Improv Comedy (Live and Otherwise) Examined on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #20


What role does improv comedy play in popular culture? It shows up in the work of certain film directors (like Christopher Guest, Adam McKay, and Robert Altman) and has surfaced in some of the TV work of Larry David, Robin Williams, et al. But only in the rare case of a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? is the presence of improvisation obvious. So is this art form doomed to live on the fringes of entertainment? Is it maybe of more apparent benefit to its practitioners than to audiences?

Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by Tim Sniffen, announcer on the popular Hello From the Magic Tavern podcast, and a member of the Improvised Shakespeare Company and Baby Wants Candy (improvised musicals). He’s also written for Live From Here and other things. We discuss different types of improv, a bit of the history and structure of Second City, improv’s alleged self-help benefits, how improvisation relates to regular acting, writing, podcasting, and other arts, and more.

Here are a few improv productions to check out:

For further reading, check out:

For musical improv, try Nakedly Examined Music #30 with Paul Wertico and David Cain, and also #55 with Don Preston (Zappa’s keyboardist) whom Mark quoted in this discussion.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.


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Tags: Google, Comedy, Television, Film, College, Theatre, Amy Poehler, Reddit, Silicon Valley, Brian, Second City, Thomas Middleditch, Robert Altman, Mark, Tim, Facebook Twitter, JEFFREY, Carey, Shakespeare Company, David Cain, Paul Provenza, Upright Citizens Brigade, Paul F Tompkins, Improv Comedy, Lauren Duca, Baby Wants Candy, Kevin Mullaney, Pretty Much Pop, Mark Erica, Lauren McGrail, Christopher Guest Adam McKay, Larry David Robin Williams, Tim Sniffen, Improvised Shakespeare Company, Robin Williams Baby Wants Candy, Improvised Star Trek, Judy Weightman, David Peduto, Paul Wertico, Don Preston Zappa


March 28, 2019 at 12:00 PM Craig Ferguson will perform stand-up in LA for the first time in April