Austin's Next Top Improviser

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Austin's Next Top Improviser

Austin's Next Top Improviser.jpg

Theater Salvage Vanguard Theater
Directed by Shana Merlin
Produced by Gnap! Theater Projects
Cast Various
Run Oct 2008-Dec 2009

Austin's Next Top Improviser was a short-form competitive improv show inspired by reality-TV competitions.


The show ran the second and fourth Friday of every month.

Show Mechanics

General Show Info

At several points in the show, a player could earn a 'Boost'. This would be a totem that a player could use to, say, force everyone onstage to speak in rhyme. (It was a different ability for every show.) When the player used the Boost, they'd have to relinquish it, and then another player (or perhaps the same player) could re-win it later in the show.

Throughout the show, players could do 'confessionals', where they went to a specific spot on stage (considered the 'sound-proof booth' within the world of the show) and speak directly to the audience about how they thought the show was going. (Also, sometimes a team coach would call on a player to do a confessional.) These segments would try to build on offers in earlier confessionals, turning the set of confessionals into a running game that ran throughout a performance.

Before the show, the players would choose five audience members to act as the show's panel of judges. They would give the newly-appointed judges white boards and markers, and task them with scoring all of the scenes. Judges would score scenes from zero to ten. The highest and lowest scores would be dropped, and the remaining three scores would be totaled.

Show Structure

At the start of a show, the (somewhat adversarial) host would introduce him- or herself as Austin's Top Improvisor, describe the show, get an elimination catch-phrase from the audience, introduce the coach (a seasoned improvisor on-board to help the players), and finally bring out the cast. Each player would quickly introduce themselves with their name, their age, their job, and a 'fun fact' about them. The players would perform some open scenework. After this, the coach would offer feedback to each player, and the 'best' player in the scenework (as determined by the host) would be awarded the Boost.

Then there would be a game to split the players into two teams. This would be some sort of elimination game -- after each elimination, the audience would shout their elimination catch phrase. As players were eliminated, they'd be assigned to alternate teams and given colored slap bracelets to indicate their team membership.

The host would then introduce three rounds of short (two- to three-minute) scenes, with each round of setups designed to test the players in some aspect of improv performance.

At this point, the lower-scoring team would be eliminated. Again, the audience would shout their catch-phrase at the losing team, which would do a slow-motion "walk of shame" offstage. The losing players would deliver confessionals. Then the winning team members would each do a solo scene.

This would be followed by a "tribal council": each judge, and each player in the show (including the eliminated ones) would write the name of the soloist they wanted to win for the night on white boards. The host would gather up all the white boards, reveal them one by one, and award the trophy to the highest-voted soloist. The host would dub that player "Austin's Next Top Improviser" for the night.

Finally, the winner would get the privilege of playing the hero in a directed mini-longform show in the genre of their choosing with the whole cast supporting them.


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