Throw him a good line

The pint-sized Ian Coppinger (left) being carried by cast member Andy Smart. Coppinger (below bottom right) will perform in Singapore with (clockwise from top left) Smart, Stephen Frost and Steve Steen.
The pint-sized Ian Coppinger (left) being carried by cast member Andy Smart. Coppinger (below bottom right) will perform in Singapore with (clockwise from top left) Smart, Stephen Frost and Steve Steen.PHOTOS: QUILL POTTER
The pint-sized Ian Coppinger (left) being carried by cast member Andy Smart. Coppinger (below bottom right) will perform in Singapore with (clockwise from top left) Smart, Stephen Frost and Steve Steen.
The pint-sized Ian Coppinger (left) being carried by cast member Andy Smart. Coppinger (below bottom right) will perform in Singapore with (clockwise from top left) Smart, Stephen Frost and Steve Steen.PHOTOS: QUILL POTTER

Comedian Ian Coppinger looks forward to crazy local suggestions for his improvisation show

The last time Irish comedian Ian Coppinger came to Singapore to perform a live comedy show, he says the crowd needed some time to warm up.

Speaking to Life! from the Glastonbury Festival, where he is in a tent hiding away from heavy rain, he says that the audience here is quiet at first but slowly gets into the mood with a little bit of prompting.

But he says that it is the same in most other countries as well.

"People are paying money to see a comedy show, so they want to laugh. They start out sober and by the end of the show, they liven up," says the 40-year-old.

He is part of a four-man group who will be here to present the live, improvised comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway for the second year running. The first edition was staged here in August last year to sold-out runs.

Coppinger, along with his fellow performers from the United Kingdom, Andy Smart and Steven Steen, have appeared on various versions of the show; while Stephen Frost is a 10-year series regular in the original UK TV show, which ran from 1988 to 1998.

Audiences here can expect the four funny men to create sketches, characters and even songs on the spot. Based on prompts given by the cast, the audience shouts out suggestions, which the cast must act out. Often, a few members of the audience are invited onstage to be part of the sketches as well.

While Singapore audiences have been exposed to the American TV version, hosted by comedian Drew Carey from 1998 to 2007, not many people know that the original series was British, which started as a radio programme before being adapted for TV.

Whether live or filmed in a studio, the show is performed without a script. However, there is a little preparation that comes before the show.

"The games we play are tried and tested, but we have no idea what suggestions are coming. So we just try and have a laugh," says Coppinger, who is single.

He is no stranger to improvisational comedy, having co-founded the Dublin Comedy Improv group in 1992, where he still regularly gigs at.

For shy audiences, he offers this tip: "The more interesting the suggestion the audience gives, the better the show. The beauty of improvisation is that the audience gets what it wants."

The group is known for the great rapport among its four members, all of whom have been in the UK improv scene since its nascent beginnings in the 1980s and 1990s.

"We've been together for 20 years at least, which means we trust each other that when we put out a line, the others will pick it up and make something of it," says Coppinger.

And often, the Irishman gets the short end of the stick. The pint-sized comedian, who stands at 1.57m tall and sports a shiny bald pate, is made fun of.

For example, when it comes to forming human pyramids on stage, he has to be at the top, and he needs chairs to help him along the way. He also creates a funny contrast to Frost, who is 1.98m tall.

But Coppinger might have the last laugh, at least for now. He is the youngest of the group, with the rest now in their 50s.

"They cry a lot and they don't know where they are most of the time. So I'm in charge," he quips.

"But when it comes to the human pyramid, I still have to be at the top."

nabilahs@sph.com.sh

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