Nov 10, 2008

Finding your fun

Impro Mafia had a great show last night at the StageDoor Dinner Theatre.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm now the President of the company (all hail me!).

The disappointing thing is that we only had 16 people in the audience, and most - if not all - were fellow improvisers or friends.

Now it's been my responsibility for a while to look after marketing and promotions for Impro Mafia, and I confess I've been performing below par in recent times - my head has been elsewhere.

But having seen the great quality shows we're putting on in great venues (we have regular gigs at the Brisbane Arts Theatre too), I'm really keen to build our audiences and most importantly - introduce new people to impro.

I'm keen to get input from you, dear readers, about how you determine where and when you spend your entertainment dollars. Do you like live theatre or comedy? How much are you prepared to spend on entertainment that ISN'T a movie? What influences your choice - production values; proximity to public transport; proximity to a pub? And where do you find out information about "What's On" - from newspapers, radio, the internet, word of mouth?

Finally, I'll end by stating we have two theatre shows left this year:
  • "Iron Improviser" Sunday 7 December at the Brisbane Arts Theatre $10
  • "Grudge Match Christmas Special" Sunday 14 December at the StageDoor Dinner Theatre $11
With the silly season approaching and the global financial crisis still hovering about like the Ghost of Depressions Past, I understand it's a high-pressure time of year. But if you're looking to escape the grind, relax, and have a good belly laugh, do come along to one of our shows. And bring a friend!


  1. Most of what determines if I attend or not comes down to usually money, which on a Sunday or Monday is at the end of my pay week and the end of a possibly expensive weekend and thus I don't always have the money to spend on Impro.
    Another thing is, does the show interest me? For me, seeing the same people improvise for so many years has kind of taken the magic out of it for me. Especially in the short form games format. I still support you guys and I still like to come along but yeah, it does lose its appeal after awhile.
    I know before I had a car, proximity to transport was an issue.
    The hardest part of running impro is, and always has been, getting numbers for the audience. Maybe explore some of the ways you advertised for the festival, think about marketing it differently... I've noticed how all the interstate people usually have pictures of people doing something on their promo material, maybe this helps to humanise the show somewhat. I really like the theatre shows, and I like the pub shows for their own reasons.
    I feel like I'm babbling on, but maybe ask some of the interstate people how they promote?

  2. Hey Alice,

    Thanks for that. It certainly is on my agenda to pick the brains of interstate companies - and of course my pals at the Spon Shop (just name-dropping again!). I have some local strategies I want to try as well.

    Really this post is about asking people to examine why they make decisions to come to/not come to shows.

    Improv seems to suffer from familiarity breeds contempt - I rarely hear of people saying "Well I've seen that band before, I won't bother" - even though bands generally do "old stuff" as well as "new stuff", and for most the visuals are the same - a band playing onstage, with generally few special effects.

    Music, of course, has an emotional connection for people that gives it that extra dimension. It's also acknowledged (justifiably!) as an "art form", as opposed to impro, which is still generally listed as "people piss-farting about" no matter how much skill is involved. ;)

    Can I ask though what you think of the $10/$11 price tag? You say you're out of money at the end of your pay cycle - would you put money aside for it if you were interested?

    I'm interested in these things because I believe $10 is a fair price for our shows. I understand money is tighter for many people with the global financial crisis, but I still don't think it's too much for two hours of entertainment. You probably couldn't even buy two beers for $10 in some pubs/clubs these days, I'd imagine.

    Thanks again for your thoughts! Natalie.

  3. Hi Nat,

    I don't think $10 is too much, but at the same time you have to think of what sort of audience you're trying to attract. Poor uni students = cheap/free shows at a pub. Avid theatre goers = theatre shows at anywhere up to $25. Comedy fans = probably pubs again because comedy fans usually like a spot to drink... The same goes for pricing I guess.
    Anyone who knows me knows I am terrible with money, so saving isn't really an option.
    I guess at the same time, impro isn't so much a priority as it is an afterthought for the rest of my busy social life.

  4. I have to say for me my lack of attendance comes down to the timing.

    Sunday night is not a night I like to go out (this goes back to childhood when we weren't allowed out on Sunday nights). It's a night I like to stay at home and prepare for the week ahead, and that's a feeling that has got more intense with pregnancy and the related energy sapping ability Squidley Didley has.

    I know that Sunday night is a night to get a venue more cheaply because not so many people make bookings for Sundays, but be aware that Sunday nights are something that has to be "overcome" to go out, for a few people. Sunday afternoon would be better than night, for me.

  5. I'll see if I can drum up someone to come with me!

  6. I'd like to take my eight year to see an improv show but am concerned about language. As well Sunday nights (before school the next day) are not ideal. Have you considered, as a special one-off or two-off, doing daytime show/s on weekends or school hols. There's a place for more adult shows obviously, but surely you could really make kids laugh their legs off with improv! For what it's wurf.

  7. Hey Sleepy Dumpling - thanks for that!

    CCL, it's interesting the remarks you make about Sunday. It seems to be quite a Brisbane thing that people stay home on Sunday night.

    However, when impro's been tried on a Friday or a Saturday night, it's generally failed. People see that as their "weekend", when they'll go to a restaurant, club, pub, movie etc etc.

    We begin our shows earlier on Sundays (7pm), and so they're over by 9pm, giving people (we think) still enough time to go home and prepare for their week ahead. (Of course, depending on jobs and/or pregnancies!)

    Sunday afternoon would have its own problems - people are still on their "weekend" - they might be out somewhere, and not want to cut their time short for some impro.

    But at the end of the day it's about putting on a quality product that intrigues people enough to come no matter what the night.

    It's much, much easier for most people to find excuses NOT to come, so it's about making it irristible, or a cult night out that people want to be a part of.

  8. Hey Anonymous - kids' shows are a great idea, and something I've been thinking about for a while.

    Most of us players have full-time jobs elsewhere - impro being as it is not a good career choice if you want to eat. ;)

    But with a bit of pre-planning, it's definitely something that could do well.


  9. As a fellow improviser I panic when it comes to kids shows because if I've got nothing then it's dick jokes all the way.

  10. I think you need to do some publicity with Community Media (Newspapers/Radio etc) to get the word out there!

    Another idea is that the group could do some one-off "showcase" shows around the traps for audiences that can't get to the shows to sample the excellent fare you guys have to offer!

  11. I maintain that anything happening after dinner on a Sunday night has to be of EXCEPTIONAL interest/value to get me out the door, and I mean anything, not just entertainment offers.

    I would have thought seeing impro would be an ideal "weekend" activity, I'd happily go on a Friday/Saturday night, and I think Sunday afternoon giggles would be fantastic.

    There looks to be a new cable impro show starting soon (hosted by HG Nelson I think), and with "Thank God You're Here" etc, now should certainly be a good time to try and create awareness for your own brand... at least you don't have to do as much explaining about what impro is.

  12. I hope the baby isn't due on a sunday, CrazyCatLady :)

  13. The main problem is the location. It's a quality venue, but its in a really obscure (hard to find) location. I think a degree of promotion is required as this venue will always be a difficult one to fill until we build an audience momentum for it. I couldn't make it this week, but I suspect the reason numbers were down was that one of our larger audience groups couldn't make it as one of their key people was overseas. I think we need to make an effort to thank these regulars for trudging out to our show.

  14. I think we do thank our regular patrons. We have bar tabs on offer at O'Malleys, and we generally chat to people after shows, exchange emails, etc.

    Hopefully our customers get rewarded with a quality fun production.

    Having said that, we are looking at doing some promotional deals at StageDoor which will hopefully reward regulars.

    As for the venue, we'll just need to get the word out a bit. Although the StageDoor is close to the Bowen Hills train station and in the Twelfth Night complex which is fairly well-known - but probably not so much amongst the younger people.

  15. The location's great. StageDoor is perfect for impro. When I was younger, way back, way way way back, like back in the last century way back, I loved the intimacy of Dockside for Theatresports and that's what StageDoor offers. Can't you just giveaway a theatre full of tickets to a radio audience (StageDoor will make money on the bar presumably) and hope word-of-mouth brings some of them back?