The world is a slightly better place for having improvisation than it was before improvisation. We all improvise, whether we like to admit it or not, but those who champion it have a way of releasing the imagination of others. It’s more prevalent than is apparent at first glance, and many common games like Charades, I Spy, and even Dungeons and Dragons rely on improvisation. In fact, my earliest encounter with improv was when I’d conjure games up with my siblings and cousins on a piece of paper; from role playing games with very loose rules to a much more difficult version of Battleship. However, the most common association is stage-based improv, and local venues in the Seattle area such as CSz Seattle which has been livestreaming their ComedySportz shows as of late. ComedySportz is usually a live, fast-paced comedy show with a live audience, but due to the mandating of social distancing they moved the show online. The live stream is still available for free on the CSz Seattle Facebook page.
In many ways it reminded me of MTV's Wild N’ Out, which is the first example of improv that comes to mind for many people, including myself. Like Wild N’ Out, the show pits two teams of comedians against each other in a variety of improv games such as Story, Mom's Spaghetti, Hashtag, Finishing School, 185, and more, except without the occasional profanities. In each game, suggestions were pulled from the comments section; ranging from genres of film, strong emotions, and household appliances, to celebrities, specific regional accents, and more. Usually they’d compete for the audience's laughter, but in this case, they competed for the praise of the comments section.
In their opening game, Story, players are tasked with creating and continuing a story on the fly. It all starts with a made up name from the comments section forming a base for an improviser to build off of. From there, each player continues the story from where the last player left off, in what could be described as a verbal hot potato. To add more challenge, each player must maintain a specific European accent. One of the accents was supposed to be Greek. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and neither did the performer. What he gave was closer to what I imagine a furious New Yorker would sound like. He was the first to be eliminated.
It was pretty fun overall, and they had a lot of hits throughout the hour. In my opinion it was corny, but corniness isn’t inherently bad. They asked we get involved by clapping and chanting “Out of here!” every time a player was eliminated, but I decided not to do that. Battle rap is used in one of their games, Mom's Spaghetti, and while the topics were pretty over the top and fun to watch, it felt repetitive, with the corny and overused beat of Eminem's “Lose Yourself” playing continuously for the run of the game.
In the end, it made me want to watch some Wild N’ Out. Improv is an essential skill to wade through the modern problems of boredom and uncertainty by making the most out of very little. In improv it’s all hit or miss, and when corniest comes to corniest, improvisors just push through and come out with new and better material, which is admirable within itself.