What is Improv Comedy?

How did the worlds top comedians become so funny?
Learn their tips and secrets for success!

Many of todays top comedians and TV stars started in Improv. Mike Myers, Robin Williams and Amy Poehler are just three well known examples. What are the secrets they use to succeed? How does Improv help bring out the humor and brilliance of ordinary people?

People have attempted to figure out what's funny for hundreds of years. Maybe thousands of years. 

In Improv, you can see humor in it's most raw, un-edited form.

What's funny? 

Improv can make audiences laugh even when there isn't a joke. By examining it, we can see that there are some common elements to humor and comedy:

  • The unexpected!

    When you are expecting the scene or story to go in a certain direction and something totally unexpected happens, that often releases laughter.  

    Most jokes are based on that. From simple knock-knock jokes, to elaborate jokes with long introductions. Often, a pattern is set-up that makes you expect on response... then something else that you didn't see coming, but which totally makes sense. Poof! You laugh.
  • Human error and real life counterparts.

    When we see something on stage and suddenly realize how true it is in our own lives, that's often funny. 

    You see someone arguing -- not because they believe they are right, but because they can't stand being seen as wrong. It can make you remember times you did that, or saw that, and it makes you laugh.
  • People experiencing difficulties and dissatisfaction.

    When you see someone trying again and again, and failing again and again, this can be very funny. 

    You see John Cleese just trying to eat a sandwich. He's interrupted again and again by people and disasters around him. The more he tries and fails, the funnier it is.
  • Status changes.

    When you see a movie with a powerful executive brought to desperation by trying to babysit a small child, what's funny about that?

    You're seeing someone normally high in status, being brought to a lower status. Plus, often the low status person (the child) is brought into a higher status. Roles are reversed from the norm and it causes us laughter.

Improv Comedy vs. Improv Theatre

There are two kinds of Improv:

  1. Improv Comedy is the kind you see most commonly. Examples include hit TV shows like Whose Line is it Anyway? and Saturday Night Live.
  2. Improv Theatre is exactly that. It's improvised scenes and stories and plays where the main goal isn't humor. It can be and usually is funny, but it seeks to bring out other emotions as well: outrage, drama, sadness.

Neither one is better. And, it's important to know the differences between them. If you go into improvised theater expecting to get a laugh a minute, you may find that takes away from the reality of the scenes. 

Often Improv Comedy is funnier with a base of reality and other emotions to contrast the humor. ‚Äč

The Most Popular Comedy Improv: Theatre Sports, Comedy Sportz.

These are two of the most popular Improv Comedy fomats. Really, Comedy Sportz is based on Theatre Sports. And, Theatre Sports was created by Keith Johnstone. He came up with it as a way to generate the excitement, thrill and audience interaction of a sporting event. He was inspired by seeing pro-wrestling. He decided that since pro-wrestling was a kind of theatre, there was nothing to stop Improv from creating the same level of excitement. 

Thanks for reading! What do you think?

Share this!