- Improvised scenes in sitcoms often become iconic and more memorable than expected.
- Actors often add their own spin to their characters through improvisation, leading to better success for the show.
- Improvisation allows for genuine reactions and unexpected moments that add to the comedy and depth of the scene.
While it’s common to see scenes that were created by actors on the spot, some hilarious improvised moments in sitcoms ended up becoming iconic for their respective shows. While TV has generally been harder to improvise as there’s a need to stick to a tight run time, some stars have still been able to act off the cuff and do whatever feels natural and funny. This premise even led to the concept of Murderville, which doesn’t use a script at all and sees a new celebrity guest with each episode having to improvise their way through an entire episode.
It’s natural for some of the best sitcoms of all time to have some improvised scenes. With comedic actors, it makes sense that they would want to add their own spin to their character, especially if their improv means more screen time and a better success for the show. However, these improvised scenes in sitcoms end up becoming even more memorable than anyone could expect.
10 Michael and Oscar’s Kiss
The Office – Season 3, Episode 1
- Release Date
- March 24, 2005
- Mindy Kaling , Jenna Fischer , Kate Flannery , Ed Helms , Craig Robinson , Paul Lieberstein , Ellie Kemper , B.J. Novak , Angela Kinsey , Oscar Nunez , Rainn Wilson , Brian Baumgartner , Phyllis Smith , Leslie David Baker , Creed Bratton , Steve Carell , John Krasinski
One of the best improvised moments from The Office actually ended up becoming a subplot during season 3. In the episode “Gay Witch Hunt,” Oscar (Nunez) is outed by Michael (Steve Carell) to the entire office. Of course, in typical Michael style, he feels the need to call a meeting to address the situation.
In order to appear accepting and not homophobic, he forces a kiss upon Oscar. While this is cringeworthy on a number of levels, it’s in character for Michael. Oscar may have still ended up managing to wrangle a three-month holiday in exchange for Michael’s insensitivity, and the kiss made it even more plausible. The rest of the cast’s reactions to Michael and Oscar’s kiss were also genuine at the moment, and if audiences look closely, it can be seen that some even broke character.
9 Network Connectivity Problems
Parks And Recreation – Season 3, Episode 2
Parks and Recreation
- Release Date
- April 9, 2009
- Amy Poehler , Nick Offerman , Chris Pratt2 , Aubrey Plaza , Adam Scott , Rashida Jones , Retta , Jim O’Heir , Aziz Ansari , Rob Lowe
Parks and Recreation had some brilliant improvised scenes, and one of its best comes from the season 3 episode “Flu Season.” What is considered one of Andy’s funniest lines in Parks and Recreation, which proves why the show was right to bump Chris Pratt up to a permanent character, is just simple and brilliant. To try and help Leslie (Amy Poehler) work out why she is feeling unwell, he uses a computer to search up her symptoms, and misinterprets the results. Not realizing that the computer isn’t connected to the internet, he tells Leslie that she may have “Network connectivity problems.“
8 Abed’s Nicolas Cage Impression
- Release Date
- September 17, 2009
The ever-so-meta show Community saw one brilliant episode, “Introduction to Teaching,” in which Abed actor Danny Pudi demonstrated his acting prowess. After studying the movies of Nicolas Cage in great detail, he struggled to conclude whether or not Cage was a good actor. While presenting his findings, he descended into madness, and Pudi broke out an improvised, near-perfect impression of Cage.
While the impression was roughly planned, what Pudi actually said as Cage was completely ad-libbed. What ended up in the final cut became even more dramatic and expressive than what was expected. Abed’s movie references were frequent in Community, but this moment really showed how complex the character truly was and just how much mainstream media was burned into his mind.
7 Robin Williams And Billy Crystal’s Cameo
Friends – Season 3, Episode 24
Friends is the popular sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, released back in 1994 and ran for ten seasons. The show follows a group of six twentysomethings through their lives in New York City and their time spent between their two apartments and their local coffee shop. The show features the group navigating tricky relationships with one another and comical misadventures.
- Release Date
- September 22, 1994
The Friends cameo of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal is well remembered, but their entire scene was, unsurprisingly, completely improvised. The two appeared in a cold open in the season 3 episode “The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion,” but their appearance wasn’t actually planned. In fact, the two happened to wander onto the Friends set, where the writers asked them on a whim if they’d be interested in a quick cameo.
They agreed, and without any script, Williams and Crystal completely improvised their legendary scene. Even the likes of Matt Le Blanc (Joey) and Courteney Cox (Monica) weren’t prepared for their arrival, and had to adapt to them in the moment. While there were plenty of great improvised moments in Friends, this was easily one of their best.
6 Marshall Finding Out His Dad Died
How I Met Your Mother – Season 6, Episode 13
One of How I Met Your Mother‘s saddest moments was improvised, as Marshall (Jason Segel) found out that his father had died. Segel was only aware of Lily’s (Alyson Hannigan) final word of the scene but didn’t know the news that would be delivered to him. Because of this, his reaction to Marvin’s (Bill Fagerbakke) death was completely genuine.
Segel knew a plot twist was coming but requested from production that he be kept in the dark about it. Even though the scene is short, Segel’s performance was completely improvised, so the line “My dad’s dead? I’m not ready for this.” was also made up on the spot. Segel’s reaction proves why he is such a talented actor, having invested so much time and emotion into playing Marshall, that the character’s heartbreaking news really moved him.
5 Hot Damn!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Season 2, Episode 6
- Release Date
- September 17, 2013
- Stephanie Beatriz , Melissa Fumero , Andy Samberg , Andre Braugher , Joel McKinnon Miller , Dirk Blocker , Terry Crews , Chelsea Peretti , Joe Lo Truglio
Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s cold opens are one of the best elements of the show, providing some of the show’s funniest moments overall. One in particular, which sees the squad discussing their theories as to why Amy (Melissa Fumero) is running late, had just one improvised line that made the entire thing even funnier. While everyone had their suggestions, the only one to guess correctly was Captain Holt (Andre Braugher).
Upon demanding Amy give them an explanation, Holt lets out a great reaction to being correct, “HOT DAMN!” This isn’t the only improvised iconic quote from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but it is easily Holt’s best, and eagle-eyed viewers will be able to see other cast members breaking character in the background of this scene. It also proves why the actor is such a talented performer, and how Brooklyn Nine-Nine is easily one of Andre Braugher’s best TV shows.
4 Drunk On Snake Juice
Parks And Recreation – Season 3, Episode 13
Despite there being quite a few improvised moments in Parks and Recreation, the Snake Juice scene from “The Fight” was one of its best. Parks and Recreation uses a mockumentary style format, and after trying Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) new alcoholic drink, its cast are each seen in a talking head segment, completely and utterly intoxicated. Each of their moments was completely improvised by the cast, portraying their interpretation of being drunk. This hilarious moment allows audiences to see each of the Parks Department members from a unique angle, and even with only a few dedicated seconds on-screen, it really gives an all-round view of who their characters really are.
3 George Gets A Christmas Card From Elaine
Seinfeld – Season 4, Episode 13
- Release Date
- July 5, 1989
- Jerry Seinfeld , Julia Louis-Dreyfus , Jason Alexander , Michael Richards
Seinfeld‘s episode “The Pick” had a brilliantly improvised moment from Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus) involving a Christmas card. After realizing that she’d sent out a card to her friends and family in which she’s exposed, George (Larry David) makes a grumbling comment about not receiving one. Frustrated with the events, Elaine grabs his head and pushes it into her bosom, exclaiming “Here’s your Christmas card!“
This moment wasn’t included in the original script, but rather something that Dreyfus concocted during rehearsals, and decided to do once again when filming. Dreyfus is known for being an incredibly talented physical comedian, so it’s no surprise this moment is so well remembered in Seinfeld, especially being the only main female character and having to stand out from the pack. In fact, Dreyfus fought for more Elaine storylines in Seinfeld, and it was a good thing that she did, considering the character was a huge part of the show’s success.
2 Cam And Mitch’s Panic At Lily Locked In The Car
Modern Family – Season 1, Episode 6
- Release Date
- September 23, 2009
- Ed O’Neill , Sofia Vergara , Julie Bowen , Ty Burrell , Jesse Tyler Ferguson , Eric Stonestreet , Sarah Hyland , Ariel Winter , Nolan Gould , Rico Rodriguez
One notable scene from Modern Family saw a baby Lily accidentally locked in the car by Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet). Despite being completely safe, the two parents spiraled into a panic, concerned that their first child would be in danger. In the script, however, this scene was supposed to end with their realization and the line “Did we just lock our baby in the car?”
The final scene ended up being longer, with everything from that line onwardsbeing improvised by Ferguson and Stonestreet, including Cam’s iconic screams and threatening to break their car window with a trash can. Not only did their improv make the scene even funnier, but it also is a great example of Cam’s characterization in Modern Family, proving just how well Stonestreet understood his character.
1 Wil Wheaton In A Star Trek Uniform
The Big Bang Theory – Season 9, Episode 11
The Big Bang Theory
- Release Date
- September 24, 2007
- Kaley Cuoco , Johnny Galecki , Jim Parsons , Melissa Rauch , Mayim Bialik , Kunal Nayyar , Simon Helberg
One of The Big Bang Theory‘s best guest stars was Star Trek star Wil Wheaton, who played himself in the hit sitcom. Wil Wheaton had multiple iconic scenes across the show’s 12-season run, initially appearing as a celebrity cameo, but ended up forming friendships with each of the gang over time. The season 9 episode “The Opening Night Excitation” saw Wheaton join Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Howard (Simon Helberg), and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) at the premiere of The Force Awakens.
In what should have been a standard, normal scene, instead, Wheaton enters the cinema wearing a full Star Trek uniform. According to Wheaton, only a few of the writers were aware of this decision, and this improvisation was completely his idea. Not only was it a great moment to acknowledge the rivalry between the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, it also shows just how solid a sense of humor Wheaton has.