On Stage: The Del Close Marathon

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We are launching a new series today, that we're calling "On Stage," where we focus on what's happening on stages across the country, from poetry slams to regional theater. Today we look at comedy.

This weekend over 400 improv comedy teams from around the world will converge in New York City for the Del Close Marathon --  56 straight hours of improvisational comedy at eight theaters around Manhattan,

The event is named for Del Close, the so-called "Father of Improv."

Ian Roberts is the co-creator of the Del Close Marathon and a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, a mecca for fans of improv comedy. He joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss the weekend's festivities.

Interview Highlights: Ian Roberts

On what makes good improv

"The game of the scene is basically the heart of all comedy, improvisational or otherwise. It just means what pattern of behavior continues to make you laugh. In improv, the way you find this is by 'yes-anding,' which means saying things that agree with what the person in front of you has said ... and then we wait until something unusual happens. Once that unusual thing happens, we ask if that unusual thing happened, then what else might happen? And by following that pattern and continuing to ask that question ... you continue to make comic moves in the game."

"When you look at improvisation, it seems like people are just walking and talking, Everybody can walk and talk. They think, 'Well, I'm funny. I can walk and talk. I'll just do this!' But then they find out that there's actually a lot of technique to it."

On "the rules" of improv

"We have what we call agreement in improv, which doesn't mean I have to say yes to everything you suggest. If you say, 'Let's jump out the window!' I don't have to say, 'Yeah, let's jump out the window!' But I do have to acknowledge there's a window there to jump out of and that that's what you want to do, so those are rules."

"If people are doing that, then it should be fairly good improv. As long as they've practiced. The same thing — I could give you the rules to driving a stick shift right now, but if you've never gotten behind the wheel, you're not going to be able to drive it well. But the rules combined with practicing them should make you a competent improviser."


  • Ian Roberts, co-creator of the Del Close Marathon and a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. He has appeared in the series "Parks and Recreation" and Reno 9-1-1!"

This segment aired on June 27, 2014.


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