Court jesters, traveling minstrels... they remind us that Improv is as old as time. Modern Improvisational Theater Games evolved in the 1950's and are largely credited to a handful of pioneers; Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, David Shepard and Paul Sills, to name a few. These folks were keen to refresh and re-energise the tired traditional approaches to dramatic theater.
The games they created centered on spontaneity, collaboration, and invited audiences to contribute and push the actors to hone their muscles, their instincts, to make something of anything. The games became so popular that the "rehearsals" themselves were attended as shows.
The popularity has grown, largely spearheaded by the legendary Second City Theater based in Chicago, which provided many players for the long running U.S. Television show Saturday Night Live.
It's the funny focus of Improv that is found on popular TV, such as Whose Line is it Anyway, AssCat, and the dutch De Llamas. Improv embraces a spectrum of styles, short-form, long-form, and poignant scenes as well.
Fast forward and we find Improv is increasingly recognised for the benefits it offers, by various schools of thought; the business sector, the scientific community, academia, across the social sciences, and more.