Charna Halpern + Del Close = The Origins of Longform Improv

On paper, Charna Halpern is intimidating. Really intimidating. Through her partnership with Del Close, she co-founded ImprovOlympic, developed The Harold and helped launch the careers of everyone from Chris Farley to Matt Besser to Rachel Dratch. Oh, and she introduced Amy Poehler to Tina Fey.

In person, Halpern is a warm, Midwestern, cool aunt type. She drives a convertible, brings her dogs everywhere, and never hesitates to say exactly what’s on her mind. Her no-nonsense demeanor may make you forget she’s a kingmaker and a legend until she offhandedly mentions getting high with Del Close. Someone give this woman a reality show.

Read more about Charna, Del Close and the origins of longform improv in Splitsider.

If you think that you want to [do improv] but you’re scared just take a Level One class. Sometimes people are afraid because they have the wrong idea of what it is. A lot of people think “I’m just not that quick. I’m not that witty.” I think “Good, because that’s not what I want.” We don’t want you to be witty. This isn’t about being funny. It’s about listening and saying yes to each other’s ideas and remembering and reconnecting the ideas. This is a real thinking mans game. Wit is foam on the beer. You blow it away. There’s nothing there. We don’t need it. We need real thinking and we don’t want you to try to be funny because the humor doesn’t come from you making jokes. The humor and the laughs come from the seriousness of the scene. We have to do good scene work. If it’s truthful for us, we share the same world.

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.

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