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.
Arthur Murray has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and The Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, The Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
Since its maiden voyage in 1936, The Queen Mary has cultivated a colorful history by transporting iconic figures from Winston Churchill to Fred Astaire across the ocean blue, as well as serving as troop transport in a world war. Today, passengers board the famous ocean liner to tour historical and haunted areas amidships or stay overnight in an onboard hotel. Visitors rub elbows at seasonal soirees and dive into historical exhibits, fueling up at restaurants, bars, and cafés for a literal taste of The Queen Mary's brand of luxury.
With a history stretching back more than 40 years, Circus Vargas wows audiences with dazzling acrobatics and rib-tickling clowns under a giant big-top tent. The show eschews animal performers for human-costumed spectacles, showcasing dazzling feats that only a few dexterous humans and short-circuited cyborgs are capable of. The circus's big top, hand-fashioned in Milan from 90,000 square feet of fabric, holds up to 1,500 show-goers in classic, blue-dyed elegance. Early-arriving guests can take part in an interactive preshow, jumping in the ring with ringmaster Jon Weiss as he leads audience members through tutorials that show how to perform stunts such as juggling, feather balancing, and balancing checkbooks with quill pens.
The Hottest 100 Music Festival paints the weekend in shades of competitive euphony as up to 200 bands, artists, and DJs strive for their place in the top 100. For two days, the scenic grounds of Irvine Lake are saturated in 12 unrelenting hours of melody, as bands representing every genre and necktie technique trade barbed jabs and retorting riffs across eight stages. Headlining Saturday's stable of hungry rock hippos, electro hip-hop trio Hyper Crush exercises irrepressible crunkitude, and the mirror-mesmerizing posse of It Boys! taunts audiences by eating multiple servings of songs without gaining weight. Sunday's supernova includes the hardcore crew of Stick to Your Guns, the brawny pop-punk of A Static Lullaby, and a special set from noted headbangers Bleeding Through, whose thrash metal solicits whiplash and spare change to launder a load of black T-shirts.
Founded to showcase up-and-coming Asian-American musical talent, the International Secret Agents Festival delights euphony lovers with a 14-act concert in an outdoor, party atmosphere. Far East Movement energizes bodies with such chart-topping electropop hits as "Like a G6" and "Rocketeer," inspiring concertgoers to shake it on the dance floor or buy tickets to the robot ballet. B.o.B brings his verbal dexterity to bear on waiting eardrums, tickling aural centers with mellifluous flow, and newcomer Sean Kingston deftly mixes reggae and hip-hop. Between sets, concertgoers can wander throughout Queen Mary Events Park, snapping shots in photo booths, chowing down on food-truck fare, and buying artist merchandise to signal fandom and clothe indecent scarecrows.