Our 5th Birthday – Why Long Form?

Greetings, comedy lover!

We are pleased to invite you to our birthday bash show. All of the Collective’s famous teams will perform, including our lovely new addition, MATHED POTATOES. First come, first get-to-eat cake! And cookies.

9/23, 8PM @ The Vault
451 S. Warren St
$5.
image cred: U of MN

It’s been a super first five years for our Collective. On the occasion of our birthday celebration, I thought you might like this post by one of our founders, Mike Intaglietta. Enjoy:

Why Long Form?

If you grabbed someone off the street and asked them, “What’s comedy improv?” they would almost certainly pull away sharply and possibly scream. You’d be lucky if they didn’t press charges. Don’t grab people off the street. This is a society.

But even if you politely approach someone on the street, ask them for a moment of their time in recognition of the fact that we all lead busy lives, and ask them “What’s comedy improv?” you’re still likely to be met with a questioning look. All experienced improvisers know that there’s only one follow up that will elicit a positive response at this point:

“Like Whose Line is it Anyway?

Whose Line, the original British version and its American descendant, has done incredible things for the popularity of improv. It brought a niche performance art form into the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of homes (I guess… I don’t follow TV ratings) complete with recognizable names and faces. But it’s also cemented the idea that improv is just one thing: short form games. This can be tricky for those who do another thing: long form.

For the uninitiated, short form consists mostly of individual, 2-5 minute games with an assortment of rules and restrictions, and often incorporating audience participation. Long form describes varying ways to connect scenes together into one coherent theatrical piece. Definitions and preferences may vary, but the principles of improvisation apply equally to both short and long forms.

Because of the (relative) popularity of short form, we at the Syracuse Improv Collective are occasionally asked why we’re so dedicated to long form. Well, I’ll tell you.

Long form rewards the dedicated performer by allowing players to have complete creative control over the piece they will develop together. The form allows for the creation of rich and dynamic characters, for the development of themes, and for the telling of one or more stories. And none of those freedoms preclude the playing of games within the structure of the form. But the choice of what game to play, how to play, or even if it should be played resides with the players, not the requirement of an emcee.

And long form rewards the engaged audience member. That bit of information a player casually introduces in the first few minutes of a set might make its triumphant return in the last few minutes. A character’s growth may slowly develop and change them, and the audience gets to watch it happen. The audience gets to try to figure out where a scene is going and be delighted when they’re right or even more delighted when they’re wrong.

Long form is improv without a net. Players are not provided the benefit of an inherently funny premise, or with the sweet relief of a 2-3 minute time limit should things not click. There’s a thrill to starting a set with nothing except your wits and your teammates and creating something from the ground up.

We hope you can make it to our birthday show! We delight in our community, perhaps even more than our improv. Thank you for making the last 5 years so much fun.