What Will Improv Comedy Look Like in the Metaverse?by@michaelbenko
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1,569 reads

What Will Improv Comedy Look Like in the Metaverse?

by Michael BenkoAugust 16th, 2022
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Two technologists work to bring Improv Comedy into the metaverse for the first time, raising the question of what the future of this artform will be.

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It's a heady night in 1978, after hours at a small underground comedy venue. The chairs and tables are against the wall. A group of seven people huddles together in the center of the room, watching each other.

The leader speaks. She raises her hand, and in unison, all seven people start to shout, “1! 2! 3!”, their hands shaking together as if at a concert to the music, “4! 5! 6!” Their voices raise louder.

Their chants continue, all the way up to 8. Then they repeat, next using the other hand, then a foot, then their behind. Getting happier and happier until they all shout together, "SAAAY, YES!”

It's the heyday of improv comedy. Small groups of friends meeting in studios and bars become improv giants. Forming storied theaters like The Groundlings, Second City, and UCB. New artforms are born like Theatresports. Books that would define improv for generations to come are penned.

Fast forward some years. The 1980s, the 90s, the 2000s, then the tens. The art form sustains, in some ways like a good creed. It's little changed as it spreads across the USA, Europe, Australia, and then the world.

Special magic about spontaneously creating theater seems to change people. For some, it brings a sense of happiness and purpose. For others, it's not just an art form, but a social circle. Audiences across the globe find delight in improv comedy.

The Shift

In the year 2020, the world changes. First for weeks, then for months--people are inside.

Gatherings, once common, become risks. Much of life that was in-person moves online, and even as the world opens back up years later, a shift has happened.

Much of social life, and much of art, has moved to the internet. We're more likely than ever to flip open an app to watch a performance than head to the theater.

Improv as an art form is still strong. Yet, this shift is fighting for our attention. At times it traps us in a social media scroll. Suddenly, creating improv has less space online than dance trends and doom surfing.

A New Stage for Improv

The recent exploding trend of vertical video apps such as Reels and TikTok is only accelerating the proclivity to lean towards our phones for entertainment. That and the recent move of much of life online inspired a pair of improvisers and technologists, Dmitry Koniuk and myself, Michael Benko, to devise a way to bring improv to the internet--and the Metaverse--in the first native format improv app for everyone.

Enter Improv Jam

Improv Jam is an AR Stage for creating improv from anywhere, anytime.

This new app for improv works as both an audience and a host. The app is augmented by cutting-edge AR technology, to give a sense of instant magic to the scene. Improv Jam serves as a randomizer and stage, giving participants suggestions for a character, task, and situation. Improv Jam allows people to create spontaneous art out of nothing in a thrilling, one-minute, one-person improv scene.

After creation, participants have a self-contained vertical video ready to share on other platforms. They can also send their creation to friends, or upload them to The Stage (our version of the For You Page), for others to discover and clap for.

Thus, improv is taken online in native format for the first time.

Not Just for Improvisers

Now, improvisers can create improv comedy at any time--and as our app develops, their ability to create different forms will expand as well. Yet, our app isn't only for improvisers.

This new way to create has direct applications for everyone. We believe these improv challenges will help people to practice and develop social skills. It's like an AR improv gym in their pocket--that allows them to share their creations with friends.

Vloggers will have the ability to instantly create fun, fresh content for their followers. And actors will be able to practice their craft anytime, anywhere, without needing to think first--just ready, set, create!

Improv Jam has a rare opportunity to teach improv at scale. It's a chance to share improv comedy with people who have never heard of it before. An opportunity to give the gift of improv around the world.

We believe the social, collaborative properties of improv are what makes it so joyful. As we develop Improv Jam, we're finding ways to make collaboration a key factor in the app. This is a unique way to use vertical video to bring people together. We're breaking a trend of solo creation adding to current-day isolation.

And in this way, we aim to bring improv to the center of our cultural attention. To give it a brave new stage, and to create a new kind of vertical video app that helps people experience joy.

So, our question is, would you like to jam with us?