Interview – Norwegian improv actor Vebjørn Tveiterås on creating his first show

Vebjørn Tveiterås and I started communicating back in October when he contacted me asking for some tips to help create an improv show (he read this post). I was happy to help – he seemed like a nice guy, and I love when people have the motivation to put on their own shows. Our communication was limited to electronic means since he’s from Oslo, Norway and I’m in New York (this world is so small), but over the next couple of months he would ask questions and I would do my best to answer. Of course, all of the credit goes to him and his cast, because they were the ones who worked to make it happen. On January 22nd, they performed in front of an audience for the first time.

The following is a short interview with Vebjørn – who is not a professional actor or director – on how he made the show happen.

Why did you decide to do an improv show?

I decided we should do an improv show because I felt we were good enough to give the audience a show they would enjoy. We probably were “good enough” for a long time, and our group had had plans for two years to set up a show, but it never materialized. I realized there was nothing holding us back but excuses, so I decided it had to happen.

How did you find the cast?

The cast was determined naturally from the regular improvisers which had been active for the longest time, and some who had just started, but were really engaged and active. There were a few too many, but since some of the guys weren’t available for the date for the show, there was no need for any selecting.

What were some of the major challenges you faced putting this show together?

For me at least, the hardest part was selecting the format and the games we would use. The games we chose would be the difference between a great show and a mediocre show. There were a lot of practical challenges, but they were more easy to overcome.

How did you overcome these challenges?

To select the best games I started out looking through the games we had done many times already. But I also did a lot of searching online. Not to mention that I contacted you, David, and you sent me some excellent tips. The challenge was to balance the skill required to perform the games, and that it would be “auto funny” as I call it. By that I mean games that are guaranteed funny, as long as you perform ok. Harder games are typically more open (less constraints), and require much more of the improvisers.

“IF YOU’RE EVEN CONSIDERING PUTTING UP AN IMPROV SHOW, YOU’RE PROBABLY READY TO DO IT.”

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Vebjørn Tveiterås
Describe the experience of performing in front of an audience for the first time.

Performing in front of an audience for the first time was an adrenaline rush like no other. It was not as scary at all as I feared. For one you can’t see the audience that well, since they’re in the dark. And more importantly, doing improv is so all-encompassing for your mind that you don’t have capacity to worry and think about much else than exactly what you’re doing in the scene.

What is some advice you can give to people who want to do their own show?
  • I would recommend to not make the format too complex. We had two teams “competing”, but you don’t even need to have any team. Focus on finding 10-16 games (which gives about 60 min of show-time), and make sure the cast has practiced the games a few times. But everyone doesn’t need to know all the games, since not every one will be doing all the games on stage.
  • Scenes are rarely too short, but can easily become too long. Dimming the lights is an excellent way to end a scene (if you have a light guy).
  • Most of the audience will be people someone in the team knows, use Facebook etc., to reach out to them.
  • Don’t charge too much, if anything, in the first show; you’re not doing this to get rich.
  • Don’t do everything yourself if you’re the leader, delegate as much of the practical work as possible to your team. This will also create a feeling that you actually did it as a team.
  • The audience will laugh much more than you think; things might not be super funny when you practice, but the same things will be funny during the show.
Any final words?

If you’re even considering putting up an improv show, you’re probably ready to do it.

The improv actors in the top photo are, from left to right, Tord Brandsæter, Johanne Hofseth, Marthe Feiring, Andreas Berge and Arne Marius Ditlefsen.
Photo by Anders Vold.

For more information about the improv show, click here. If you don’t understand Norwegian, you may need a translator.