Underhanded Improv is an improv duo comprised of Sam Locke and Peter Robards. Their show is a delightful fusion of improv comedy and puppetry. They are based in Chicago and will be performing on Saturday night at the inaugural 321 Improv Festival. In this spotlight interview, Locke and Robards discuss the Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, their preferred pre-show warmups, and the talented raccoons that live in Sam's alley.
What’s your favorite thing about the improv scene in your city?
Peter: The incredible people and the talent. Just about everybody I meet makes me laugh and there are so many people bringing so much joy to all the stages that it's just contagious.
Sam: The creative freedom, so many opportunities to take risks with your work.
How would you describe your approach to improv?
Peter & Sam: We approach an audience like Ivan Drago approached his bout with Apollo Creed at the start of Rocky IV... menacingly whispering: "I must break you."
What do you think makes small group improv unique?
Peter: It's the difference between the shows Survivorman and Survivor: on one you're out there on your own -- you're in just about every scene -- and the show lives or dies because of you. In a larger ensemble, you're part of a team who are all trying to tackle each challenge together. Sure, every so often a random member may be voted off or replaced due to ratings or failing a secret popularity contest, but you can have an off night and still make it through: your team can still win. Also, there's no prize money and a lot fewer people watching...
Sam: Especially in Chicago, you might be friendly with the people on a larger team, but with smaller ensembles you almost always have to be good friends.
What’s your favorite memory from a trio, duo, or solo show?
Peter: From one of our shows: probably a scene from a set at the Underground Lounge where Sam was telling me a bedtime story and just recited lines from the movie Silence of the Lambs verbatim from memory, complete with the voices.
Sam: If we're talking about any show, there's a pair of raccoons that live in my alley - -not sure if it's technically a "show," but the stuff they're doing out there is brilliant.
Where’s the most peculiar/unusual place you’ve ever performed?
Peter: I once did improv in a huge open room directly in front of a giant Animatronic T-Rex that roared and stamped around every 15 minutes as Segway tours rumbled by for a gig at the St. Louis Science Center.
Sam: I once did a show where I was sitting pantsless on a toilet throughout most of the scenes. Does that count?
What do you typically do to get yourself ready for a show? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Peter: In an ideal world, I prefer a few moments of calm, quiet reflection before a show.
Sam: I'm kind of a stickler for doing a couple silly, high-energy warm-ups - like Zip, Zap, Zop - before every show. It definitely helps to get us in the mood.
What sort of compliment do you like to get or give after a show?
Peter: Great Show!
Sam: I see what you were attempting.
Why is Terminator 2 the best Terminator movie?
Peter: Do you have one hundred and fifty four minutes to spare? Because if you do then we should just go watch T2 and then you'll understand.
Sam: Honestly, I think Terminator is a better Terminator movie than T2. T2 was a good movie, but not the BEST Terminator movie. Wanna fight about it?