Spotlight on Stefan Pagels Andersen: Improv Edition

In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most interesting and influential people in the theatre industry. And today we’re doing a special feature on Stefan Pagels Andersen, the co-founder of ICC (Improv Comedy Copenhagen).

Stefan Pagels Andersen has performed in more than eight Danish feature films, several shorts, and has been doing improv professionally since 2009. He was the organizer of the Copenhagen International Improv Festival, and is now running the ICC theatre with his co-founder Kasper Jacobsen and artistic director Jay Sukow.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do at ICC?

“I founded ICC Theatre with my partner Kasper Jacobsen in 2016. My tasks at ICC were initially to manage the artistic expression of the theatre while teaching our hundreds of improv students. However, in October 2018, we headhunted one of the best improv teachers in the world to come take hand in that part of the theatre. And now I’m able to focus on developing our very fast-growing corporate training department. So my role has really shifted from a performer to a corporate trainer and ambassador for the theatre in the corporate sector.”

What type of training do you provide for people who are new to improvisation?

“The ICC Theatre training centre is a personal development facility that provides students with the skills needed to navigate in an agile world. The vast majority of our students are not initially going into improv to become performers. They usually take their first classes for personal growth purposes – such as strengthening their communication, social, and networking skills. However, we often see that our students then fall so much in love with improv that they go all the way. Besides that, we’re specialized in applying the philosophies of improvisation to the corporate sector. We work a lot with leadership training, behavioral change, and empowerment of employees’ professional competencies.”

“Improv is like going to the gym. You have to constantly better yourself by training with every teacher you can learn from.”

And when did you first discover your own love for improv?

“Given the fact that I’ve been acting for basically my whole life, I have lived and breathed improvisation for as long as I can remember. However, I only really realized this when I started training together with Danish movie director Jonas Elmer back in 2009/2010. Later on, I went on to study at the iO Theatre in Chicago, and that’s when I realized that this is what I would do for the rest of my life.”

Stefan Pagels Andersen at work.
Photo by Mihai Dan Mustea

Do you or did you ever have a mentor?

“Oh yes! I have trained with many of the world’s best teachers. I even spent a summer living with Charna Halpern, the founder of the iO Theatre, which is widely known as the best longform theatre in the world. Also, I was fortunate enough to travel through four European cities with David Pasquesi and TJ Jagadowski – THE two best improvisers on this planet! To this day, I have a broad network of top professional improvisers and mentors who I can seek advice from if I should ever be in doubt.”

You’ve done quite a bit of traveling! What has been your favorite city that you’ve been to so far?

“Having visited 44 states/countries due to improv-related travelling and work since 2013, I must say that almost every place I’ve been to has given me an amazing experience. That said, travelling to Cape Town in 2017 to teach at the Mama City Improv Festival was insane. South Africa is such a wonderful place. Everyone is so kind, welcoming, and polite. Also, the light there is so special. You’ll have to experience it for yourself.”

“Just go along with it! Try it, even though you are scared. It will change your life for the better. Guaranteed.”

What advice would you give those who are just starting out with improv?

“Just go along with it! Try it, even though you are scared. It will change your life for the better. Guaranteed. Try to remember that every new student feels just like you, and you are all in it together. Also, I strongly believe that improv is like going to the gym. You have to constantly better yourself by training with every teacher you can learn from. Just go for it!”

Is there a video or book that you would recommend all aspiring improvisers to read or watch?

“There are so many great books. My first improv book was Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation, by the iO Theatre. Improvisation at the Speed of Life, by David Pasquesi and TJ Jagadowski is another great one. As for videos, I’d recommend watching TJ and Dave (on Vimeo), and Trust Us This Is All Made Up.”

What do you enjoy most about your career?

“The joy I see in the eyes of all of my brand-new improv students after their first class. It’s hard to describe, but the people who leave the classroom are never the same as when they entered. Something changes in them, and I guarantee you it’s for the better. I also love that my partner Kasper and I, together with the rest of the staff at ICC have managed to create a home for expats where people have a space to express themselves. That beats everything!”

Outdoor shot of the ICC theatre.
Photo by Mihai Dan Mustea

What’s next for ICC?

“We have big plans for the theatre. With a new 2019 show schedule, and more students than ever before, we’ve managed to establish ourselves as the leading theatre and training centre in Denmark. Our goal is to continuously develop our theatre and achieve a respected status among “normal” established theatres in Denmark.”

What did you think of this interview with Stefan Pagels Andersen?

Are any of you working in or aspiring to be a part of the world of improv? We would love to hear all about it in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can check out even more of our theatre interviews with inspiring people in the industry!

Learn More:

ICC (Improv Comedy Copenhagen)➝

Mama City Improv Festival➝

Stefan’s LinkedIn➝

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Stacy Karyn, Author of Stefan Pagels Andersen Interview.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


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