Possibly one of the most entertaining (and certainly one of the least predictable) genres in television is improv comedies. Whether the show is focused solely on improv or the series is at least partially unscripted, giving the stars a chance to come up with their lines on the fly, these comedies bring something special to the table.
A surprising number of popular shows at least include an aspect of improv, while some are known for this form of comedy specifically. Here is a look at some of the best TV shows featuring improv.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Possibly the most quintessential example of improv television is Whose Line Is It Anyway? Featuring the likes of Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, and hosted by Drew Carey in the US version, comedians are put to the test in each and every episode. The premise focuses on giving the show participants different prompts and challenges, and they have to rely on their wits and improv chops to entertain the audience.
Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza
A show with a fairly short run, Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza came after the departure of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and many consider it a natural successor to the popular improv show. Performers improvised sketches using audience suggestions, featuring three or four improv challenges per episode.
Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show
Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show was another post-Whose Line series that was improv focused. However, this series relied heavily on performers hopping in front of a green screen and having to deal with the unexpected, not unlike the “Newsflash” challenge on Whose Line.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm is a semi-unscripted comedy series that relied on improv a lot. While the plots were outlined, much of the dialogue was improvised in the moment, creating some hilarious and memorable moments that no one could have anticipated.
The League is another example of and partially unscripted series. IT focuses on a fantasy football league and the relationships between the characters. While it isn’t solely improv, many of the stars got a degree of freedom as they delivered their lines.
Wild N’ Out
A sketch comedy and improv series, Wild N’ Out followed Nick Cannon as he tried to find new and up-and-coming comedy stars. Teams of comedians duked it out playing a series of improv games and battling head to head during the “WildStyle” round, which featured freestyle raps.
Thank God You’re Here
In this quirky Australian show, performers would talk through a door to face a random situation, always being greeted by the line, “Thank God You’re here!” Then, the participant had to navigate the scene and rely on improvisation. At the end of each Thank God You’re Here episode, a winner would be selected based on which performer handled themselves best.
A British sitcom, Outnumbered was a semi-improvised show starring Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner. While all of the adult actors were given scripts, the children in the show didn’t memorize any lines. Instead, the writers gave them instructions at the last minute and let the kids take the wheel from there.
A quirky sitcom from the early 1980s that starred Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, Bosom Buddies frequently used improv instead of rigid scripts. Hanks and Scolari were able to play off of one another and adjust their lines, creating some very memorable moments.
An improv comedy show that actually pre-dates Whose Line, Kwik Witz pitted two teams – each comprising of two performers – against each other in front of a live audience. The teams competed in various improv games, having to use their skills to outdo the other pair. At the end of each episode, the audience selected a winner. While the winners got prizes, the losers were also treated to a token gift, usually something with a humorous twist.