When considering comedy in Sheffield, your mind probably jumps first to stand-up comedy.

Your mind then stops, builds a small cottage, marries, has a child, maybe gets a dog, and eventually dies on stand-up. This is a fair mentality to adopt, because the stand-up scene in Sheffield provides a healthy banquet of shows and a person could be sated for as little as £5 if they so decided.

But what if I told you there was another option? What if I told you that Sheffield has a blossoming comedy scene right under our noses, a buried treasure trove of laughter, a veritable cache of chuckle?

Picture the scene. Comedy performers using suggestions from the audience to build their own scenes and stories live. No scripts, no director, no rehearsals. Everything that happens in a show lives and dies in that moment. David Williamson, Kaboodle Improv Theatre performer, told me, “As an audience member, you feel like you’re on a journey and, to a certain degree, privileged to know you’ve seen a once-in-a-lifetime show, as no two improv scenes are the same.”

Made famous on UK TV in the late 80s by Whose Line is it Anyway?, improvised comedy has a slowly growing following across the UK. In many cities, improv is moving out of the shadow of obscurity and into the limelight. London-based group Showstopper won the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment & Family. Day by day, improvised comedy is breaking its way into mainstream UK entertainment.

So why should you care about the Sheffield scene? Above all other cities, what makes improv taking place here so special? In two words: size and diversity. Chella Quint, performing member and founder of improv group Faffing About, highlights this diversity.

“Everyone thinks Sheffield is a music city, but we have nine improv troupes here and good relationships with troupes in other cities. We’re centrally located and we’re becoming a real hub. We’re also starting to really reflect a broad demographic of improvisers, with a good gender split, sensitivity to disabled performers and those with mental health issues, and spaces for queer improvisers to feel comfortable and supported,” Chella told me.

So Sheffield presents a chattering hive of improv activity, providing opportunity not only for audiences, but also for those looking to try improv comedy themselves. This beast of banter shows no sign of ceasing its growth either, with new groups continuing to form and new shows continuing to appear. The only way is up.

How do you, the brave cultural explorer, enter this new scene on the ground level? Well, to start with, you could try The Sheffield Improv Jam, the beating heart of the improv hydra. It’s here that all the local groups gather to perform shoulder to shoulder in the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of DINA.

Without any skill barriers, the Jam is a great place for the beginner performer to test their might. Alternatively, it’s the place for the brave new viewer to see if improv tickles their funny bone. Regardless, it’s certainly the place to cross the threshold and pass into a new world of laughter.

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Photo: Chucklenuts

Joe Thompson