Call for New Format Suggestions

After the success of improv shows like Start Trekkin’ and 24 (minutes) and even Shakespeare Unscripted, I’ve become a firm believer in the power or long form genre improv. It’s fascinating to study. The audience really enjoys it. And most importantly, a person who has never seen the show or never even seen improv can get an idea from the show title of what the show is going to be like. Therefore, it’s much easier to draw an audience.

My friend Dan O’Connor, currently the producer and star of World Cup Comedy, gave me some great advice a few years back. I asked him where someone at my level should study improv. He said at my level, I shouldn’t go study improv, I should study the kind of theatre, TV, books, and film I like. And then try to apply what I’ve learned to improv. This makes a lot of sense to me. I think a lot of improv is too, well, improv-y. It’s too insular. Like people who watch improv and want to do improv like improv and it starts getting detached from what real people are like and from what real people like to watch. It’s like the rest of the world is watching Friends and we’re doing a Harold.

So I’m wondering if anybody has suggestions for a film, tv, or theatre style or specific show you think could be improvised.

I’ve always been obsessed with teen drama/coming of age stories/afterschool special type of shows. Currently that means Degrassi: The Next Generation. Teen drama + Canada = Awesome. Plus teen drama is so easy because when you’re a teenager, everything is a big deal. I also LOVE Arrested Development, but that show is so well written and so tight, I don’t think you can improvise it. Quantum Leap?Comic Book Movies? Biopic? Help me out!

About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
Replies: 1

One comment

  1. imo: the reason why people watch Friends and not Harolds is because improv, by its nature, is an intimate experience that works best with a live audience. The funny is entirely in the scene, it is often in the experience, referencing topics and audience reactions directly.

    I’ve never seen long form Improv captured well on media… have you? (I haven’t really looked… this is a real question)

    Done right, it would include up close and audible snaps of audience participation, pan/zoom to substitute for lighting effects, etc. It would need to capture the experience of being at the show.. I bet it’s possible, even exciting, for a good film crew, a great editor, and some clever instant messaging techs to have a *true* long-form Improv show on TV.

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