You never know what you're going to see at an improv comedy show—and that's the beauty of it. Read on to see what you should expect at a show or class and to learn just how it is that actors can put their scenes together so fast.
Even when their characters are arguing, improv comics are working from a philosophy of trust and agreement—necessary ingredients for acting together with no script. Improv comedy encompasses a broad array of styles, with the major division between short form—quick, self-contained games—and long form—a series of multiple, interconnected scenes featuring distinct beats. Accordingly, a given performance might resemble a one-act play, a Saturday Night Live–style sketch scene, or a high-energy game show. Most rely on audience suggestions to spark the flow of fresh ideas, however, and some even weave brave audience members into the action.
Perhaps the most famous long-form style is the Harold, in which performers build continuous scenes that develop and intermingle in surprising ways. The unusual name arises from a joke, according to developer Del Close's biography, The Funniest One in the Room. As Close asked his collaborators what to call the new form, someone sarcastically yelled, "Well, Harold's a nice name." Appropriately for a form devoted to spontaneous absurdity, the name stuck.
This comic form also has roots in one of America's darkest eras: the Great Depression. While working for the Works Progress Administration, Viola Spolin needed a way to teach basic theater precepts to unschooled actors of various ages and backgrounds, so she created a series of theater games that focused on the playfulness at the heart of acting. In the 1950s, her son, Paul Sills, applied her principles at the short-lived but influential Compass Players on Chicago's South Side, and, later, at The Second City—one of the most prominent comedy companies of the 20th century, with alumni including John Belushi, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell.
A boat zips along through the water, trailing behind it an open parachute elevated to almost a quarter-mile in the air. This isn't a scene from a spy movie, but rather a scenic parasailing tour from California Parasail, whose lines can lift patrons up to 1,200 feet above the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As parasailers relax into their harnesses and take in breathtaking panoramic views, they can also take comfort in knowing they're in safe hands––all captains hold a US Coast Guard license and all crew members adhere to the practices of the Water Sports Industry Association. They operate runs throughout Avalon and Catalina Island, as well as Balboa Island, Newport Beach, and Long Beach, allowing patrons to glimpse views of different coastal areas and befriend cumulus clouds with varying regional dialects.
From 18 studios scattered around Los Angeles, Lori Moran Music Studios’ armada of instructors offers all-ages voice, piano, guitar, violin, and composition classes. With teachers who have worked on films such as Dreamgirls and Dance Flick, world-touring operatic productions, and Grammy-nominated choral CDs, the school can cater to virtually every musical taste—from classical to jazz to pop. Students choose the emphasis of their lessons, whether they want to work on their public performance skills, write their own songs, sight-read scores, or simply be able to play musical chairs during a power outage. Many will also get the chance to show off in recitals, concerts, and showcases.
Traversing the scenic expanses of the beach bike path, the Long Beach Turkey Trot allows the fleet of foot and big of heart to kick off their Thanksgiving with a pulse-raising run or walk benefiting the nonprofit Community Action Team. Two distances (5K and 10K) and four start times (7:30, 8:30, or 10:30 a.m. for the 5K; 7:30, 8:30, or 9:30 for the 10K) allow you to choose your own pavement-pounding adventure, and cotton event T-shirts and personalized bibs ensure no one runs totally nude. Four hundred random runners will receive free holiday pies, while everyone else can replenish their precious calories at the race with finish-line snacks or at home with their own gravy, stuffing, and cornucopias full of hot fudge and gummy bears. All entrants must sign a waiver before participating.
Southern California Helicopters’ meticulous introductory flight-training program prepares students for supplemental instruction using classroom materials and hands-on experience. Neophyte pilots begin aviation explorations with 30 minutes of ground instruction, where a knowledgeable instructor imparts lessons on navigating the instrument console and understanding right-of-way at a four-way stop. With book smarts cemented, students climb into one of the school’s helicopters and ascend into the open skies, one-on-one with a pilot, for a 30-minute flight. At a safe altitude, instructors shift control to the pupils, giving them the opportunity to experience a thrill usually enjoyed only by weather balloons and mice that have stowed aboard a radio-controlled zeppelin.
Head coaches Nick and Julz Heaney draw from their experiences as professional wakeboarders to unveil the mysteries of the sport for students of any skill level. The two-part private lessons take place back to back on the same day, first on land and then on water, for about one and a half to two hours of hydro-taming instruction, though students can stay for up to four hours. During the land portion, an orientation covers boat and safety basics and sea-shanty harmonizing. Students also practice turning on heel and toe in order to develop the muscle memory needed to control the board on the water. Once the wake mavens deem their apprentices worthy of buoyancy, the lessons take to the water, where either a Pro 09 MasterCraft X-Star speedboat or a team of harnessed dolphins awaits.