Improvisational comedy, or improv for short, is a unique form of entertainment that relies on performers creating scenes, characters, and storylines on the spot, without a script. With roots in theater, improv has grown into a popular form of entertainment in its own right, with dedicated groups and theaters popping up in cities all over the world. To explore this fascinating art form, we spoke with two improv performers, Jane and Tom, to hear their thoughts on what makes improv so special.
According to Jane, “For me, it was a combination of things. I’ve always loved performing, but I never felt like I fit into the traditional theater scene. I was too nervous about forgetting my lines or messing up. With improv, there’s no script, so there’s no ‘right’ way to do things.” Tom added, “Yeah, for me, it was all about the freedom. I’ve always loved making people laugh, but I never liked the idea of being confined to a certain set of jokes or a specific character. With improv, I can be whoever I want to be, and I can make it up as I go along.”
So how do performers prepare for an improv show? According to Jane, “We do a lot of warm-up exercises to get us in the right mindset. We’ll do some word association games, or we’ll practice creating characters on the spot. It’s all about getting our brains working in a spontaneous way.” Tom added, “And we also try to build a rapport with our fellow performers. Improv is all about teamwork, so we want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we hit the stage.”
One of the most unique things about improv is the way performers can take a seemingly mundane suggestion and turn it into something hilarious. As Jane explained, “We’ll often ask the audience for a suggestion to start our scene. It could be anything from ‘apple’ to ‘the Eiffel Tower.’ And from there, we just start improvising. We’ll build off each other’s ideas and see where it takes us.” Tom added, “And because there’s no script, anything can happen. We might start out with one idea and end up somewhere completely different. It keeps things interesting for us and for the audience.”
Improv is also unique in the way it encourages performers to take risks and be vulnerable. According to Jane, “You have to be willing to fail in improv. Not every scene is going to be a home run, but that’s okay. You learn from your mistakes and you move on.” Tom added, “And because you’re creating everything on the spot, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You might come up with a character or a joke that completely bombs, but you have to be willing to try.”
In the end, it’s this sense of spontaneity and collaboration that makes improv such a beloved art form. As Jane put it, “There’s something really special about creating something from scratch, with a group of people you trust and respect. And when it all comes together and you create something truly funny and unique, it’s an incredible feeling.” Tom agreed, adding, “Improv is all about making people laugh and bringing joy to their lives. And there’s no better feeling than that.”
Sanam is a senior at Washington High School. She was born and raised in Fremont, California and this is her first year at The Hatchet. Some topics she is interested in writing about are history, food and culture, and politics. In her free time, she likes to read mostly about psychology, history, and mystery. She also enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with her family. She plans to study abroad for college and find a major that she is passionate about.