Unusually for a nation that embraces innovation, improvisation seems to have always been something of a foreign import in the UK. The ideas of Russian Stanislavski and Frenchman Copeau have slowly permeated our acting schools, but it took the Lecoq and Gaulier schools and the TV series Whose Line Is It Anyway? to push improv into a more general awareness.
Though developed in Britain by BBC Radio and Channel 4, Whose Line Is It Anyway? took much of its inspiration from North America, based on theatre sports developed by British director Keith Johnstone in Calgary during the 1970s, as well as the improv comedy of the Second City in Toronto and Chicago, which provided two major faces for the series, Canadians Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.
While the Second City started out in 1959 as a comedy improvisation troupe, in the last couple of decades it has grown into a network of teaching schools and programmes offering courses and performance opportunities across the range.