two weather goddesses covered England in rainbows and tumbleweeds, the deliverance of a lecture on the British educational system and all four of it’s heads, and a brief foray into the intricacies of the Dutch language the imps emerged victorious. The democratic process, in the form of arbitrary point assignments and a final audience vote, has proven itself once again!

Murder mystery
Murder mystery

Since our triumphant return we’ve been kept excessively busy, as our members have begun to drop dead. Do Not Panic (though condolences can be sent to Andrew McCormack)! In the interest of access to education for all, the Imps have teamed up with the University of Oxford Access Department to bring about a murder mystery. Currently, 50-60 GCSE students are on the task and detectivizing away, and we have all been interrogated most thoroughly. From the glorious College Master to the undergraduates embroiled in a complicated love triangle, no imp is free of suspicion! Let’s hope they catch the killer soon, because if he/she gets to any more Imps, putting on shows in Trinity will become slightly difficult!

Yes, that’s right: Trinity shows! First week is not far off and we’ll be installed in the Wheatsheaf once again beginning May 2nd. In addition, catch us at the Stratford Fringe, the Wychwood Music Festival, and begin planning and preparation (someone has to do it, as we don’t go in for that kind of thing) for the epic hilarity of the Oxford Imps at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!


Yours, murderously,

Erin x

Things Hilaryous

Spare some change? For more deserving folk than these

Spare some change? For more deserving folk than these

The Oxford Imps are having a splendid time, it has to be said. After a veritable string – nay, rope – of weekly sell-out shows at the Wheatsheaf (including a now-legendary gig of Valentine’s Day), a host (or compère) of College comedy nights, a rockin’ Catz Ball, and scooping the Best Sketch/Improv Group Award at the Southampton Student Comedy Festival 2011, our intrepid band of improvisers were at last ready to take on The Challenge (capitalised for challengerous emphasis) of the term: No Fixed Abode.

On the 28th February, the Imps performed twelve straight hours of improvised comedy, storming ten Oxford Colleges and finishing with their regular 2-hour show at the Wheatsheaf. This gargantuan Improvathon was all in aid of Oxford-based charity Homeless Action Group, for whom we raised £626.01! And what adventures were had during this adventure: Pepys and Dostoevsky got to grips with each other in the ‘Tale of Three Cities’, told in flawless – almost – Jamaican accents; the recently discovered Shakespeare play ‘The Three Civil Servants of India’ saw the demise of a Count who wasn’t allowed to count; the arts of rhymery, punnery, innuendo and satire made appearances of varying discretion and taste; and all were left in suspense by the sordid entanglements of the improvised soap ‘Vampire Road’. Dougie (Herr Direktor) was there for every single minute, and said ‘well done’ to his troupe of happy and exhausted performers. True and deep words from a man who had all but replaced his blood with Red Bull by the end of the day.

None of these people has slept

None of these people has slept

So what does the future hold for the keener-than-keen-if-keen-were-keener-than-keenness Oxford Imps? Radio shows? Murder mysteries in Oxford cloisters? A tour to Holland? YES. YES. And YES. But more on these (and more) as the veil of time unfurls its misty folds… the rest, as they say, is improv.

– Dylan x

As old as Facebook

When did the little Imp get so big?

When did the little Imp get so big?

The Oxford Imps are seven years old. Seven is the age, in humans, where you start getting your adult teeth and start to understand the progression of time.

I thought my friend Excel might like to contribute to the conversation at this point: the combined age of all the imps currently in the troupe is 605. The combined age of all the imps there have ever been is 2688, which makes us older than the plough.

I was looking through old emails from 2003 and 2004 to pinpoint exactly when the first-ever imps show was. I could have used deduction and looked it up on an old online calendar such as my trusty friend dateandtime.com, but I didn't realise this till after the fact. And stumbling through old emails in my helpfully named gmail label 'Imps'  was much more fun. The first unofficial show was in St Peter's Music Room, on Monday the 1st of December 2003. There were more imps than audience members: we were so scared of how the show would go that none of us invited our friends, all relying on other imps to bring their mates. This was a valuable lesson and subsequently we all heavily guilt-groped each other... and our first official show in January 2004, in the Wheatsheaf, was filled with buddies and mates galore.

Seven years later, we are still in the Wheatsheaf on Mondays, but there are some things that have changed other than the faces onstage. A minor example, is that in our first year, we used to have a reception-style bell that the MC would ding for a scene change (rather than clap). But, it got stolen during a show. Stolen. Not once. But three times I tell you. Thrice. During the shows. Those bells were twelve quid each... So we gave up on having a bell as it was so emotionally and financially painful each time we parted with one. If anyone reading this walks into a house one day and sees three golden dingy bells on a mantelpiece, please pap them with your phone and email us so we can run an international exposé on this very website.

Backstage at our first show

Backstage at our first show

Other traditions lost include the weekly ritual of imps putting powder in their underwear backstage before a show to prevent itchy balls; one imp standing on a box at the back of the stage throughout the whole show turning a single light switch on and off between games, as we had no lighting desk; and the weekly joke of spelling 'compere' a different way in our Monday morning emails to each other.

There are some things that have stayed the same. These include those who originate from across the pond, finding themselves in a game or scene, the basic tenant of which is a word they have never heard of. This tradition started in 2004 with a 20 minute pledge break game because our beloved Canadian Jim had never heard of the word 'spanner'. Our lovely New Yorker Lee got 'powerboat' in a guessing game after a whopping 14 minutes, and the patient Californian Brad spending a painful 12 minutes guessing 'abattoir', after having come so close with 'pope war' 'priest battle' 'and 'cardinal gun'.

And one other thing has always stayed the same - that the Wheatsheaf is filled with our buddies and mates. Whether we know you personally or not, you are our friends – and we'd have been an infant mortality statistic without you.

– Hannah


impsGreetings on behalf of generation eleven!  So, we appear to have made it to  the other side of our first Wheatsheaf appearance without serious injury.  Along the way we stumbled across  royalty cunningly disguised as pigeons, a man who looked distressingly like a penguin, a giant horse race and an entirely cheese-less France, which was amusing and disturbing all at once.  No Camembert?  I for one was quite upset.  Thank you to all the lovely lovely people who came to watch and suggest and laugh in all the right places.  It’s been a busy term getting ready for our first performance and it was ace to have you all there.  "Getting ready," you say, "to improvise?  How so?" Aha, good question.  No line learning or blocking or dress rehearsals, just lots and lots and lots of playing games.  It's a hard life but we do it for our art and all that, hemhem.imps2 The good ship Michaelmas has reached port and the Imps are disembarking for the time  being, but I'm already over-excited about joining you for the hilarity of Hilary.  Until then, I wish you a merry one of all the festivals coming up, with a side portion of gratuitous extra merriment. See you in the Wheatsheaf dear friends!

With festive love Sylvia

Come and see the new Oxford Imps!

Actual colours may vary

Actual colours may vary

Term is coming to an end in Oxford, but you've got one last chance to see the Imps in action.

As well as your last helping of the Imps before Christmas, it's also your first taste of our fresh meat. Chris, Erin, David, Dylan, Padden, Pete, Sylvia and Xandra: lovely names, lovely people, excellent improvisers. But don't take our word for it: come along on Monday the 29th, to see them in action.

The show starts at eight, but come early to be sure of a seat: we've been selling out this term, and there'll be a lot of friends along. Be ready for a packed show, and an incredible atmosphere that'll put you in a good mood all the way to the New Year.

Sweets in a pub

Jamie and Ali
Jamie and Ali

Term is in full swing! Five of our eight weekly shows done already, and the prospect of the new imps treading the boards is looming large on the horizon. Our shows, we like to think, have been lots of fun. What’s not fun about going to a pub, and, amongst other things, seeing a fifteen minute musical about entitled “Narnia: Colon”? Or, a tragic scene about a man addicted to Twister? Or, a sketch in cinema, where a young vagabond annoys a lonely film addict? Where both characters have a propensity to rap?

Well hello there

Well hello there

Our Halloween show was without any reference to Halloween, but we did deck out the Wheatsheaf with cobwebs, witches hats and our sweeties from trick or treating. Sweeties! In a pub! I wish you were allowed to eat sweets in a pub more often, and not just dry roasted peanuts. I have nothing against dry roasted peanuts, it’s just that sometimes I’d prefer a pint and a Curly-Wurly.

And if our shows have been fun, then they’ll only get funner. We’ve got some very funny people chomping at the bit to get on stage, and when we unleash them, the Wheatsheaf won’t know what’s hit it. So, dear friend, come along! Every Monday at 8pm (come early, it’s been busy busy busy), and you will definitely get funny, possibly get sweets, and maybe get the grand debut of a superstar in waiting.



Hello from Laurie

Was it something awesome I said?

Was it something awesome I said?

The Imps have landed back in Oxford following a brilliant run throughout August at the Edinburgh Fringe. Our show was, as ever, a great success with Edinburgh audiences, our new venue in the prestigious Gilded Baloon Teviot meant we could rub shoulders with the very best in fringe comedy, and our ranks received a hugely-welcome swelling from ex-Imps who have gone on to great things in comedy, music and Sweden.

The new face is an improvement

The new face is an improvement

But, back in Planet Oxford, greater things beckon yet. Under the stewardship of our new Director and Assistant Director, Dougie and Ali, things have got off to a flying start – alongside our Wheatsheaf show EVERY Monday, we’ve had two great gigs in St Hugh's and Magdalen, and there are some big plans for the coming year...

Jamie, impossibly, gets fresher and fresher of face

Jamie, impossibly, gets fresher and fresher of face

The loss of Imps who, having been finalists last year, have now left Oxford, as well as the equally painful absence of Imps who are currently on their year out, working and studying abroad, has been keenly felt. Nevertheless, our skeleton crew have bravely sailed the ship of Imp comedy to hitherto undiscovered lands of hilarity – and we now have some new shipmates!!! After a very competitive and impressive two nights of auditions, we’re all delighted to welcome no less than SEVEN “Newbs” to the company – we can’t wait to see Dylan, Xandra, Padden, Erin, Chris, Sylvia and Pete in action later on this term, after a lengthy and gruelling training period under the supervision/tyranny of Ali... That’s all for now – watch this space for more Imps-related news and views, from all different members of our glorious company.


– Laurie B.

It's a boy! And three girls. And three more boys.

Beg silence, and then a huge round of applause for:

  • Chris McCormick
  • Dylan Townley
  • Erin Simmons
  • Padden Murphy
  • Pete Bearder
  • Sylvia Bishop
  • Xandra Clark

...as the latest additions to the Oxford Imps.

Thanks to all of you who came to audition. We hugely respect everyone who has the guts to try out, and we hope to see you at our shows this year. Perhaps even at our next auditions?

Now, the stage imps are only half of the story: working behind the scenes will be producer Stuart, and his able deputies Urska and Ryan. If you want help them with their varied duties, then drop us a line to get involved.

Fresher's week checklist 2010

If you're new to Oxford here's your hit list for freshers' week: - Come and watch us perform on Wednesday, October 6th (we'll be making appearances at St Hugh's college and Magdalen college that night).

- Come and visit us at the Oxford University Freshers Fair between Wednesday and Friday (6th-8th October). You can say hi, and ask us any questions you have about the show, auditioning, joining as crew or booking us for gigs this year.

- If you can't make it on those days, or if you just love good comedy, pop along to the first of this year's shows on Monday, October 11 at the Wheatsheaf. Only £3.50 for two hours of entertainment. We can answer your questions afterwards over a drink.

If you follow those steps and you like what you see, well, you know what to do: Join us. Our auditions will be on Tuesday, the 14th October, and we'll be recruiting musicians, tech and production staff all year.

Join us

Your face here

Your face here

Are you in Oxford in October? Would you like to join Oxford's foremost comedy group? Be trained as an improviser? Attend our legendary parties?

If the answer is yes (and why would it be no?) then come to our auditions!


  • you don't need to have any acting or comedy experience;
  • you don't need to be an Oxford student, or a student at all;
  • you don't need to be super-confident: we'll train you to be.

If you have any questions, take a look at the audition page on this site, or get in contact with our director Dougie.

If you don't want to perform on stage but want to become part of the imps family, you can become a tech, production or music imp. You will become a full member of the company with all the fun and privileges that entails. Get in touch with our producer Stuart for details. 

To keep tip-top up to date about auditions, shows, and everything else in our world, join our mailing list or become a fan on Facebook. New Oxford students can also come to our stall at fresher's fair from the 6th to the 8th of October.

Ex-imps impress

The imps are a training as well as a performance company, so it's been great to see a couple of our flock achieve the recognition they deserve in recent weeks.

Chris Turner

Chris Turner

First up, congratulations to Chris Turner, who reached the finals of 'So You Think You're Funny?' 2010, following in the footsteps of previous Imps such as Rose Heiney back in 2004.  Chris has also just won the Comedy Store's 'King Gong' showcase, which has launched the careers of performers as diverse as Alexei Sayle: we expect the fame to go to his head any day now.

Rachel Parris

Rachel Parris

Meanwhile, plaudits are also due to imp alumna Rachel Parris, who is up for the finals of the 2010 Funny Women awards.  They'll be taking place in the Leicester Square theatre on the 20th of September; London-based fans of comedy, musical improvisation and/or women can find booking details here.

If this has given you a taste for the life of an improviser, then good for you, you obviously have excellent taste. Not only that: you're in luck! We will be holding our annual auditions in October, and it would be criminal if you didn't attend. Take a look at all the details here.

Nae man can tether time or tide

Tom in full swing

Tom in full swing

It's always a wrench leaving Edinburgh, after seeing so many great shows and performing in front of such incredible Fringe audiences. How do people stay so enthusiastic after seeing five shows a day? In the rain? But still, time marches on, and the Imps have scattered back to their homes to rest up until October.

Over the years that the Imps have been performing in Edinburgh, the improv scene at the Fringe has exploded, with great acts like the Noise Next Door joining established favourites such as the Improverts - and our good selves - in giving audiences an incredible variety of comedy entertainment.

We honestly welcome the new arrivals: the more that audiences get used to how improv works, the more that we performers are free to experiment. We all grew up on 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' and it was a great show, but there's a whole universe of possibilities in making things up on the spot, beyond games and zaniness. Expect a lot from the Imps on that front, in the year ahead.

Another year

Copyright Cherwell The dust has settled on another great year of comedy - the imps have finished for the summer, and are packing their bags for Edinburgh.

We've held our traditional final show for our members leaving the group - tech imps and stage imps, production imps and pianists. It's always a sad time of year. But it's also an excuse for an amazing party. We can't recommend 'Stella Artois and Gin' or 'Guinness and Aftershock' as cocktails, but we can wholeheartedly recommend the Wheatsheaf as hosts.

The picture is taken from local newspaper the Cherwell, who said some very lovely things about us in a recent feature . "...at the forefront of the Oxford comedy scene", are we? Oh, don't make us blush!

Festival spirit

Tom and Lucy
Tom and Lucy

We've just spent our second year at the Wychwood festival. For the second year running, we've had a fantastic time at our official show and in impromptu comedy happenings afterwards. As we tried to communicate to Claire at Wychwood FM (through the fog of the backstage beer): it was another perfect day.

If you missed us at Wychwood (for shame! It's Britain's most family-friendly festival, so you can't even use the kids as an excuse) you can still catch us at the Secret Garden Party (22-25 July). If you're not going to the Secret Garden Party either, you poor shut-in, then you can head over to Edinburgh and watch us every day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

To whet your appetite here's a nice picture taken of us at Wychwood by the multitalented and handsome Charles Budd, who we've never even met. You can see his full album on Flickr, here.

See the Imps at home, and in Scotland

Anglo-Scottish harmony

Anglo-Scottish harmony

To those who came to see IMPerium - thank you. To those who didn't - too late! You missed your chance.

But don't worry, slowcoaches, you can catch us at our last show of term on Monday (the 8th of March), or at Magdalen comedy night TOMORROW (the 4th). Facebook users can get the information on that here. For those of you who'll be in Scotland in August, however, we have even more exciting news to report. We're not just back at the Gilded Balloon for the whole Edinburgh Fringe - after two sell-out years, they've given us an even bigger room to put all the people in!

Same great comedy, more people to share the love. We'll put up all the details as soon as we have them, here.

New Show This Week

IMPerium this week!

IMPerium this week!

At a loose end? No longer! This post has just told you about IMPerium, the latest and most ambitious project from the Oxford Imps. This is a full, feature-length adaptation of our highly successful format 'no minor characters', spinning an entire world out of chance encounters and bit-players.

"The world is a funny place, full of people whose stories we never hear. The person who sat next to you the last time you were on the bus – what is their story? Let’s explore. Perhaps we aren’t so different or distant, after all…"

The show is running all this week until Saturday; at 7.30 each night at the Burton Taylor theatre. Tickets can be bought here, or on the door if they don't sell out in advance. Oxford's other comedy legends, the Revue, will be playing straight after us so there's a chance to get a double bill of comedy magic.

See you there!

Taking a breath

Out last show of the year was last night. Now our exhausted imps can rest up for Christmas, and think about all the things they did at the social. Monday marked the debut of our new imps, in a packed sell-out show. The latest bunch are genuinely fantastic, and probably could have hit the stage on the night of their audition, but we always insist they go through almost two months of training before they can don the black-and-red top.

Stage imps aren't the whole equation, of course. Music is an absoutely integral to improv, so it's great to welcome Tom 'Salsa' Hodge as our latest pianist. Welcome, also, to Jenni Cutting, who aside from helping at front of house has volunteered to produce our Edinburgh show next year.

It's worth saying that the show wouldn't happen without our dedicated band of production imps (pimps), who are full members of our company and the secret to our success. We're always looking for capable and enthusiastic folks willing to help out with our regular show or on special projects - email turner@oxfordimps.com if you're interested.

Lastly - The Secret Policeman's ball yesterday, along with the UNICEF gig in November (see the previous post), was a lovely chance to mix with other members of the Oxford comedy scene. So it's great to confirm that we're sharing a dressing room with the Oxford Revue in the New Year, with shows running during the same week at the Burton Taylor theatre. We've got a really exciting format to try out, and look forward to seeing you there!

Cold outside, but in here our ears are burning

Term is going well. This month saw a sell-out show for UNICEF, sharing the stage with award-laden comedy wunderkind Ivo Graham, as well as Naz Osmanoglu, Tom Greeves and Winston Smith. The Wheatsheaf shows continue to do well, and at a secret location in Oxfordshire the nubes are training up nicely, practicing everything from acceptance games to rapping to improvised Shakespeare.

But the big news of recent days has been a visit by the Oxford Theatre Review. They had this to say about us:

"The finale draws all the Imps together bellowing the chorus and as I look around the crowd I feel like a young child at a pantomime: glistening eyes eagerly fix the stage and eye-wrinkling grins adorn every face [...] The only way to really understand what the Imps do is to see their skill in action, which I would highly recommend. Regardless of your expectations, I guarantee that you will leave the set feeling refreshed and uplifted."

Read the review here, or better yet, come and see us! There are only a few more chances left to do so this year, after all.

New arrivals

We'd like to offer a warm welcome to the following: Laurie Blair Sam Freeman Ali Hall Sophie Klimt Andrew McCormack Dougie Walker

...and our thanks to everyone who auditioned. We respect everyone with the guts to put themselves forward, and the enthusiasm to get stuck in. If you didn't make it this time, don't get put off, and we hope to see you again at shows this year. It's going to be a good one...