After a four-month hiatus, the Last Laughs improv comedy troupe is preparing to return. Ringleader Lisa Garrity says the group has been “slippery as a meerkat” as of late. “We were all over the place—performing, in hospital, working.”

Lance Driver has been “building night and day,” erecting an office and retail complex on Belgium Street; Linda Savage is focused on The Pin-up Boys and the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol; Warwick Lewis had a kidney transplant; Richard Bull “buggered his knee”; and Lisa injured the tendons in her fingers during an onstage accident at the last Last Laughs show.

“I was cast as Gretel in a fairy story, and the narrator said we had died in a cauldron. I dived into it and caught my fingers on Lance’s knees. I had to get specialist hand care off-island,” she says. “See, we injure ourselves for our craft!”

A bit worse for wear but still extremely enthusiastic, the group, minus the overcommitted Linda Savage, has reunited. Helping them hone their skills is Steven Lyons from Auckland-based troupe the Improv Bandits, who leads the Last Laughers in weekly coaching sessions funded in part by a local board grant. (The Bandits will later this year perform with improv legend Colin Mochrie, of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame.)

The team, which also includes Emma Bowyer and Bruce Davis-Goff, had its first coaching session two weeks ago. “Some of us were very rusty and performed more like a sloth without sleep for three days,” says Lisa. But with four more coaching sessions remaining before their 26 September show, she is confident they will be back in tiptop condition—or better—by then.

The troupe’s first turn back on stage will involve short-form comedy games like those they’ve done before, with Lyons MCing. But for their next show, they plan to move onto long-form improv.

That’s where things will get really interesting, Lisa says. From an audience prompt, the players will attempt to construct a 60-minute narrative with varied characters and scenes. “It’s quite tricky, but when done well, it can be totally and utterly magical.”

Lisa herself remains characteristically good humoured, despite two months wearing finger splints and her departure as manager from Artworks Theatre. Since their last performance in April, she’s been “shivering under a blanket trying to keep warm, eating soups, eyeing up raincoats and gumboots, and annoying people on social media.”

But she’s “very, very excited” about what lies ahead and plans to open the coaching sessions to anyone who wants to give improv a go.

“After this round, we will be giving Waiheke the opportunity to learn, practice and love the skill of improvising.”

Last Laughs performs at Artworks Theatre on 26 September at 7.30pm, with doors opening at 7pm. Entry is by koha. Aspiring comedians can contact Lisa at
• Anna Ngo

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