If you’re familiar with the Australian improv scene then you’ve probably heard of Impro Australia’s Theatresports Cranston Cup; a very well-established and respected competition format for improv teams around the state. But Improv Comedy Cagefight is a different competition altogether, stripping improv down to its rough-and-ready, head-to-head bare bones and putting teams into direct combat for the final prize.
Across the six semi final rounds, 36 improv teams are given the opportunity to perform improv of their choosing, whether using a Theatresports game, free style, or a self-created format. Of the six groups performing in each semi final, two are chosen immediately by the audience to perform again in a head-to-head battle to see which team will win the night. Then they’ll move on to compete in the grand final on August 29th where they have the chance to take home the grand prize of $2000. It’s a rapid, cut-throat competition style that leaves no room for mistakes but plenty for creativity and high-pressure comedy.
The fourth round of the semi finals saw six brand new teams take to the stage to put their best improv foot forward to a sold-out audience. The opening duo Scary Strangers used audience suggestions including a grandfather clock and Florida to construct a series of scenes of Floridian retirees, abundant drug use, and a prudish spooky clock. The following team the Three Swissketeers took a more structured approach to their scene using movie genres to tell three simultaneous stories of body possession, galactic explosions, and a bloody confrontation featuring a transmogrifying orb. Another duo, Fillow Talk, won the audience over as the victorious team with their elaborate dating scenario between two devout Filipino Catholics with the added gimmick of a secret message for one competitor to decode within the scene.
After a short break, the three remaining teams began their round with Hardbench taking an unusual approach to their performance by using a conversation between the teammates as the inspiration basis for each brief scene. This team took a marked turn to the nostalgic with references to corded telephones, Tamagotchis, Furbies, and those weird jelly tube things that had floating beads and glitter in them. Highbrow Maintenance were strong competitors for their frequent plot twists and redirects as they drew from the audience suggestion of showering with your superior while in the Army. But Slay What You Need to Slay were the winning team for their scene structured like a commercial flight in which two couples discuss their relationships with interspersed audience suggestions hidden in the competitors pockets. Their high energy and casual performing dynamic put them in with a shot of winning the semi final.
Having decided the best team from each half, the audience then watched the two compete again to determine the ultimate winner of the week. Despite a particularly fierce catwalk in Heaven from Slay What You Need to Slay, Fillow Talk won this semi final with a special guest appearance from a revered Filipino psychic who would answer any audience member’s burning question with her two heads alternating their words of wisdom. This round especially demonstrated Fillow Talk’s control of their scenes’ format as a tool to structure their comedy and build a sense of character. From this team Happy Feraren was a stand-out performer for her enthusiasm and eye for a larger narrative arc, rather than quick one-liners that burn a scene out quickly. The duo of Feraren and Jeff Mesina were a strong team with potential to go far in the competition.
Other stand-out performances came from Kate Dolan from Highbrow Maintenance for her generosity as a teammate and Eleanor Stankiewicz from Hardbench for her silly and easy-going energy. The structure of Improv Comedy Cagefight demonstrated a wide range of improv styles and techniques which allowed teams to play to their strengths and showcase some of their best performers early on and with immediate feedback from the audience.
Improv Comedy Cagefight Semi Final Rounds are running from July 18th – August 22nd with the Grand Final on August 29th at the Chippo Hotel
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