Longform style of theatrical improv, created by Del Close, which weaves together different stories around a theme.
At a time when most improvisation mainly focused on creating single scenes, Del devised the Harold as something not unlike a sonata form. Several themes would be established, a community of characters would be introduced, and then the resulting scenes would play off each other in comedic counterpoint - characters from one environment moving to another and phrases and images recurring, each time accruing new meaning. Going to this from conventional sketches was like going from arithmetic to calculus. (Source: http://www.improvolymp.com)

A basic formula to create a harold is:

  1. monologues or verbal riffing on the theme.
  2. Story A, scene 1
  3. Story B, scene 1
  4. Story C, scene 1
  5. Improv game
  6. Story A, scene 2
  7. Story B, scene 2
  8. Story C, scene 2
  9. Improv game
  10. Story A, scene 3
  11. Story B, scene 3
  12. Story C, scene 3, which incorporates the stories of A and B, if it hasn't already.
You'd be nuts to try this without at least 6 actors.

The above formula is a training structure (popular in Chicago in the late 1980s). Improvisers who perform the Harold insist it has no predetermined structure-- that the form will evolve from its own content, usually instigated from a single suggestion, and with any number of methods to seed the show (monologues, riffing, free association) in its opening minutes. Thus, depending on who you learn the Harold from, you'll have a different explanation of it.

Apocryphally named after Second City alum Harold Ramis.

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