Thousands of people would be happier and have more joy in their lives if they really believed what I’m about to say:

There’s more to improv than “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Don’t get me wrong.  “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was great.  It ran for a decade on Channel 4.  It was funny.  It was clever.  People still remember it despite it finishing nearly 20 years ago.

Here’s what I remember.  Clive Anderson acting as a gameshow host.  Greg Proops pretending 6 foot long chili peppers were earrings, or babies, or whatever.  Ryan Stiles being a superhero with an unusual power, or hosting a party where Tony Slattery is acting like an elephant.

Scenes were short and funny.  Crazy and disposable.

Yet the improv I’ve seen in real life has been much more than that.

I’ve seen scenes ranging from five seconds to five minutes.  I’ve laughed more at what the characters have done than the clever words they’ve said.  I’ve watched sad, quiet realistic moments and expertly crafted horror and musicals.  I’ve enjoyed watching the journey of a character and seeing them get their hearts desire.

More than that, I’ve seen moments where the performers have had glorious triumphs and complete failures.  Both extremes lead to joy when there is a mood that celebrates what is happening right here, right now.  And I’ve had countless hilarious you-had-to-be-there moments, where there’s so much going on that trying to explain the joke is pointless.

There’s a hundred different flavours of improv out there.  “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was just one of them.  Treat yourself to another.


  1. WLIIA UK had a small but loyal following. It didn’t lead to anything really though; there was no sudden craze for improv in the UK. At the same time The Comedy Store was taking over the country. I will suggest it was because stand up was about something, it reflected people’s concerns. Even friend of George Bush Ben Elton could declare his material “a little bit political” and be the focus of the country. Maybe 6 foot chilis didn’t really reflect the zeitgeist of the 80s. Maybe improv was just a bit safe and indoors. Maybe it still is.


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