In the lead up to our next Cool Story Bro at Room to Play Theatre, Big Forker Jim continues his run of interviews with Big Fork players by sitting down with Suren Ladd. After completing his initial improv training with Impro Mafia, Suren jumped right into our jam program, and has been performing with us in our Cool Story Bro shows ever since.
Suren and Jim talk about unstructured time, heady comedy, and get interrupted by Forkers and known Rude-people, Cameron and Rosa.
Jim: Hi Suren!
Thanks for hanging out, post-jam.
So what got you into improv?
Well, I really wanted to improve my confidence – I am a teacher by profession.
What do you teach?
I work in business and tourism teaching at the TAFE level, but some day I’d like to work in university in the field. Also a lot of my friends used to say that I go off on tangents a lot, so I just thought improv was a good fit
What’s an example?
So my friend’s niece’s name is Marley, and I went off on this tangent about how if she was my nice I would call her Bob.
*Jim stares blankly*
Because the reference of being Bob Marley.
Yes. So my friends think I do that too much, so here I am, doing improv.
So you wanted to develop that skill!
Yes, and when I moved up from Adelaide I saw an ad for classes with Impro Mafia and here I am.
So you started improv at the same time as Janette and Mandy, right?
Yes, and also Reese, Ryan…
All those guys. It’s been nice to see how you all have bonded.
Yes very much so, it‘s been a huge part of my Brisbane story - meeting all those guys
Do you guys just go away and practice yourselves?
Yes, in the last few months we’ve had informal sort of jams separate to Big Fork or Impro Mafia – just having fun amongst ourselves.
That’s awesome. What do you personally get from improv?
The best thing I’m getting out of it us just having a place to have fun. Like…everything else in life can be very stressful, so it’s nice to have unstructured, non-stressful time. I won’t say improvising is my most natural setting, but it’s certainly something close to it. Like, if I was to find a workplace or a work role that gives me the opportunity to use my improv skills more, or to be creative and work with people in the way we do here, I’d do that in a heartbeat.
That’s the dream right, once you’ve done improv: “How can I make this more of my job?” or “How can I make my job more like improv?” So you’ve done a couple of shows with us now, right?
5 Cool Story Bros.
Wow, that’s incredible – you’ve only been improvising for what, 6 months?
Well done. You still getting nervous?
Actually, not really. For two reasons I think. One is that the people who I get to perform with are very supportive and very encouraging which sort of deflates the need to be stressed out, and also something else sort of kicks in when you get on stage “oh, it’s showtime, I have to move forward and do this thing.
Do you have a favourite moment in improv so far?
A couple jump out. A scene which we dubbed the brothers scene – it was myself, Reese, Michael and Zeid – where we were all, like, it was it was like a celebration dinner, but we discovered that it was happening because our parents had died, it was like a wake, but a celebration wake.
So when did you know that you were hooked on improv?
I think more than anything it’s been the community aspect that’s hooked me. For instance, like, every Tuesday, I go to the jam, and be with friends, so it’s a big part of my social calendar more than anything else!
Do you have any advice to someone who is thinking about getting into improv?
I think we all encounter things in life where we just have to jump in and do it. Sometimes it’s not good to overanalyse so much, just jump in, see what happens! The worst that could happen is…like…actually nothing. You won’t be a worse person than when you came in. You’ll get something out of it, guaranteed. Even if you don’t perform, you’ll get something out of it.
What or who makes you laugh?
I think things that actually…you have to actually think a little bit in order to get it.
That’s the exact opposite of most people I’ve interviewed for this. Mandy was like “people hurting themselves” and Rosa was like “funny noises”.
Yeah, I’m more into the cerebral stuff. Like, things that are based on real and aren’t just a cheap joke based on sex or profanity or cheap references.
Truth in comedy, right?
Yeah exactly. I think the best comedy comes from a person discovering that on stage, their own creativity coming through and finding something brand new.
Do you have any comedy heroes?
I’m a big Seinfeld guy, the classic British stuff.
I’m right there with you. Do you have any goals for yourself in improv?
I would like to keep performing in as many shows and formats as possible, but I’d like to bring more of this kind of creativity to my classrooms. That’s what I’m passionate about at the moment. How improv can help with teaching, like, how to bring improv into my work practices.
Do you have a favourite person to play with?
Definitely yourself and Cam.
You always give me – you’re very supportive and you don’t put people in a lot of tricky situations, you are always helping – it’s easy to build a scene with you.
Except for that time I endowed Peter as Marilyn Mason. What about Cam?
Well Cam is like a really – he’s a improviser I think everyone aspires to be – but I don’t want to be him, because it’s good to have one of him.
Yeah, we could not survive with more than one Cam: He’s difficult, a real pain. I always get a question from the last person I interview, so this one’s from Caro, who we can see leaving forever in the background right now. Bye Caro! She asks: What would the ultimate scene be?
Wow. Well. The ultimate scene is where you make the audience laugh. Even a small laugh – or any emotion. And if you can make that happen, then it’s the ultimate scene, right?
As long as you reach someone, anyone at all, it’s the ultimate scene?
If you’ve made any impact at all, if you’ve changed the person’s day, or even their disposition in that very moment, you’ve done well, I think.
(At this moment Rosa and Cameron approach, totally interrupting our conversation)
Rosa: (to Jim) Did you get your shirt?
Jim: Yes I did get my shirt, thank you very much. We’re almost finished.
Cameron: Jim! I’ll see you tomorrow night at yours?!
Jim: (To Cameron) Do you have a question for Suren?
Cameron: What have you already asked?
Jim: Everything - Chuck in a question.
Cameron: Um…Suren. What drives you as a person?
Jim: Good question (to Cameron) Wait you’re meeting me tomorrow what? Where?
Cameron: Unless you don’t want me to come around and watch the game…
Jim: So that’s happening! Oh ok, so you and Chris are coming over.
Cameron: That’s what Chris told me.
Jim: Oh ok, he was on the fence when I talked to him. See you tomorrow.
(Rosa and Cameron leave)
Jim: If you’d like to come over to watch Origin feel free. So then, Cameron’s question: What drives you?
Suren: I think collaboration. To open up opportunities for other people to grow, to learn or to be great.
Well if that’s your ethos, you’ll be a great improviser forever, and a great teacher. Thanks for hanging out Suren.
Thanks for your time.
For my time? Thanks for your time!