Some of the world’s most respected artists and comedians have come out of improvisation companies or groups. The word “improvise” is derived from the French which in turn comes from the Latin “improvisus”, meaning unforeseen or unexpected. The participants have no instructions and no choices but to react in the moment. When the format is set up as an unrelated series of scenes based on silly games or exercises is called short form improvisation.
You will experience this type, particularly, when you attend a team building exercise or workshops. Any type of live television has prompts but often functions under an improvisational strategic plan. Many comedy improv groups will make use of the variety in the short format where they can take suggestions from the audience and create a more interactive experience.
You may notice that some entertainment on television or in theatres will give credit to improvisation as one of their methods. Many actors from such hit shows as Saturday Night Live, Broad City or 30 Rock come from the world of improv, while Curb Your Enthusiasm quickly became popular because of the retro scripting model where dialogue is deliberate left blank or vague and actors are only provided with a clear plot outline. Whose Line Is It Anyway? is a British show (remade in the U.S.) that works with four individuals who are presented tasks, exercises and scenarios and have to improvise around them. This television show is a clear example of how the audience suggestion creates a level of integration that is hard to achieve with other styles of entertainment.
At the core of entertainment there is a clear understanding that improvisation has an uplifting aspect that’s lacking in any other form. Be it long form or short form, all types of improvisation have intrigued audiences for decades and continue to be a strong part of the social arts.