Improvisational shows/theatre/series, Self or acting?

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Hi.

What's IMDb policy when it comes to improvisational theatre ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisational_theatre ), or television series and stage shows that are basically using the same (or very similar) concept? Are the actors "acting", or being "themselves"? I believe now many are actually in the "Self" category.

Over the years there have been TV series where the actors are improvising on stage, often in front of the live audience. They follow certain scenarios by the host or maybe the panel of judges, maybe take some "orders" from the audience etc. This often means they're first being "themselves" (=Self) on the stage, but then start to improvise (=acting). So it's a combination of both, I guess. But I believe it's a bit difficult to add credits like "Self/Various Characters" to the Character field?

So, is it "Self", or acting?

( One example could be "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" from the UK. At least with that series, all actors are added as "Self": https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094580/

"Whose Line? consists of a panel of four performers who create characters, scenes or songs on the spot in the style of short-form improvisation games, based on topics either prompted from audience suggestions or predetermined by the host." )




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Eboy

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Posted 4 months ago

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Elizabeth, Employee

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Hi eboy, thanks for reaching out with this. Please read our submission guide on self credits and let us know if you have any follow up questions. 
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Eboy

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All do respect, but my question is in the original post. I can’t find any definitive answer from the guide, but perhaps it’s me.
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gromit82, Champion

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Eboy: What happens if you try to submit "Self/Various Characters" to the Character field as you suggested?
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Eboy

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Gromit, I just tried adding "Self/Various Characters" to the character field and it wasn't rejected outright by the system. So I assume it's possible. But would it be then added to the "Self" section of filmography?

But the way I see it, the main question still remains. It seems that the series based on actor improvisations have been previously associated with "Self" credits, so perhaps this is a bit like with stand-up comedy (the person is not "acting" all the time like it would be the case with fiction).

But sometimes there's a fine line between "Self" and acting. With some series, the person can improvise mainly by him/herself or maybe with someone else, but with some series there's a group of people (actors) and soon it becomes a "sketch". There are also series where there are both: live improvisations on stage, and pre-recorded comedy sketches (that are definitely "acting", if you ask me). There also might be rehearsed sketches (so there's no real improvisation) that are done, even if it's a live show.
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Adrian, Champion

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Aren't they play fictionalized versions of themselves? Should Self only be used for documentaries and talk shows and the like?
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Peter, Champion

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There are other genres where self appearances are common, such as news, game shows, reality shows, award shows.

But I think it's probably a good thing that 'Self' character names can be applied based on the specific performance and not just the type of title.
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Adrian, Champion

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True, but they all fall along the same idea where they aren't acting. Improv is acting and really shouldn't be considered a self appearance, in my opinion, though there are some combo genres that may warrant it, like Who's Line is It Anyway which is an improv game show.
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gromit82, Champion

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Eboy: I don't think we can set a fixed rule for every situation, because not all improv shows may work the same way.

But it seems to me that for a show such as Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie are indeed appearing as themselves during the portions of the show where they are sitting on stage and the host explains to them what game they are to play. Then they go into their "various characters", and at the end of each game they go back to appearing as themselves. (I'm watching an episode as I write this message.)

So in that case, I would support listing them as playing "Self/Various Characters". Yes, that would mean that they have their appearances listed in the Self section of their pages, but in this case I don't see a problem with that. Anyway, that's my opinion.

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Adrian, Champion

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I disagree. Are Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie appearing as themselves? Not really. They are embodied improv characters and should be listed as "Various Characters" with no self reference.

Who's Line Is It Anyway may be a weird case because it is a cross of game show and improv. I still support "Self" only for documentary or talk shows. Anything else is fiction, even if we don't have character names. (Honestly, what is the difference between what Who's Line Is It Anyway that is improv and Portlandia where it is scripted but the vignettes end up basically the same.)
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Eboy

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I know that these issues can be tricky, but would it be possible to get some ”official” comments from IMDb staff? I’m kinda in a limbo situation with a few series at the moment. They’re (almost) ready to be submitted, but not fully sure what to do with actors (Self vs ”Various Characters”).

Thank you.
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Eboy

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Thread bumps are not my style at all, but in this case I feel I have no choice. If this doesn't work, I simply have to use my own decision and move on. It's just pretty tricky to correct several Cast members later on, especially with a TV series without any episodes. I can live with any decision, Self or "acting".

Thanks again.


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Eboy

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One note. In the late night talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Conan (where the hosts are sometimes ”acting” in some of the comedy sketches), the credits are often added like (for example):

”Self - Host / Jimmy the Talking Chimp”
(Meaning, that in this episode Kimmel is hosting and also playing the character ”Jimmy the Talking Chimp” in some sketch. At least I assume that he is. )

This will make the credit to (only) appear in the Self section of the filmography, but at least both are listed then. So maybe the ”Self/Additonal Characters” approach is something to consider (it doesn’t change the fact that the credit won’t appear in the Cast department, though).