Improv vs Sketch vs. Stand-Up; Whats the dif?

I am surprised by the number of actors who are confused by my saying come check out my improv show.
First response is usually something in the area of, “So you’re doing Stand-up at the Improv?”
No, I’m doing an improv show?
Their response, “So, like sketches then…?”

Many actors who aren’t in the comedy world seem to see all three of these very different forms of comedy as one.
I’ll try to make a bit of a distinction here for you.


A quick overview of the difference between Improv and Sketch;

Similarities:
Both Improv and Sketch can be slice of life scenes or vignettes.

Contrasts;
Improv will not have character costumes and will incorporate spacework (the amount of space given to imaginary objects). Sketch will have costumes, props and maybe sound and lighting effects.

The main difference between Improv and Sketch is Improv is created from whatever the actors find in that moment and space while Sketch has been written out and rehearsed.

Improv may be a tad more risky for the performer and the audience due to the nature of  improv being very fluid with the ability to move to very different areas quickly.  Sometimes the areas visited by improvisers aren’t necessarily  politically correct or even comfortable.  For me, there in lies the fun.

As an audience member, I am waiting to see if these improvisers will go deeper into the area , so deep in fact that it does become funny, or will they bring it back from the possible crash and burn of the abyss to something lighter?

As a performer in the scene which has taken that turn, I have to decide based on who I’m on stage with and how my audience is reacting as to which way I’ll go with the new scene.

To be continued…

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