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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

A bunch of us were hanging out after the sketch comedy show Saturday night, and we got to talking about the concept of improv vs. sketch.

People had differing opinions, and weirdly some of them didn’t share my (obviously correct) opinion that improv wins. The sketch people like the fact that sketch is more like doing a play, that they have time to re-write and re-write to get their lines perfect, and that they get to dress up in costumes. The improv folks like the thrill of being in the moment, creating something spontaneously with their scene partner and the greater sense of “play” that improv provides.

But troupie Sean Fannon had the best analogy I’ve heard, which I’m gonna share with you now. He likened improv vs. sketch to cooking vs. baking.

improv is like cookingIn cooking, you can wing it. You can try a little of this and a little of that, you can adjust things to taste, you can correct a “mistake” by adding a dash of something to balance it. Baking, on the other had, is chemistry. It’s precise and measured and there is no room for flexibility or going with the flow.

Improv, then, is cooking. It’s free and exciting and you can adjust it in the moment. You start with a suggestion, but you’re never exactly sure what the end result will be until you get there. If you’re not bold enough, the end result is bland. But sometimes you go overboard, and that’s when things get burned. If you do it right, there’s risk involved.

Sketch is baking. You know precisely how it’s supposed to turn out, and if you deviate from the recipe, you won’t get what you were hoping for. There’s no particular risk and, as long as you follow the recipe, you end up with something yummy.

Neither one is better or worse. We all like food, and we all like dessert.

Of course, we need food to live. Nobody calls us “sketch for life,” do they? I’m just sayin’.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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