Improv Cage Match

Sat 4th – Sat 25th August 2018


Thomas Goodyer

at 22:44 on 17th Aug 2018



In Bar Bados, in the top room, resting on the speaker and turned towards the audience is a digital timer. There you can watch nine flicker to eight, to seven, slide to six, until finally one bulges gratefully back to naught. It does this for twenty-five minutes, as one improvisational comedy group roll through a twisting, incongruous narrative, then again for another twenty-five minutes, as another group do the same. Then the audience decides who’s the best by clapping. This is the format of ‘Improv Cage Match.’

One group is different every night, so whether you’re bent beneath gulping laughter, or staring aimlessly at the clock’s LEDs as I did, could depend on when you go. The two groups at mine were Couch Improv, the house team, and Cambridge Impronauts, the guests. The first offered little, with almost no audience engagement (in fact, those shouting suggestions were told not to); an oddly disparate structure which never came to anything; and a frustrating lack of energy at times. The second were better and indeed won, improving on all the things that Couch Improv got wrong, but still weren’t particularly ground breaking. Their whole act relied on references, which is fine if you build on those references well, but too often the whole joke could be summarised as “oh look its Jaws, but in Star Wars” or “hey, what if Shrek was in this bit?”

I hope if you go and see it the groups lined up in front of you will be more impressive, because the idea behind the show, if a little pointless, is basically harmless. The atmosphere was generally fine, too. People laughed and were encouraging and appreciative, but if you are writing a review of something and you find yourself using the audience as a point of praise, something is essentially wrong. When the zeros finally lined up on the digital clock, we found we could enjoy the remorseless swing of mother time somewhere better.


Rowan Evans

at 23:08 on 17th Aug 2018



One of the best things about ‘Improv Cage Match’ was the atmosphere. The smallish room was packed to the brim with an enthusiastic audience which gave the performers a great night.

Two improv teams battled against each other for nothing, and the audience decided at the end who was best. The shame about this was that the competition element was downplayed quite a bit. I would have liked to see the winners come on stage at the end for example.

It was ‘Couch Improv’ vs ‘Cambridge Impronauts’ this particular night, and they both took different approaches to their improvisation which kept the night interesting and fresh.

‘Couch Improv’ were first up. The audience gave them the word ‘whisk’, and, well, they stumbled with it. The generative word game they began with was unfunny and boring. ‘Whisk’ was not a malleable enough word for them this time around.

But even with a weak prompt, I expected more from the house team. The ensuing scenes which they generated were chaotic.

The references to Mary Berry and Gordon Ramsey, while relevant to whisking, were cheap shots. I think referencing pop culture is fine, but only when it serves to enhance the joke you are telling.

On the other hand, while sometimes too heavy on the pop culture dial, ‘Cambridge Impronauts’ handled this element with a mile more style.

Their show was an improvised movie, with the genre and setting chosen by the audience. The Sci-Fi Noir Rom-Com “Jaws on the Dark Side of Mars”, was both funny and structured in an entertaining way. Like how they would switch back to earlier points in time to explain how different characters got where.

The Impronauts had real chemistry, each one bouncing off each other, creating something funnier with each sentence. I was glad to see them win the show. I think on another night I might have enjoyed the first team more, but it was a shame that it did not click this time around.

Different performers every night means that my review will not be that representative. Yet, for the great vibes and good sportsmanship alone, I would be willing to try ‘Improv Cage Match’ again.


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