What’s the Big Deal with Improv?

You’ve probably heard already that UVa grad Sasheer Zamata joined the cast of Saturday Night Live back in January. In addition to her UVa classes took improv and sketch classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade, one of the comedy schools in New York. There are smaller comedy schools like iO, the PIT, Magnet, and the Annoyance Theater. Plenty of successful performers come from them as well. These comedy schools, centered on longform improv, have become the core training for performers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. So what’s the deal?

Longform improv is wonderful performance training, probably the best there is. It’s surely the only performance training that can work equally well for cold readings, auditions, dramatic scenework, and comedy. It allows beginners with no theatrical ambitions to mix freely and confidently with professional actors.

  • You can do it with your face or your whole body, or just your voice.
  • You can do it when you’re nervous.
  • You can do it when the script sucks or the script is great.
  • You can use it to create songs or scripts of your own, or upgrade scripts of your own.
  • A basic training program is about 24-30 once-a-week sessions, fewer total hours than you’d probably spend rehearsing a single full-length play, and you can do improv for the rest of your life.
  • Training is divided into ‘levels’ that are fun and valuable as stand-alone classes, so you don’t have to go past a particular level. Or you can finish a level, take time off, and then start another level.
  • With 30 hours of training, you’ll have the skills to perform regularly, and you can perform regularly without a huge time commitment and no lines to learn, leaving you free for jobs, reading, writing, raising children, other acting, or drinking.
  • As a performer you make up your own characters, which means you can cast yourself in roles that a theater company or a movie director would never let you play, people of different backgrounds, people who look drastically different from you. This expands your range and gets you out of your head.
  • You get to play different characters, even multiple characters, and tell different stories every time you perform.
  • Improv is bargain-basement cheap compared to university classes. Plus there are no grades.

Magnet TourCo

By an amazing coincidence you can start improv training right now. Classes start Sunday, April 6th Improv I begins, sponsored by Live Arts. (The link is to Live Arts. It takes few seconds to connect.)

Sign up.

sasheer neil casey

Sasheer with current SNL writer (and one of my improv-teachers) Neil Casey

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