14 People You Will Meet at an Improv Show

by Rachel Semigran

The art of improv comedy is responsible for the careers of the majority of our favorite funny people: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and almost every comedian you can name along with the vast majority of the people who have ever appeared on Saturday Night Live. In fact, SNL's newest cast member, the supremely talented Sasheer Zamata and Ellie Kemper, who stars in Tina Fey's new sitcom, came through the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre — a training center and performance space started by none other than Ms. Poehler and her partners in made-up crime Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. To say improv comedy has shaped our collective cultural sense of humor in the past five decades would be a vast understatement. If you take a look at the alumni from the UCB, The Second City, Improv Olympic, Annoyance, Magnet, and the Groundlings, you'll find some of the greatest comedic minds in history.

Improv doesn't just attract people who are trying to make their way into Studio 8H (though many, MANY would like to), it also brings in an eclectic mix of business people looking to gain new skills, college kids, super-nerds, and almost everyone in between. There's just something about it that says, "Come as you are... especially if you're at least a little weird."

Audience members find the whole "making things up on the spot" either wholly thrilling or a completely nerve-wracking and terrifying concept. If you're an audience member, you might see a really beautiful show about two lonely birds in a tree who find courage in each other, or you might see a really awful piece that somehow involves bears shooting each other. It's a crapshoot that more often than not, results in something spectacular. It's just the risk audience members are willing to take.

In celebration of the tens of thousands of improv geeks, fans, performers, and students who will descend upon New York City this weekend for the Upright Citizens Brigade's 16th annual improv festival, the Del Close Marathon, here are the 14 types of people you will likely meet at an improv show:

The Name-Dropper/Improv Overlord

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This person worships at the altar of Amy, Tina, Matt, Susan, TJ, Dave, Keith, Mick, Charna, and Del. (Oh, and they only ever refer to their Improv Gods by their first names). They also saw this like, totally legendary Stepfathers performance that you probably missed and had a beer once with Betsy after a Bangarang! show at UCB LA. This person knows everyone and has taken a class with everyone and listens to every podcast, so just STOP TRYING TO COMPETE WITH THIS PERSON. This person is also the worst.

The Terrified Audience Member

Every improv show feels like their first. Whenever a team asks for a suggestion or heaven forbid asks for a volunteer from the audience, this person shrinks in their seat and wishes for death. Relax friend, improvisers are really nice people. Except for the name-droppers.

The Academic

They've read every book of improv there is and found connections to Goethe and Nietzsche and they really, REALLY want to tell you their theories. This is the one time you might want to avoid the golden rule of "Yes and..."

The Bro in the Audience Who Screams "Vagina!" as a Suggestion

High-fives with his fellow drunken buffoons usually ensues. Everyone hates this guy.

The Person in the Audience who Screams "Pineapple!" as a Suggestion

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The people on the stage actually hate this person more than the "Vagina!" guy. Pineapple is ALWAYS the suggestion.

The Person with the Snacks

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A little light noshing is tolerable, but you really need to keep your loud chips and sloppy sandwiches in check, person.

The Guy Who Spills His PBR

Good luck getting the smell out of your bag.

The Person with a Questionable Odor

Ah improv, how you attract the finest kind.

The Person Who Is There Because of Yelp

They're having a fun night out from the suburbs. They might not get all of the "In" humor, but they're definitely the most genuine person there.

The Worn-Out Friend

This person has been seeing their friend's improv shows for years, and each time they tell themselves it'll be the show that gets their BFF "recognized." Bless this person, for you are the lifeblood of improv theaters.

The Even More Worn Out Significant Other

This person has been to almost every show of their girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner. And even if their significant other just mimed fellatio on a robot in space, they'll still be supportive and say, "I love you" at the end of the night. That is is commitment, folks.

The Grumpy Stand-up

They're there to hate-watch, and nothing else.

The Girl Who Never Laughs

She's the manic pixie dream girl of improv shows. She's so mysterious and moody. All of the guys in plaid will hit on her. So that means every guy will hit on her.

The Really Enthusiastic Newbie

Improv babies! So precious. This person just discovered improv comedy and signed up for their first 101 class. They're just really excited to make new friends and be weird with six to nine people on a future team. YAY IMPROV!

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