To a layperson, improv is often confused with Stand-up comedy. But to those initiated in the comedy world, they are very different art forms. Stand-up comedy is all about painstakingly crafted material, blistering punchlines and thousands of hours of refining your set. Improv is all about spontaneity, and the humour that comes from a single moment in time, never to be repeated. 

Stand-up is a solo sport; you alone stand in the spotlight in front of the mic and you alone feel the pain when you bomb, or the joy when you kill it. Improv is all about the team; the joy of shared collaboration, the fun that comes from the mistakes and bouncing off each other’s weird ideas (and of course the harsh reality of letting go of ideas or giving the glory to someone else for the sake of the group).

That being said, both stand-up and improv are comedy (for the most part). For those who have never done any comedy, or those who are just starting out, improv can be a gentle way to start flexing your funny bones. While for those more experienced in the art of stand-up, finding the ease that emanates from the pros can be fast-tracked with a bit of spontaneity. 

In the end, both art forms want full rooms of people who have bought tickets to be laughing so much that their faces hurt and they keep coming back. So what can stand up learn from the art of Improvisation? Here are five ways in which improvisation can help comedians get even funnier

  1. Getting ad-lib ninja skills. The first thing Comedians talk about when it comes to improv skills is the ability to deal with hecklers. This is absolutely true, but beyond that, Improvisation teaches comedians to deal with anything unexpected. From environmental disruptions, not being thrown by varying audience responses, trying out new material and thriving in less-than-perfect comedy settings (like that tiny stage in the back of a pub where there is also a band and football on or getting booked for an 8-year-old’s birthday party)
  2. Developing Stage Presence. One of the first lessons of improvisation is the ability to embrace failure. No one wants their set to bomb, but no one wants the fear of this getting in the way of greatness. Through improv, comedians can learn to trust their instincts, take risks, and embrace uncertainty, which translates to greater confidence on stage, commanding the attention of an audience.
  3. Improving Timing and Delivery. Improv is all about being totally present. Through the practice of improvisational exercises and games, comedians can develop a better sense of comedic timing and delivery. They learn how to land punchlines effectively, pause for laughter, and maintain a rhythm that keeps audiences engaged. And notice and adapt when they are not!
  4. Generating New Material. Improvisation encourages a mindset of abundance. Yes, supporting others’ ideas is key – but it’s also about not judging your own. Improv can really help comedians to blast through creative blocks. It allows you to experiment with different comedic premises, characters, and scenarios, leading to the discovery of fresh, original material.
  5. Going beyond the Punchline: Because there is no time to prepare it, Improv is rarely about the killer punchline. However, this means finding more subtle ways into the joke. Strengthening Storytelling Skills, creating narratives, characters, and plot twists on the spot strengthens the ability to craft compelling, engaging stories that resonate with audiences and elevate stand-up beyond the one-liner.

By incorporating improv into your comedy toolkit, Stand-ups can hone their craft even more and connect with audiences in meaningful ways. Interested? Come try one of our budget-friendly regular drop-in classes, a free taster session, or come over to the dark side and sign up for our full Level 1a course.