When you think of the cultural differences between countries, you might immediately think of food, language, music, or holidays. But cultural differences can infuse every part of life, even improv comedy.
The worldwide improv scene is divided into the Anglophone style and the francophone style.
France used the francophone style – based on the famous “Match d’improvisation” – which was developed in the ’70s in Quebec, Canada. The style is similar to a match or sports competition. They use “bad cop” referees and two teams play against and with each other in a hokey ring. The match is dominated by different categories such as improvised in the style of Molière (the French Shakespeare) or the improvisers will start at the end of a story and work backwards to the beginning, line by line. France has a huge stand-up comedy scene and some “spectacle cabaret d’impro” (improv cabaret shows), which mainly consist of characters who talk extremely fast or quirky with lots of witty puns and jokes.
There are more than 75 improv groups and improv leagues in the Ile-de-France-region (greater Paris) with very French names such as “cavists and fromagers” (vintners and cheese makers), “Eux” (them), “Les claques”(slaps in the face), “Zarbi et Orbi” (???), “Traits d’union” (hyphens), and fancy English names such as “Smoking sofa” or “New”. The only English speaking improv group in Paris is called “The Improfessionals”and they perform in a theatre behind the Pompidou Art Centre. They come from six countries and their style is as diverse as their origins. They organized the first international improv festival in France back in 2004.
The French improv style is played in francophone countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. The Anglophone style is played in the US, UK, Canada, but also in Germany, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. Some countries use both styles of improv because they speak both languages. Does this sound like Babylon or total chaos of languages? Well, that’s what we call the cultural richness of Europe and its 23 official and 20 unofficial languages!
The latest improv movement in France is all improvised musicals created spontaneously by a creative cast of singers, musicians and illustrators. I’m currently directing a big improv musical, including musicians, comedians, singers and graphic illustrators. Visitwww.newcomediemusicale.com to check it out.
If you want to practice your French, check outwww.improticket.com where you can learn all about improv in France, its history and the different troupes and festivals.