Our greatest generation (so far)

Wow! It's always exciting to meet the future of your company, in our massive, raucous and hugely fun annual auditions. A big welcome to the lucky (well, talented) new members:

Archie Cornish

Tanner Efinger

Vicky Hawley

Dom O'Keefe

Thierry Thielens

Alice Winn

Along with a vital infusion of production and musical talent:

James Robinson

Alicia Ejsmond-Frey

Jenny Garner

It's a lovely mix of old improv hands, and new recruits ready to learn from us wizened ones. Don't worry, after eight weeks training they all emerged polished improvisers and awesome all-time folk, so look out for them at the end of this term.

As ever, a big round of applause to all of you who tried out. Improv lives and dies with people's enthusiasm for it, as performers, as casual fans, and as audience members, so you make a great thing possible. You are brave and you are sexy. Maybe see you next year.


Not quite as big as London 2012

For once, Edinburgh doesn't feel like the centre of the world in August: a lot of attention in the first few weeks has rightfully been south of theOlympic standard postering border, on the London Olympics. It affected our suggestions a bit, for instance with the Shakespeare play 'the cyclist of Box Hill', featuring King Hoy, Victoria of Pendleton and other stars. The Imps stay in one big flat and it's one of the best experiences of being up in Edinburgh – sorry for the neighbours who contacted us on twitter to tell us to keep the noise down, and we hope that bottle of wine made up for it. Luke Ogilvie-Thompson was the soul of positivity all of the fringe and deserves to be recorded for posterity. Thanks to the kind reviewer who called us "a talented group of young people, for sure... succeed where many others here at the Fringe so abysmally fail – being funny". And hello, again, to Marcus Brigstocke, who remembered us from the previous year's ski trip when we flyered him on the Royal Mile. True class.

Rehearsing Improv in Central Park

ImpsOnUSStage This was our third journey to the US as the imps, and our biggest-ever tour, stopping off at Providence, New York, Chicago, and Nashville – all the while dealing with some of the hottest weather we've ever experienced.

In New York, we performed at UCB and the Magnet, including to old members of the company now settled in the city. In Chicago, the mecca of improv, we had the chance to take a workshop with Susan Messing and Annoyance theatre.

In Nashville, we performed on the same stage as Bob Dylan (not at the same time, sadly) and enjoyed the amazing hospitality of the Schullers, the family of our former producer Christopher. After sleeping on a lot of floors, that was very welcome indeed. We had the full spectrum of American experience, from Coney Island fun fairs, to crime on the Chicago subway, to enjoying the hospitality of the kindest and nicest people on the planet.

Lastly, a big shout out to Trinity Zoo, and their teacher Mauro, who we saw in Providence. They may be school age, but trust us as a training company – these are the stars of the future.


The Nether Nether Lands

Over the Easter weekend, we Imps strapped on our clogs, pinned on our tulips and threw away our mountaineering gear. We were off to Holland! After being assured by the unintentionally hilarious Ryanair fanfare that our flight had arrived 'ON TIME', we were released into the land of brilliant orange. Good Friday evening was spent with our Dutch hosts watching the phenomenally camp Dutch 'Passion', replete with rollerskating Judas Escariot, whilst gulping bottles of Heineken and Grolsch – the only two Dutch beers!

The centrepiece of our stay was a show with Parnassos Theatersport for their 12 ½th birthday show, all performed in English. (We realised by the end that their English – and the crowd’s – was better than ours...) The crowd threw roses at the performers if they approved of a scene or gag; alas, we didn’t get to keep them. There was still time for a day trip to Amsterdam, and for Tom Skelton to be hit by a bike – they don’t like slowing down, those Dutch cyclists... But overall a cracking trip!

Arabian nights out

340425_10150447227339567_1389381574_o 429754_10150475758324567_758634037_nA hearty 'اﺮﻜﺷ to everyone who came to see our Arabian nights show this week.

For those that have forgotten the plot, Scheherazade has to keep telling stories to keep the king from killing her – in this instance, she can't remember 1001, nor even five, to last out a week's theatre run, but thankfully the audience were on side with suggestions to spur on tales of adventure, intrigue and romance.

A particular highlight was a party for planets, with party-crashers the stars, not to mention genies, pirates and princes galore. And a man in a wine cellar who couldn't find the door. Cracking.

Is this an altitude improv record?


We've played bigger houses, but never higher up: this week saw the imps playing closer to outer space than they ever have before, in Val Thorens - altitude, 2300m above sea level.

We'd like to thank the thousand-odd people we performed to, and compere Marcus Brigstocke for warming them up so skilfully. Thanks too, to all the French skiers who got out of the way of Dougie as he learned to zoom down pistes for the first time, wearing a borrowed hi-viz. The word for 'sorry' is a useful one to learn in French.

Dougie on the slopes
Dougie on the slopes

New blood

Our first Egyptologist imp. Our first Jersey imp.

Our first imp called Ivo.

It's been a banner year for firsts here at Imp towers, after the avalanche of excitement that was our 2011-2012 auditions!

A big round of applause, ladies and gentlemen:

Ed Scrivens

Stuart Thomas (Boris)

Laura Wright

Ivo Graham

James Philips

Lucy Shenton

And a HUGE round of applause to everyone who auditioned. The standard was amazingly high this year, including among the non-native speakers, auditionees high on painkillers, folk who started the audition too scared to speak –  all folk who've learned the most important lesson of improv: take part, try things that scare you, and occasionally you'll amaze yourself.

Now that was an Edinburgh

We're Edinburgh veterans these days, and you'd imagine we're used to the place by now (we've been in the same flat and the same venue for five years, for instance), but it's still thrilling to visit the biggest arts festival in the world, in the world's most beautiful city. For our new imps every year, it's an experience never to forget. It's not too bad for our audiences either, or at least so says Joe Nicholson ("the show was utterly triumphant, and clearly deserved five stars") and Fen Greatley ("top drawer entertainment!") at EdFringeReview. Thank you both. Fen: amazing name.

What else? Our famously-bearded director Dougie handed over to his successor Dylan, by shaving off his chin-ruff and bagging it for his successor to learn from. We blogged for whatsonstage, we played our largest ever venue in the Gilded Balloon, and we slept maybe two hours a night. Never mind: September is for catching up.   October is for auditions, and the whole yearly improv cycle beginning again. But that's another story...

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.