Q&A: So No Michael Scott, what about Whose Line?

I missed a week of posting, but let’s continue talking about what you want to know about improv. For reference, this started from a tweet where I want to hear what questions you have about improvisation. Through editing the book, a question raised was “why not relate this to Whose Line is it Anyway” since that show is generally known at least to an American audience.

Why not relate the improv content to Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The premise of the show for the uninitiated is a panel of improvisers and comedians playing short form improvisation games, where the rules and points don’t matter. A sample clip below.

So Why Not?

Whose Line is Short Form improvisation. Short form improvisation is a series of short, unrelated scenes or games. Games may be as short as a minute or a few minutes long. Jokes, characters, and scenework exist solely for the individual exercise or scene. While entertaining, I personally find short form improvisation better for warmups and to exercise improv muscles. For instance Dinner Guest is a great opportunity to explore character development, and a rhyme or limerick challenge could be better for word association.

I practice long form. Long form improvisation may be a series of disconnected scenes (a montage) or a cohesive narrative. We often pull characters and intriguing aspects from one scene into another. This aspect of pulling content across scenes is what intrigues me about long form improvisation.

Short Form vs Long Form

When we compare short form versus long form, our projects are effectively long form. We don’t play 5-minute games. We have 5 month (or 5 year) projects. We need to think long term. Build the relationships, the details, the complexity of what we are doing. For this reason, I acknowledge Whose Line, but my focus is on Long Form.

Still, I Must Thank Whose Line

Shows like Whose Line is it Anyways has made improv accessible to the masses. It has taken something often thought of as a performer’s craft, and made it something everyone can partake in. Short form is a building block to long form improv (I know some practitioners may disagree on this note).

So go, watch Whose Line. Play Short Form. There’s a lot of great improv out there and I encourage you to find it where you can.

I want to hear from you

What questions about improvisation do you have? Respond to the original tweet, or comment below!


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