Billy Merritt’s Theory: 3 Types Of Improv Performers

Billy Merritt, the founder of The Smokes, which is one of the veteran improv comedy teams in America, has a theory on improv performers. His theory is that there are three kinds of improv performers.

These are:


Fearless, reckless and sometimes mad, the pirate is always swimming with crazy ideas and prepared for anything that could come next. They propel the show with their energy and outstanding creativity.


The robot is logical and analytical, reacting from a position of truth and rationality. They ground the scene and ensure that it does not become unbelievable, acting as a counterweight to the pirate’s wacky ideas.


The ninja steers. Ninjas do not revel in being the main player in the scene, preferring instead to jump in and out of the scene unnoticed. They contribute to the scene with ideas that connect moments together, allowing the scene to flow seamlessly.

Recognise yourself in any of these? Great improvisers are generally skilled at assuming all three roles at any given time, but every performer will have that one area he or she naturally excels at more than the others. While it is important to ensure that you have a good mix of roles within each improvised scene, remember to recognise and tap on each performer’s strength as well for a better show.

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