So, you want to know what improv comedy is.
From The Free Dictionary: Improvisation - a performance given extempore without planning or preparation.
Simply put, it is a performance based on what happens in the moment. Normally this means that inspiration is taken from the participating audience. Often located in theaters, stages at bars or other clubs, or even in storefronts, improv comedy performs in an intimate setting involving the audience in what is going on stage.
The actors weave ideas stemming from the audience suggestions into funny situations that have the audience riding along with them.
Often involving "theater games", improv finds laughter in situations that when revisited don't elicit the same response.
Generally people describe improv in two basic forms: Long Form and Short Form
Generally accepted is the idea that short form is a scene or game based on suggestions from the audience. A long form is a collection of games or scenes that were based on an initial audience suggestion.
The difference, long form has short form parts, but short form is only a part of a long form. It's like the difference between a football play vs. a football game. You can't have the game without the plays, but the plays are very interesting on their own.
Is Improv Really Made Up?
The best judge of that is you, the audience. You are giving suggestions and those suggestions are being incorporated into what happens on stage. If you gave the suggestion, and you didn't tell them ahead of time, there is no way it could have been prepared.
It should be noted that some improv performances include sketches and some pre-written material. You can often tell the difference between improvised material and pre-written material simply from their being no audience input.
No one is truly un-funny. It's not a matter of learning to be funny. It's a matter of learning to be as funny as possible with what you have. How to be funnier.
No, learning improv won't guarantee that you are the funniest person around. It will help you to be funnier and to communicate better.
Often learning improv adds to confidence, creativity, assertiveness and the ability to work with others. This is why improv workshops are often used by major corporations to improve their executives abilities to work within their organization.
Team building, conflict resolution, change management, etc. all are assisted through learning improvisational skills.
Most improv theater companies offer classes in improvisation. Often acting classes include improv as well, but these are usually unfocused and do not approach improv ith the way that would allow you to take full advantage of the form.
Some have a better reputation for teaching than others, and it is also related to your own experience and background as to who you should work with.
Go see their group perform. Ask around. You should be able to learn more. If not, contact us and we'll try to help.
Where Did Improv Come From?
Improvisational theater is as old as the verbal story-telling tradition. Ancient epics, such as Beowulf, was passed down from generation to generation in an oral tradition, with each succeeding generation making "adjustments" as they went on. This was to adjust to any then-current audience. Much as a parent telling a story to a child, the child will direct the story based on his/her responses.
This tradition became more formalized with the Commedia Dell'Arte in Europe from the mid-1500's to the 18th century. Traveling troubadores would present shows on makeshift stages in public squares. Dialog was improvised within an outline provided by a set "scenario".
While other versions rose over the years, the modern version sprung more from training of actors than an attempt at creating a new art form. In an attempt to assist actors in analyzing action and subtext in scripts, improvisation was created. Acting without pre-written scripts and utilizing "games" to assist in generating new material, they discovered that some comedy was coming out of their efforts.
Funny? Hey, maybe we can do this in front of people and charge money?
Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone and Del Close are closely associated with these efforts.