Improv comedy is a unique art. Not only does a successful improv performer need to be funny, but they also have to be very quick-witted and adaptable. Without those traits, they wouldn’t be considered among the best improv performers around.
List of the Best Improv Performers
Some incredibly famous comedians (and comedic actors) have their roots in the improv scene. Other performers spend the majority of their careers focused on improv. However, everyone on this list of best improv performers has something to offer and certainly elevates the improv art form.
One of the staple comedians on Whose Line Is It Anyway? (both in the UK and US versions), Ryan Stiles is known for improv. However, he has also spent time acting, including in popular programs like The Drew Carey Show and Two and a Half Men. Ryan Stiles even has a bit part in Hot Shots! though you can’t see his face, so you have to rely on his voice to figure out who he played.
Another improv comedian with Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame is Colin Mochrie. He discovered improv while studying at Studio 58, and became a member of the Vancouver TheatreSports League in 1980. He later joined the Second City National Touring Company before taking a short break and then becoming a cast member on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in the UK and US.
While Steve Carell has had his fair share of serious roles, he is mostly known for his comedy. He studied improv at The Second City Training Center, before heading into the world of television and film. Along with being a former correspondent on The Daily Show, Steve Carell really made a name for himself (and won a Golden Globe) for his portrayal of Michael Scott in the American version of The Office.
The third Whose Line Is It Anyway? alum to make the list, Wayne Brady wasn’t just known for his comedy, but also his musical chops. From 2001 to 2004, he was also hosting The Wayne Brady Show, which earned two Daytime Emmys. He then transitioned to the game show scene, hosting Don’t Forget the Lyrics and the reboot of Let’s Make a Deal, and has also guest starred in a range of television shows and taking on the occasional comedy tour.
Along with appearing in Ghostbusters, Kristen Wiig has performed with the Empty Stage Comedy Theatre and even joined The Groundlings. She also played a role on The Joe Schmo Show, a reality show where everyone but one person was actors, and they had to convince the lone contestant that everything was real while making sure he didn’t catch on.
Along with being a Saturday Night Live alum, Amy Poehler is the co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a world-renowned improv troupe. Plus, she is the star of Parks and Recreation, a favorite sitcom for many, and even voiced a character in Inside Out.
While he may be best known for his political humor and late night talk show host chops, Stephen Colbert has his roots in improv. While he didn’t really intend to pursue comedy, hoping instead to become a serious actor, he joined two improv groups in college: No Fun Mud Piranhas and ImprovOlympic (now known as iO Theater). Later, he became a part of Second City and ultimately made his way to television.
The Tenderloins (Impractical Jokers)
The Tenderloins (Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano), are best known for the prank show Impractical Jokers. They take on challenges filled comedic potential and subject the unsuspecting public to their antics, usually with amazing results.