A Couple Notes on the Importance of Audience Participation in Improv

Audience participation is vital in improv. Whether its giving suggestions for scenes, getting involved in certain games, or just reacting to the jokes, they play a huge role in any improv show.

“I love getting inspiration from the audience,” says Tag Improv Communication Chair Mandi Matteucci. “I think it give us energy to hear them shout out suggestions. It gives us energy to hear them clapping and laughing.”

Improv comedians want the audience to be as active as possible (without disrupting the show of course). Teams will typically allow them to pick what they want a scene to be about or where they want the scene to take place. Tag, in particular, tries to have a short game in a number of their shows where they have an audience member come on stage and participate. For these games, the member doesn’t need any improv ability, just a willingness to have fun on stage.

All of this helps a show be more entertaining, but without a good, helpful crowd, it can be hard to maintain enough energy in the room to be entertaining. Here a couple easy (and probably obvious) ways to try to prevent a weak audience.

  1. Invite Many Friends
    This goes for both improvisers and devoted audience members.
    Who participates in an improv show varies. Sometimes random people who have never been to a show shout out suggestions, but other times the crowd is quieter. For these occasions, having friends who know how an improv show works in attendance can be very helpful. Its good to have someone to rely on to shout out suggestions and applaud in case other people aren’t. It gives energy to the room and encourages others to get in the action. Inviting friends on Facebook is one of the easiest ways to ensure a livelier crowd.
  2. Perform at More Informal Locations
    Tag Improv has had shows where they haven’t gotten an ideal response from their audience. This mainly happens when they perform at a venue that is too formal. Location is incredibly important.

    It’s better to perform in more intimate settings. Stage lights aren’t necessary. The team doesn’t need to be on a stage that is elevated far above the audience. One of the most significant aspects to keep in mind is distance from the audience. Mandi Matteucci recalls performing on a theater stage far away from the first row of seats.

    “I couldn’t even tell if they were laughing or enjoying it,” says Mandi. “I didn’t know if they could hear us or if we could hear them.”

    A bad venue can take a good audience and make it so difficult for them to interact with the performers that it can take them out of the show.


Also a quick side note: Alcohol typically has a good effect audience as well, as long as they’re of age of course.


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