There’s an element of constant loss to the improv comedian’s lot.
“Normally when you improvise something it’s gone and forgotten the moment the show’s over,’’ says veteran improviser Rebecca De Unamuno.
Every improv comic has had it - that spontaneous moment when the comedy gods nod their way and some brilliant line or scene arrives out of nowhere.
And, being improv, can never be repeated.
But rather than mourning the ungraspable nature of the form, says De Unamuno, “it’s the anticipation and expectation of that happening maybe once or twice in a night that keeps you going. It’s the thrill of being in the moment when it’s occurring.
“It’s exhilarating, and when it’s gone you’re thankful for having had that experience, rather than lamenting that you’ll never do it again.’’
De Unamuno’s decade-plus improv career has seen her take to stages alongside the likes of Ross Noble, Tom Gleeson, Julia Zemiro and Chris Lilley. She was hand-picked to star with Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander for three of his Australian tours (the two have since become friends), and has worked on the Chaser and Kath & Kim.
Regular listeners of TGIF with Richard Glover on ABC 702 have been marvelling at her improv skills for years.
All of this puts her in the strange position of being a professional comedian who only recently began performing her own full-length solo shows.
With so much experience in improv, why tackle the scripted format of stand-up?
“I sometimes get bored easily. I think that’s the mind of an improviser. You tend to want to keep trying something new.’’
She began experimenting in stand-up in 2012. Most successful stand-ups have the ability to make audiences feel as if the show is being made up on the spot, but it’s not called a routine for nothing. For De Unamuno, old habits die hard, and at first she really was delivering the laughs without a script.
“I often feel more comfortable writing a joke on the spot than I do labouring over it for days at a time, like a lot of comics do. That’s a tenacity that I really admire in them.’’
She wanted to develop that skill, though, and began to observe the masters in their natural element.
“If I do a run of gigs for a week I’m usually on with the same people and I know if they’re trying new material, and can see it develop over the course of the week. With a slight rewording of something, or placing the emphasis on a certain word, that can be the difference between a joke working or not.’’
De Unamuno will be part of a double headline act at the Oatley Hotel on December 19 with Des Dowling.