In the lead up to our next Cool Story Bro on June 10 at Room to Play Independent Theatre in Paddington, Big Forker Jim is interviewing a few of our players about improv, life and anything else that may come up.
This time, Jim sat down with Big Fork co-founder, Cameron Watson, to talk about weird sketches, Shadowfist, and the Queen Beating Prince Charles to death. Oh and improv. Lots of improv.
Jim: Hi Cameron!
Cameron: Hi Jim. How’s it going?
Yeah pretty good, pretty good.
We just finished a run of a show.
West End of Future Past.
A Comedy Walking Tour.
A weird show. The weirdest show we’ve ever done?
Nah, any regular GIIY is much weirder.
What’s the weirdest GIIY sketch you’ve been a part of?
The weirdest one…probably “Who’s eatin?”
Oh yes. Describe that for the people at home.
I was a man who, throughout the sketch, made a really tall, Scooby Doo style sandwich of various meats, just stacked one on top of the other. I went to woollies and got very small quantities of all different luncheon meats. I was like, “can I please have the smallest serve of chicken luncheon meat you have please”, and these individual bags were coming out at like 36 cents and I was making this poor kid ring them all up. So as my character is making this sandwich, he’s making out like he’s hosting a dinner party, and he starts telling this story about ants, and there are ants living in his pants that he accidently killed using a dyson air blade. Meanwhile nobody wants to eat this sandwich.
Because you’re making disgusting sandwiches
Also as a disgusting character, with ants in his pants.
(laughter) When did you start improvising?
I tried looking up email to see when I did my first course
A prepared interview subject
Yes, I started in 2007, mid-2007.
So you’re coming up on your 10 year anniversary of improv.
Almost. I started doing improv in high school in 2003, I did my first theatresports class.
Do you remember what you were like when you first started improvising?
Dumb. Dumb characters, blocking
You definitely don’t do any dumb characters now. No sir.
Yeah, but that’s dumb at the top of my intelligence. Back then it was just characters I’d stolen from TV shows, or like pointless popular culture references, that kind of thing
What keeps you coming back then after nearly 10 years?
I love it. It still has that excitement. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t still find it enjoyable.
You have done a lot of teaching in the last few years. Has that changed how you enjoy or experience improv?
I probably notice things a lot more. But when I’m not taking notes I try to switch off that part of my brain, so that I can just enjoy the show.
Do you still find that you get nervous before you go on stage at all?
I never get nervous doing improv anymore.
Only when I don’t know the words
So every GET IT* INYA, then.
But even then, I was a little bit nervous coming into the walking tour, because we had a very short production turnaround
And there were a lot of grand ideas being thrown around. But we produced a great show that people enjoyed watching
That we did. Do you have a favourite show you’ve done?
Probably have to say Chavprov, the duo I do with Edward Chambers
The dearly missed Edward.
Yes he’s now a turncoat Melbourne Improviser. Chavprov is where we dress in dumb tracksuits and pretend to be British. We start the show saying “if you don’t know what a chav is, don’t worry, because you still won’t know what a chav is by the end of the show.’
But my favourite show we ever did involved a scene where Edward was playing the Queen and I was playing Prince Charles, and the scene ended with the Queen beating Prince Charles to death and whispering “You will never be King” while holding his dead body and that was like…that was really enjoyable.
That’s tremendous. So OK, what about outside of improv – what are your things?
I’m a board game person.
Board games are hot right now. What’d be your number one?
I play a collectible card game called Shadowfist (Cameron points to the T-shirt he is wearing)
I do not know that one.
It’s over 20 years old, it came out just after Magic the Gathering. It’s based off Kung Fu movies. Weirdly, Brisbane has one of the larger Shadowfist Communities in Australia.
That is weird. Would you say that improv has improved your life?
I think it’s made me a more positive person. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still like to hang shit on people, but in a fun way.
Yes, always. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about getting into improv, or into this community?
That’s such a softball question.
I would say…don’t make it your life. It’s very easy to make your life all about improv. Earlier on I used to get anxious if I was going to miss an improv night to do something else. Like I missing out on a chance that I’d never get back.
I think I am still there a little bit.
One week I missed a weekly show because I was seeing another play, and I remember getting torn up about it. So don’t do that…just , it’s very easy to get totally consumed by the improv community, or feel like you have to earn your place somehow by coming to absolutely everything. Improv is such a fleeting art form, improv is smoke-
Improv is smoke – I like that, that’s going to be the banner heading for this interview.
“Improv is smoke” – Cameron Watson. But I guess what I mean is that you need to have other things in your life outside of improvising order to be the best improviser you can be.
Do you think anyone can improvise?
Yes. Whether everyone can improvise well is another question, but I think anyone can learn all the skills to improvise successfully. Some people are naturally funny, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a good improviser. If a person can feel comfortable doing dumb stuff, that’s a big indicator of success. If you can receive a note, that’s the other one. If you’re unwilling to change the way you improvise based on constructive feedback, to change your bad habits, then you’re shelf-life as an improviser might be limited.
So after 10 years – what do you want to accomplish in improv?
A physical improv theatre in Brisbane would be good.
Do you have an example or a model for that? What’s an example of where you want improv to be in Brisbane?
I mean, ideally it’d be like Chicago, where there are a million improv theatres that everyone wants to go to, but I mean there are towns in America that have fewer people than Brisbane with designated self-sustaining improv theatres.
Austin, Texas for example
Austin has three! And only 800000 people – some of whom are children
And old people!
So ageist! We’ll gladly take the elderly. I’m just saying children often don’t have the ability to make their own decisions about what they do in their free time.
And two-year olds block like nobody’s business.
I guess so.
Are you a local Brisbaneite?
Yep. I grew up in Camp Hill.
And we’re here in Coorparoo right now.
One suburb over, and I now live in Annerley, two suburbs over.
You’ve come far. Have you travelled much outside of Brisbane, or have you been a weird hermit your whole life?
I’ve travelled, but it’s mainly been for improv. So when I said don’t make improv your life I’ve been bit of a hypocrite.
You’ve studied at a bunch of theatres over there right?
Yeah - UCB, iO, Second City, Under The Gun Theatre.
We’ve recently changed venues. Do you have a favourite Visions Gallery memory?
I loved the feel of the place, the space at Visions just fit GET IT* INYA so well and sort of made GIIY what it is through its weird castle laden walls, and all of the odd art.
It fit the tenor of the show to a tee.
Yep. The look on Steve’s face when we put spaghetti on the floor during the first show and then when we broke that lightbulb all over the stage was great too. Steve didn’t really care though – he was just like “I break stuff all the time” But I feel like lightbulb glass would really mess you up, it would disappear into your foot forever.
But we’ve got a fantastic new space now where we probably shouldn’t break lightbulbs or throw around spaghetti.
Room to Play. Such a great Space. I like that we now have a proper stage and proper lighting. It feels like we’re not making a sideways move, we’re making a vertical move
Going to be interesting using that backstage ladder.
Yes, we can do lots of fun stuff
OK, last question from the last person I interviewed, Leanne. Your roommate!
What’s it going to be?
OK, she asks: “What is ur best kept secret for producing impro comedy magic?” And she’s spelled “your” as ‘ur’.
My best kept secret?
Why would I tell anyone if it’s my best kept secret? That’s a secret. No, the thing I always tell people is to be specific. Be specific in everything you do. Be specific in the character choices you make. Be specific in labelling things. The more specific you are, the more your scene partner knows, the more the rest of the cast knows, the more the audience knows. I can finish it off with a quote from my favourite improv teacher Craig Uhler from iO Chicago, he says, “You’ll never wow me with how vague you can be.”
Ending with a quote even! Thanks Cameron
Not a problem, Jim.
You can catch Cameron at Cool Story Bro, check out our upcoming shows for our next performance.