In my opinion, improv is the key to feeling comfortable with yourself at auditions, on stage, on film sets or simply as an interactive part of a sprawling entertainment community like the one here in NYC.

One of the most frequent situations you will find the need for some improv in is at a commercial audition. The ability to stay on your toes and create/respond to something on the spot without fear in addition to handling the occasional, inevitable slip-up is crucial to being noticed in a casting. And these days, more and more, commercial copy is being created with the flexibility to allow the performers improv to be incorporated into the final spot. If you watch TV and actually pay attention to the commercials that are being made, they are littered with improv actors. Especially the weirder, quirkier ads – which are always the best ones!

So, I would strongly recommend signing up for an improv class or two if you’d like to get more comfortable with being up on your feet in front of complete strangers doing weird things. It will only help you when you find yourself in a room full of advertising clients all watching you on your 2nd/3rd call-back for a national commercial.

And, another reason for doing it is because it is ridiculous fun! You might discover that you actually like improv and become a crazy junky for it, like me..

Some NYC hot-spots for improv training:


What they say:

The Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh) came to New York, from Chicago, in 1996. After staging their award winning sketch comedy show, and introducing the long form improvised structure of the “Harold” to New York audiences the UCB soon began their training program.

Students of UCB Theatre are taught our proven style of sketch and improvisational comedy by working actors and writers. In addition to teaching the necessary skills, UCB Theatre also works on behalf of its students to give them every possible opportunity to develop their own creative voices, industry relationships and comedic careers. Through our classes, stage performances and direction, young talent is on the way to viable commercial success.

Some key points to UCB:

This is a great environment for comedic improv whether you’re just experimenting or an avid performer – but especially if you’re serious about it.

Probably the most strict Harold (Long form technique of improv created by Del Close) training center in the city.

If you’re interested in signing up for classes, they usually post new ones every Wednesday. But keep in mind, if you’re signing up for a 101 class they can be booked up almost 3 months in advance, so you have to just bite the bullet a commit ahead of time. I’d recommend signing up for the RSS feed to get up to the minute news on classes so that you don’t miss a beat.


What they say:

Founded in 2005 by veteran improv instructors from Chicago, and led by Armando Diaz, Magnet’s mission is to teach the skills necessary to do original, honest, and instantly brilliant comedy. Our program has been thoughtfully crafted so novices and veterans alike will build and strengthen their skills from class to class, and level to level. Each component builds on the previous one, with an emphasis on bringing out the best in each improvisor and building a diverse skill-set, not on trying to force a single style, technique or narrow dogma. Students learn by doing, through games and exercises in class, and through performances on the Magnet stage.

Some Key points:

If you can, sign up for a class with Armando Diaz. He’s an amazing teacher and rumors abound that he’s not going to teach that much anymore (although, in fairness, I didn’t hear that from him directly and there’s a lot of gossip in these field!!).

Some people say the curriculum is a lot more laid-back than UCB when it comes to teaching The Harold. I’ve only taken one class here at present and it wasn’t about the Harold, so I can’t tell you for sure. But its a training center with great respect in the community.


What they say:

The Peoples Improv Theater is dedicated to the instruction, performance, and development of original comedy. The PIT strives to entertain and educate the community about the comedic arts in a safe and nurturing environment. The PIT is composed of three elements: a school that focuses on the craft of improvisation, an eclectic variety of electives, and an unparalleled professional writing program; a theater that presents original comedic shows seven nights a week; and a corporate and educational workshop program that offers team building, leadership, and business training.

Some points:

I’ve not studied here so please feel free to give some input if you like. I’m not sure what their approach is regarding Harold or other long form techniques, either. I do know they offer a great evening of late-night improv where anyone can sign up and compete for the nights best team. Which is fun and a great way to get practice in front of a crowd.

There are a load of other improv schools and classes around NYC and I’m sure any number of them are fun. I’ve mentioned the one’s above simply because

a) They are the most reliable/consistent environments to study at (that I know of) and have great reputations in the industry and

b) They have a shows every night of the week so you can see great improv in action – not to mention sketch and stand-up.


About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York.

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