Sunday, February 22, 2009

Improvisation Catch-22

After just seeing some of the best improvisers in the nation at the North Carolina Comedy Art Festival, I realized a problematic truth about improvisation:
1) good improv requires confident choices
2) already good improvisers are confident
3) inexperienced improvisers logically make fearful choices


  1. Despite all my training and reading, sometimes I think there might really be nothing more to improv than being clever and having a good memory.

  2. Maybe for gamey short form, but a well done long form is a peice of art. Although I admit, being clever and having a good memory can get you pretty far.

  3. Alyssa11:51 PM

    I don't know, Harrison. Not all well-done long forms are pieces of art. Some are just damn funny entertainment. I'd say the philosophy of DSI is more about entertaining people with comedy than creating a "piece of art."

    Which is the result of pattern, and that stems from being clever and having a good enough memory to bring things back.

  4. Yeah I see what you're saying Alyssa, but maybe we have two different definitions of art. Here's what the wise Wikipedia says:

    "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions."

    I would consider any well done comedy (long form, short form, sketch, cartoon) to be art as long as it completes the pattern in an entertaining way. Or as Wiki says "arranges the elements" to appeal to "emotions."

  5. Alyssa11:51 PM

    That's more like it. I had a huge discussion with Jill Bernard this weekend about improv and whether it's more about entertaining or being an intellectual pursuit.

    The phrasing of: "Maybe for gamey short form, but a well done long form is a peice of art." just seemed a little pompous. I wanted to throw out DSI's idea - which is not at all a pompous approach to long form improvisation.

  6. Cheryl11:51 PM

    Good improv takes being clever, having a good memory, AND making confident choices. I don't think any improviser can get very far without all 3 aspects.

    Why can't a piece of art be entertaining or entertainment be artful? The best improv I've experienced has been both without being pretentious. When the focus is only on the art, yeah, it becomes pompous and boring. But when there's only a drive for getting a laugh, the audience may never be moved or challenged. Improv needs both.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.