Laugh Until It Hurts – LoveHard

Lovehard is a Twoprov (two-person improvised show) that is probably the funniest live performance of any kind that I’ve seen. LoveHard is physically painful to experience, because you will laugh until it hurts, and then it will hurt more as you realise that you are incapable of replicating the unique genius of what you have just seen.

One of the wonderful things about improvised performance is that it is theoretically open to everyone. As long as you are capable of listening to what someone else has just said and treating it like the most important thing you’ve ever heard, you can do improv. You do not need to be clever, or funny, or knowledgeable, or even charismatic. You just need to listen, and be open to new ideas.

That, at least, was my theory, but sadly Lovehard managed to shatter that theory into pieces. They are capable of a level of wit and humour that defies aspiration.

Usually, as you watch an improv show, you realise that you could theoretically do what the performers are doing with sufficient practice and dedication. Sure, you might not ever sing as well as a particularly talented singer, but the notion of one day improvising rhymes and songs as well as them seems like it could be achievable if you really put the work in.

The unique selling point of LoveHard is their unflinching wit. They create jokes and punchlines on the fly that seem as carefully engineered as the most tried and tested stand-up routine, and yet that are nonetheless completely tied to the opening audience suggestion. The only possibility seems to be that the two performers must have memorised an exhaustive list of every good joke that could be made about every subject in human history, because it’s surely impossible that they might have produced such clever material in the heat of the moment.

I have only seen the act perform twice – once in 2017 and once in 2018, both times at the Birmingham Improv Festival. Both shows featured Jake Lovick, along with Tyler Harding in 2017 and with Jack Robertson in 2018 (the line-up seems to vary occasionally). In both shows, the same sheer comedic genius was on display from both performers. The 2017 show featured a story about a disgruntled factory worker wanting to leave the family business. The 2018 show featured two storylines inspired by the word “carpenter” – one, the telling of the building of a Biblical ark, and the other a murder-mystery in the style of John Carpenter (to honour that it was the day before Hallowe’en).

The comedy was derived from multiple elements. The first and most obvious element was the jokes, with clever, on-point references to pop culture, religion, history and modern life all thrown in. The second element was the improvisation of it all – the humour that naturally arises from any improvised performance, taken up a notch here by the talented performers who knew exactly how to spot a game and when to heighten for best effect.

The third element was the characterisation. Jake, Tyler and Jack were all very capable as character performers, and Jack especially was adept at using physicality, posture and expression to capture a range of characterisation. This elevated the show further – there was a special privilege in seeing strong characters deliver clever lines as part of a beautifully improvised narrative.

I would love to delve deeper into the workings of LoveHard, and the Improv techniques they employ to create such an amazing show, but the fact is I simply can’t. I don’t understand the unknowable workings of this arcantrik turbine that seems to spontaneously produce hilarity out of thin air. There are discernible mechanisms – each show begins with a debate of competing ideas that each performer would like to pursue; each scene is ended with a synchronised clap between the two performers; they say words that I understand in an order that is amusing – but I simply cannot fathom how to go about replicating the magic they bring to the stage, short of simply being them.

If you find that they are performing near you, I highly recommend taking the time to go and see LoveHard. Take some friends, sit back and enjoy the comedic sorcery.

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