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The mechanics of spontaneous comedy: game verses scene in theatrical improvisation

Birch, Paul (2022) The mechanics of spontaneous comedy: game verses scene in theatrical improvisation. Comedy Studies. pp. 1-10.

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Much of improvised comedy’s appeal comes from the shared acknowledgement between performer and audience that the material is both spontaneous and unrepeatable. But can ‘anything’ really happen? In the many and varied approaches of Short and Long-Form improvisation are performance structures which inform both the unprepared scenic material and the types of humour which can be produced. Some have argued that the evolution of Long-Form began with the abandonment of game in favour of relational scene. This helpful distinction warrants further discussion; especially since the practice of ‘finding the game’, popularised by the Upright Citizens Brigade (2013), has blurred the boundary between game and scene. How do such scenic games function within these structures? How do they relate to other notions of game and scene to be found in the performance practice of other improvised traditions? I will explore the paradox of using rules, pre-planned formats and prepared methods of play to open up the ways in which spontaneous comedy is affected by both structure and approach. The research for this paper will come from the literature in the field as well as with interviews with professional improvisers who have trained and worked at Chicago’s most influential theatres: The Second City, I.O & The Annoyance. It will also draw on my own training under some of Chicago’s most established improvisers and personal experience of staging both Short and Long-Form work.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: "This is an accepted version of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Comedy Studies on 27/06/2022 available online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2040610X.2022.2091690"
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2022.2091690
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/6478

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