Whose Line brings improv to TV

Whose Line brings improv to TV

Popular TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” is credited for bringing improvisational theater into the mainstream. Rotten Tomatoes

Luke Haynes

Theater takes a lot of preparation. By the time audiences see any given production, hundreds of hours have been poured into it – usually. Other times, the performer has done 30 seconds of character work and the lines are “written” as they fly out of the speakers’ mouths. Such is improvisational theater.

Improvisation is basically just spontaneous theater that started out as an acting tool. It was a last resort when something went wrong. It was an exercise used to explore characters and action in the writing or rehearsal process. While it’s still greatly valued and used in these capacities, it has also come to be its own art form, with shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” popularizing it.

While there are various forms of improv, the most commonly experienced version is “short-form” improv, which takes the shape of improv games. These games generally take around five minutes and consist of pre-defined structures that are then filled in with details that the performers aren’t prepared for. A game might consist of a league of superheroes ready to save the world, but the performers wouldn’t know their powers, catch phrases or crisis until the game begins. In games like these, you know the world will be saved, but the steps to get there are hysterical.

These games seem very simple, but are actually a lot harder than they look. While it might be counter-intuitive, a lot of practice goes into making things up. Frequent performers learn gags that work well for certain games, and also tricks that can be applied to all improv.

But without a doubt, the cardinal rule of improv is “have a good time.” In a world where there isn’t time to second guess, the important thing is to let loose and embrace silliness – the only way to improve your improv.