If you are new to the improv world you may find yourself at different shows thinking, “What are they doing? This is completely different than the last show I caught.”
There are many different distinctions in improv. The most basic of the genres breaks down into two camps; Short form, also referred to as games and Long form.
Short form improv is the type of improv through which many people are first introduced to the improv world. Many people are familiar with short form through “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, originally a British show, imported to the US starring Drew Carey, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady. In brief, short form improv are scenes usually from 2-4 mins in length, predicated on established parameters in which the improvisers in the scene derive the comedy from honoring the established rules for the scene.
An example; A scene will have two players on a first date but the players must start their first line with the next letter of the alphabet.
Player 1- Allie, I’m really glad you finally agreed to go out with me.
Player 2- Because I thought it might be the only way to get you to stop asking.
Player 1- Can it be true? You know me so well already!
One way of looking at short form is they are short scenes which contain a gimmick or a game, hence “games improv”.
Long form improv is longer in length usually 20 mins- hour and the scene’s source of comedy are based on character and story development. The audience may see a previously introduced character return to different scenario. In this way, long form appears to most as a simmer which then builds to rolling boil vs short forms quicker punches.