Improv comedy gains popularity

Elizabeth Polishan
Arts & Life Correspondent

Be prepared to laugh. Upright Citizens Brigade will improvise a 90-minute, long form comedy show in the McIlhenny Ballroom Thursday.

Improv comedy began on the Chicago stages in the early- to mid-1900s, but its popularity has recently boomed thanks to T.V. shows like Drew Carey’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway.”

“Whose Line” showcases short form improv comedy. Short form skits last about three to five minutes.
Typically, each short form skit begins with a suggestion from the audience, so audience members participate frequently in short form comedy shows.

Upright Citizens Brigade performs long form comedy. A typical long form skit lasts over 25 minutes, and usually all the action stems from a single audience suggestion.

Short form improv is generally considered easier than long form. A short form skit can involve anything from pantomiming riding an elephant to dialoguing about a surprise birthday party.

While long form skits demand more of the actors than short form skits, long form improv typically does not translate into good television.

“Even though long form is much more hip and helps you become a much better actor, it doesn’t film very well,” Joel Jones, an improv comedian from New York, said.

Neither short form nor long form improv comedians plan characters, scenes or lines in advance. Improv comedians make up all their actions on the spot and let their characters develop as their skits progress.

Although improv comedy is all spontaneous, improv comedians do follow general rules and guidelines to direct their skits.

Generally, good improv skits set the scene and establish the characters’ basics early on. Improv actors incorporate specific, concrete details into their scenes to make them more rich and believable.

In skits with two or more actors, each actor accepts the information his or her comrades use to direct the scene and then builds on that information to move the action forward and develop the characters.

Upright Citizens Brigade’s show is sponsored by USPB, the Center for Student Engagement, Student Formation & Campus Life, Residence Life, the Department of English and Theater and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The show will last from 8 – 10 p.m.

Past members of Upright Citizens Brigade have also acted in “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Office.”

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