Kent student award winner recognised for launching improv comedy society

Olivia Miller

Nathan Keates, a PhD student studying at the Tizard Centre, has won an award for his Outstanding Contribution to Media and the Arts at the Kent Student Awards 2020 after launching an improvisation and comedy sketch society for the local Canterbury community.

The TNT Improv and Sketch Comedy Society brings together University and non-University community members to practise improv, to devise and re-improvise comedy sketches and to perform to live audiences. The improvisational comedy training is based on the University Improv Comedy Society Manual by Nathan Keates himself and aims to encourage people to embrace the nature of humanity, society and spontaneity and create meaningful comedy in collaboration with one another.

Nathan (33), who is pursuing a PhD in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with a focus on using an improv comedy intervention for anxiety with autistic adults, has been teaching improv comedy and theatre for around 14 years. He is a qualified teacher and has taught around the world to all ages and abilities. He notes that improv can help individuals with confidence-building, interpersonal skills and risk taking, and so can benefit people in their professional and personal lives.

Nathan said: ‘The joy that improv can bring to people is astounding; the connection the people gain in new and (possibly) less usual friendships. The bonds formed because of improv (academically and anecdotally-speaking) can be noticed. I get to have people making me laugh, seeing a community of people be accepting and understanding of others, and in-the-moment create better comedic theatre (or even dramatic) than one may see from arduous construction of scripted work. I came to Kent for professional development and to build a reputation as a researcher and academic – I am doing this. I am looking at improv in a new light in my present life; my future may help me guide others more, whether this be through academia or training.’

Julie Beadle-Brown, Professor of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the Tizard Centre and Nathan’s supervisor said: ‘We are delighted that Nathan has been recognised at the Kent Student Awards 2020. Nathan has worked so hard to bring together a diverse range of people, in turn creating an improv comedy community in Canterbury that did not exist before. This is on top of his PhD and other commitments. He should be very proud of himself for this achievement.’