So the senseless wit of improvisational comedy isn't always as funny as rehearsed routines? At least nobody's wasting time writing it. And in times when nobody has time, skipping a consuming phase of the creative process embodies modern ingenuity, not laziness. But appreciating the spontaneity of improv is less about lack of preparation and more about taking part. Most improv routines rely heavily on audience participation.
Second City and the Groundlings, two pillars of the increasingly embraced comedic movement (most notably advanced by the American spinoff of the hit British series Whose Line Is It Anyway?), will headline the fifth annual Miami Improv Festival. The troupes have showcased improv at its instantaneous best for more than two decades each. Skimming through their past rosters reveals a who's who of comedy stars: Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and Paul Reubens (the latter two created Pee-wee Herman while in the Groundlings). Today's lineups include talents who are assuredly the "next big thing in comedy," according to Alex Perdomo, one of MIF's organizers.
Perdomo, part of the local improv troupe Just the Funny (also performing at MIF), explains the nature of improv is "all about support; it's like improvisational jazz where one player feeds off the other, or Ping-Pong." He also dispels the notion that "shills," or plants in the audience, aid improv-ers by suggesting preconceived bits. All the humor here is "performed on the spot," he says.
In addition to the headlining troupes, the fest will feature nineteen acts from across the country, including the Transactors, who perform an improvised post-World War II Broadway musical; Miami's own A Pair of Nuts, whose two-man sketches are "intended for mature audiences"; and Impromedy, which promises to "bring urine into your pants." If you fancy yourself a quick wit, workshops instructed by festival stars will be offered all week.