An improv troupe in the UK is calling for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to include improv shows when judging the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award. Producers for the award have said that improv is too difficult to judge because it is “impossible to compare performances seen on different nights with the amount of dependency on the audience.” But on comedy site Chortle, British troupe The Noise Next Door have argued that good improvisers are in control of their shows and that “the quality of the comedy is down to the performers and that quality is entirely comparable.”
The five-man group claims that “the days of Whose Line Is It Anyway? rips-offs are fast disappearing, with various troupes and performers pushing the boundaries of improv and taking it to new levels,” and that the festival is ignoring a genre growing in popularity in the UK.
The Edinburgh rules state that eligible shows “must be stand-up, character comedy, sketch/revue, comedy musical or cabaret.” Winners have varied; the first prize went to the sketch group Cambridge Footlights in 1981, a team that included Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Emma Watson. Since then, winners have ranged from one-line king Demetri Martin to a character piece from Steve Coogan to the in-your-face standup of Australian Brendon Burns. And two recent winners, 2011’s Adam Riches and 2012’s clowning Doctor Brown, have relied heavily on audience participation. Shows do not need to apply for the award; according to the site’s eligibility requirements, “all shows listed in the Comedy and Cabaret section of the official Edinburgh Festival Fringe Guide are automatically seen.”