Once upon a time, improv was limited to dingy and dimly-lit theaters, where a group of students or actors would gather together to get a few laughs from a small audience. Now, thanks in part to the popularity of improv shows and the rise of improvisational TV shows and movies, it’s become more important than ever for actors to know how to improv when put on the spot…
And that includes actors who are looking to improve their acting skills.
Don’t believe it? Think back to some of the funniest movies that have been made in the past few years. Bridesmaids. 21 (and 22!) Jump Street. This is the End. Know what all those movies have in common? Much of the funniest scenes were completely improvised by the actors. Even serious dramas and blockbuster movies were subject to actors displaying masterful improv talents when put on the spot. For example, did you know that in Star Wars, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) talked to the stormtrooper on the intercom completely off the cuff? It’s an infamous scene that wasn’t even written by George Lucas – but he loved the improv so much that he kept it in the movie.
That’s exactly why actors need to brush up on their improv skills, especially when attempting to book gigs. Many producers and directors are trying to move away from stoic scripts, choosing instead to let actors do what they do best: completely get lost in a character. What’s more, some directors won’t even use scripts during the audition phases – they’ll choose instead to give you a scene and see what you can do with it. Legally speaking, this isn’t exactly allowed, but there are still components to the audition that will require the actor to think (and act!) on his or her feet.
In other words, knowing your way around improv can mean all the difference between booking the gig and desperately trying to search for another audition.