Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Long Form Improv: The Unsung Hero that will Never Be Mainstream

There are two types of improv, Long Form and Short Form. You could say that Musical is another form, but you could do short form musical and long form musical as well.

Short form consists of informing the audience of the game, taking the suggestion and then playing the game on stage. Who's line it is anyway or Puppet Up are firm examples of short form. If you go on a cruise ship, you're likely to see short form improv.

But, why not long form?

Long form improv is probably the unsung hero of improv. If you're an improviser in New York, LA, or Chicago then Long Form may be your thing. You probably live and breathe it. You love TJ and Dave and you have favorite forms and a specific play style. But, outside of those three delightful cities, there's nothing. Very little long form.

I once took a 3 month break from improv and went back to the Bay Area in California. I knew there was improv there so I figured I'd be able to at least feed the dragon. Boy was I wrong! Very little classes. Maybe once or twice a week there would be an improv show. Short form, however, had a presence. Comedy sports and BATs improv were mainstays and nearby.

First off, I'm not saying long form is better than short form. Wait! I am saying long form is better than short form. However, Short form is more profitable, more suitable for an audience, more likely to get improvisers paid for improvising, and have produced equally amazing improvisers. So, though I love the payoff of a third beat, I've laughed the hardest within long form shows, I've fallen in love with entire shows, and I've been hooked to the heroin of class after class of Long Form, I'm still ridiculously scared to do short form and I say with Bias, I like long form better.

The fact is, long form will never be famous. There may be long form improvisers using their skills to improvise in film. There may be sketch teams that are steeped in long form training. There may be comedian and tv writers using the harold as a form of writing. But, the act of a few people jumping on a stage and improvising slowly and building up an inside joke will never be mainstream.

I'm kind of okay with that. It's the perfect underground band. You may like the slower, indie progressive sound of Magnet. The perfected, honed, studio sound of UCB. The metallic, clunking, primal sound of Annoyance. Or the experimental, raucous yet textured sound of the PIT. These institutions will always be longform at heart. They will never leave us for greener pastures, they will live and die in our arms. 

You can think of it as sad. You can get angry at a world that doesn't get it. Or you can be thankful that this still exists, solely on the basis that the STUDENT, the Classtaker, The Performer, The Teacher hold this art form up. One piece of that puzzle is removed, the whole foundation falls. Why do we do it? Because it's fucking fun. I've never had this much fun in my entire life.

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