Coach's Corner with Niigon presents:
Long Form vs. Short Form
I've been getting a lot of questions about the difference between long form and short form improv. We at OU Improv! do both, and maybe it is confusing to tell which is which.
Simply said, long form improv is longer, story-based improvisation focused on developing character and plot so that an audience becomes invested in the work being done on stage. Much of the comedy in long form is from connections made in the story, layers of meaning, and enjoyment of a character.
Equally simply said, short form improv is shorter, quicker, short-attention span "on-the-spot" games, usually based on a gimmick or device which is delivered by the player using a zany suggestion or difficult ask-for. Much of the comedy is found in the pure spontaneity of the moment, risk taken by the improviser, and plugged "jokes" into the game.
But don't take my word for it. Try it for y'self!
Here are some thoughts from other improv writers out there:
What Is Long vs. Short Form?
"This is hard to explain without you actually going to see shows, and definitions vary among performers as well as audiences. Generally accepted is the idea that short form is a scene or game based on suggestions from the audience. A long form is a collection of games or scenes that were based on an initial audience suggestion. The difference, long form has short form parts, but short form is only a part of a long form. It's like the difference between a football play vs. a football game. You can't have the game without the plays, but the plays are very interesting on their own."
From: The Florida Improv Comedy Guide
Available at: http://www.floridacomedyguide.com
"Being a fan of both, I don't know if I would say one is better than another. I do notice that short form tends to reward the individual more. While many games strive toward team play, there are many that reward the cleverness of the individual, especially line games. In long form, the patience, reflection on the peace, and building idea on top of idea is more prevalent, but not exclusive to long form. I've been in many short form shows where, especially in the banter, ideas at the beginning of the show carry on to have huge payoffs later (Opera anyone?). All that being said, I feel like short form is more about rapid fire and getting the audience to laugh as much as possible. I feel long form is more patient and about getting a big payoff at the end with more emphasis on making people think and pay attention. Someone in an audience once told me that watching long form makes him tired and his brain hurts. I like that. Might not be good to him, but good to me. My last note: Long Form seems to lean to art form, Short Form leans to entertainment form. Leans... not *is*."
From: Jesse Parent, The Utah Improv Forum
Available at: www.utahimprov.com
"Short & Long Form don't work all that well together. This has to do with the difference between short form and long form improvisers. In a scene, if a short 'funny' is made, it generally ruins the scene for the long form improviser - he/she wants to concentrate on one subject and is thrown off track by the 'funny'; consequently, the scene dies. If two short form improvisers are in a scene and a short 'funny' occurs, neither of them is bothered by it and they continue the scene in short comedy format (i.e. you say something funny; I say something funny); however, they probably will never reach long form comedy. Now, really really good improvisers could do both (I don't think that most people have that ability, including myself). Also, the reaction of the audience is different to the two types of humors. A short 'funny' laugh gets a lot of laughs. However, the audience stops concentrating on the scene; this eliminates the possibility for long form comedy. I get the same feelings from long comedy that I get from a good play. I get the same feelings from short comedy that I get from a good joke. The feelings are clearly different and may not be entirely compatible."
From: Jochen Rick, Je77's Improv Page, Atlanta, GA
Available at: http://home.cc.gatech.edu/je77/1