Long form improv shows are a special experience. The performers and the audience do not know what will happen next. That uncertainty and anticipation can feel magical. At one of our shows, for upwards of 30 minutes at a time, teams will spin comedic ‘plays’ out of their collective imaginations.
These performances are different from short form, which features predefined games typically led by an MC (think Whose Line, and ‘scenes from a hat’). In long form improv the patterns of comedic play or ‘games’ are created from scratch by performers during scenes. In the Syracuse Improv Collective we prefer long form for many reasons: its artistry, the variety of comedy and teamwork, the uncharted territory, and the bountiful creative opportunities it supports. One of the reasons long form improv is an exciting, young art form are the many ‘forms’ a team can perform.
What’s In A Form?
In improv a form is like an established structure for the performance. Long form improv is in its infancy, yet there are already many well-known forms within the improv world. In the Collective we teach all of our Level 3 students the Harold, a foundational form created by Del Close in Chicago and made popular by the book Truth In Comedy.
Performing a Harold and other forms is intimidating at first blush. Not only will teammates have to create great scenes, they also have to remember a complex set of ‘beats’ and ‘group games’, ideally tracking and interweaving their creation in the back of their minds – all to culminate in a sophisticated, hilarious, and unified ending. Using a form might sound like a trick – after all, is it really improv if we have an outline before going on stage?
The truth is, forms are often more challenging to perform well than a montage of scenes. An improviser using a form is like a poet using a form – we don’t know the content of our show beforehand any more than a poet knows her words when she first puts pen to paper, and sonnets are quite hard to write!
Onwards, To The Unknown
When an improv show begins, the performers usually ask for a ‘suggestion’ from the audience. Sometimes the request is for ‘one word’. Other times, like with the popular Monoscene form, the team asks for ‘a location’. In the case of the Monoscene, you can expect the entire set to take place in the audience’s offered location!
For the uninitiated, the remainder of the performance will feel like quite a ride. Connections between characters will be made; unexpected delights will abound. As you learn about more of these forms, you will unlayer another artistic level of comedy behind the oddball decisions. Long form improv has the breadth to include brainless low brow gags and meaningful theatrical relationships. In one scene you may see the President of the United States defending the White House against Girl Scouts with a Super Soaker. In another, Mr. Radio and Mr. Shack will decide what to name their company.
Shows Are Fun
The easiest way to learn about our next show is to like and follow us on Facebook. We typically put on 1-2 shows a month. They run about 2 hours long and cost anywhere from $5 to Free. We love our community, we love our comedy, and we would love for you to join us.