Why Improv is Better than Stand Up

I have always found stand up comedians to be funny and entertaining to listen to because of the cleverness of many of their jokes. They are able to rehearse their lines so that they know exactly how to deliver the joke to set up the perfect punch line to get the audience to enjoy the joke to the fullest. This attribute that makes stand up comedy so great though is what separates improv, and what makes improv so much better. As Halpern and Close talk about in “Truth in Comedy”, there are a couple of rules that people performing improv must follow to make it successful, but besides these rules there are no specific guidelines. It’s one thing when a stand up comedian tells a joke that they’ve practiced, but when somebody just pulls a phrase or comeback off the top of their head it can feel so much more natural than a rehearsed joke. It feels more like when you are hanging out with some friends just talking and somebody says something clever or something you find funny. Halpern references this in “Truth in Comedy, saying “We’re funniest when we’re just being ourselves. Sitting around relaxing with friends”. This is the experience that improv can give, the feeling of just listening to your friends make jokes that they come up with on the spot. It’s a more natural feeling because you know they hadn’t practiced saying it or rehearsed it beforehand, which in my opinion makes it more impressive because of how quickly they are able to think on their feet and come up with something clever so quickly. This not only makes it more rewarding for the audience, but also for the comedian.

Do you agree that improv is better than stand-up when performed at it’s best? Are there other aspects of improv that make it more enjoyable for you or is the presentation of the joke during stand-up what makes comedy so great?

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