Fuzzy's Games List
last modified: 21-June-01
I'm much less involved in short form improv that I was in past, so I haven't added much of anything to this list in a long time. You'd probably be better off checking out one of the many fine games lists linked to on the Games Lists page of the New Improv Page.
If you're still here, well, here's my improv games list. Rather than go for quality, I've gone for quantity. I've just roughly HTMLized my personal games list. Therefore, many of the games don't have descriptions because I remember what they are. If you're curious what a certain game is all about, please e-mail me and I'll add a description for that game. Also, please e-mail me if you have any comments, praise, or offers of cash.
If you have a favorite game that you don't see here (and you'd like to share), please submit it to the list.
I like to organise my games by rough categories. Of course, there are games that don't quite fit or that belong in one category or another, but that's life. The categories I use are:
- Controlled Scene
- Games where an off-stage director (or the audience) controls some aspect of the scene throughout the game.
- Games where the entire audience participates in the game as actors.
- Game Shows
- Games modeled after TV game shows.
- Games that involve one player interviewing another, as though on a TV talk show.
- Games that have some basis in literature.
- Games that last a half hour or more. May involve other games as parts.
- Games even less classifiable than the rest.
- Games that involve a swirl of (un)related images and scene-lets.
- Games that involve musical performance.
- Games where one or more players do not know what the audience has suggested.
- Games where the goal is simply to quickly produce a series of one line jokes.
- Games where the players are restricted in some fundamental way.
- Scene Replay
- Games where a scene is created and then replay with some sort of variation.
- Styled Scene
- Scenes that are created mimicing a certain style.
- Games that involve letting off steam by some sort of rant.
- Games that I find useful to warm up the creative mind.
- Games where a scene or narrative is constructed by players saying one word each in series.
- Games that we don't perform, but that we use in rehearsal or when teaching improv workshops.
- Avante-Garde Musical
- Players begin a scene. At anytime a director can call out 'stop' and then ask for (or choose) a musical style. The player must then sing a song in that musical style, starting with the last line they spoke before the 'stop'. The scene continues after the song, until another 'stop' is called.
- Changing Emotions
- Two lists of emotions are elicited from audience and written down by two troupe members. Two players begin a scene and the people with the lists call out emotions at intervals. Player who corresponds to caller must change to emotion called out.
- Changing Genres
- Like Changing Emotions, but genres instead of emotions.
- Changing Mall
- A list of imaginary stores is collected from the audience. Two actors begin a store clerk/customer scene. At various times, the name of one of the stores is shouted out by a conductor and the store changes to that store.
- Comic Panel
- An unfunny comic strip from the day's paper is discussed. Actors act out various interpretations and variations on the comic, based on the panel's suggestions and directions.
- Dimestore Novel
- Film Noir
- Two actors improvise a scene where each speaks a line of dialog and then does a small voice-over/narration that shapes the action. E.g. '(to other actor) Hello, how are you? (to audience) I couldn't help but notice the way my cheerful greeting sent him into a state of shock.'
- Film Strip
- Remember those slide-and-cassette presentations in high school? Much like Slide Show, only instead of vacation slides, you're presenting an educational film strip. Let's you say 'When you hear this tone -- beeep -- it's time to advance the film strip.'
- Foreign Movie
- Country and two foreign movie titles are elicited from audience. Scene will be movie from that country. Two players on stage act out movie and speak in gibberish. Their gibberish is 'translated' by two other players. Both actors and dubbers need to feed and respond.
- Foreign Opera
- Much like Foreign Folk Song, a Foreign Opera has only one translator, who may narrate not just the lines sung, but also the general action.
- Good Things/Bad Things
- Alternately good and bad things happen to the players.
We got on a rollercoaster...
and it flew off the tracks...
and flew away on magical wings...
to the land of leaky toliets... etc. etc.
Can be narrated by the actors or by a narrator.
- Players establish a scene and then at intervals hesitate in the middle of a sentence and audience should shout out suggestions to fill in the blank. Players then continue the scene, trying to incorporate and justify suggestion.
- Hesitation Debate
- Hesitation Speech
- Political candidate giving speak on topic suggested by audience. At intervals, hesitates and word or phrase is suggested by 'handler' sitting at candidate's side. Handler needs to be very deadpan and freeform with suggestions.
- Movie Guys
- Two movie guys are reviewing a movie whose title is suggested by audience. After describing (arguing) about a portion of the movie, they 'go to the clip' which is acted out by the rest of the players. The clip should be fairly short, and then the movie guys talk some more, and back to the clip, etc. for a few times. Movie guys need to give a framework to movie, but not describe it so completely that actors are so busy acting out what has been described that they have no time to add any details or advance the plot. Actors should take framework given by movie guys and advance plot a step beyond it.
- Moving Bodies
- Speaking players in the scene cannot move their own bodies - other players are movers who move them around. Works good if movers are audience volunteers. 3 bodies and 2 movers works good. A good starter is celebrity in non-geographical location.
- A 'playwright' is writing a play. She directs the other players as they act this work in progress. She can also re-write sections as the play goes on. 'OK, let's go back where Cleopatra comes in, but this time she starts off by singing a song.'
- Scenes from a Hat
- Before this game is played, the audience writes short scene ideas ('a body guard convention', 'jugglers on fire', 'short-lived children's games') on pieces of paper, which are put into a hat. The players gather near the stage and the controller calls out a scene idea. Whoever is inspired gets on stage and quickly interprets the scene. Once the essence of the scene is apparent, the controller calls 'stop' and then yells another idea. Lather, rinse, repeat. This game is almost invariably 'jokey'.
- Silence & Sound
- Get a catastrophe. Players begin to act out a a scene based around that catastrophe happening. A controller alternatively calls out 'silence' and 'sound' - when silence is called, the players act out the scene silently and then resume sound when sound is called.
- Slice of Life
- A player is given a bizarre affliction ('guy who can't look at the person he's talking to'). Scenes are then played out, looking at three stages of that person's life 1. Youth and rejection by society. 2. Later attempts to be accepted, with more rejection. 3. Final vindication, with the affliction turning out to be an asset.
- Slide Show
- Slow Motion
- Scene is slow motion replay of athletic contest between two players as athletes with comentary by two players as sports announcers. It helps to clue the audience in by saying something like 'Here's the last match of <sport> from earlier this afternoon. It was so exciting, we're going to watch the whole thing in slow motion replay.' Sport is audience suggested <noun>-<verb>ing. Athletes move really slowly and are silent. Sportscasters describe their movements and can feed. Really easy to degenerate into violence.
- The actors must change the mood of the scene to match the mood of the accompianist's music.
- Time Machine
- Two players begin acting out scene. At some point, MC stops it and brings two other players onto stage to begin acting as the same two people at some earlier time (hours, days, years, whatever) . When that scene ends, or stopped by MC, two more players do the characters in future.
- Trigger Word
- Four or five players are each given a simple 'trigger' word by the audience. The game starts with one player on stage. When a player's trigger word is spoken, they must enter or exit the stage, justifying their movement.
- What are you Thinking?
- Each player has an offstage voice that speaks their thoughts aloud. (cf. Soap Opera, only the 'thoughts' can speak whenever they want.) It's important to watch the give-and-take between onstage and offstage speaking and actions.
- What could possibly go wrong now?
- Players begin by building a scene (perhaps with a suggestion of a goal from
the audience). A director freezes the action occasionally and asks the
audience "What (else) could possibly go wrong now?" Whatever disaster the audience responds with happens to the players.
- Video Review
- Combines Movie Guys and VCR - two guys reviewing a video and when they want to look back at something, they 'rewind'. When they want to go onto the next scene, they 'fast-forward'.
- The Opening
- We got this one from Michael of the Electric Pickle Players. The event is set as an art opening. The space is prepared with 'art', reception food, guest book, etc. Players prepare characters like The Artist, The Security Guard, The Critic, The Gallery Director, The Artist's Ex-Boy/Girlfriend, etc. and work out basic relationships. Finally, as each audience member arrives, they are handed a piece of paper with an action on it like 'kiss someone', 'break something', etc. The audience members play people attending the art opening. (It's their job to mingle and stare at the art occasionally). The players try to progress the evening as their characters and relationships would dictate, but audience members keep throwing monkey-wrenches into the whole mess by handing players their action slips. (The player then has to perform the action and work it into the events of the evening). (The basic format could, of course, be used with types of events.)
- Dating Game
- $5 Rhombus
- A parody of '$25,000 Pyramid.' 20 random words (4 sets of 5) are suggested by audience and written by on a large piece of a paper. Two teams of two then take turns trying to guess sets of words. The partner who knows the words, trys to get the other person to say them without saying the word itself.
- Good Advice, Bad Advice, Worst Advice
- Man on the Street
- Interviewer interviewing man on the street. M.O.T.S. fills in hesitations with suggestions from audience. e.g. 'I'm sick and tired of all those, uh, uh....'
- Press Conference
- Audience-selected celebrity or representative of organization, etc. is interviewed by reporters from preselected magazine. Reporters ask questions appropriate to their magazine. Magazine examples: Soap Opera News, Popular Mechanics, Boys' Life.
- What will they think of next?
- An interview show about inventors and their inventions. Traditionally (please break traditions!) we get suggestions of foreign country - noun - verb and then "Our next inventor is from Country and is the inventor of the Noun Verber". Our tag line to get the inventor off stage and move on to a new inventor is "What will they think of next?"
- Voices in my head
- An interview game where the voices of the two actors miming the interview are supplied by two other actors.
Sounds Effects Story
Audience suggests elements to be included in story. Best with stock story-line like detective story. Audience provides sound effects. Usually one of characters narrates in first-person so as provide lines like 'Then it began to rain...' 'I slammed the door...' etc.
Shaun Himmerick, a former Crazy Monkey, has written an overview of long-form forms he knows and loves. It's much better than my descriptions, so I'm just linking to it.
- Audience Dialogue
- This one has dozens of forms in different troupes. You get the audience to write down lines of dialog - advertising slogans, lines from movies, from songs, etc. (We often have the audience do this before the show or during intermission). Then you scatter the lines around the stage and during the scene players can stoop and grab a line every now and then. All lines need to be justified in the scene.
Lately we've been writing the lines ourselves by using lines from movies.
- Emotional Symphony
- The audience suggests various emotions. Players take on those emotions as their 'instruments'. It's best to 'play' emotions without actual sentences. A director directs the Emotional Symphony.
- Five Things
- Flash Back
- see also History
- Foreign Folk Song
- A player sings a folk song in gibberish. Another player translates, line by line.
- Happy Ads
- A game with its own page.
- Panel of 4 or so 'experts' talk about the history of an audience-selected object. One panelist begins explaining its history, and when MC claps hands, next panelist picks up explaination in mid-sentence. Keep history moving forward. Only go through panel 3 or 4 times. MC ends game by clapping three times. Panelists say in unison 'And that's the history of _______'
- Paired Sound Effects
- Wild Sex on Stage
- WSOS is a tiny little gag. Sometimes, with an appropriate (inappropriate?)
auidence, when we are setting up an game where we use audience volunteers
(Chain Murder, etc.) when we have gotten the audience member up on stage,
we announce that the next game is "Wild Sex on Stage". That's it. The whole
joke. It's only that funny, and no more.
- Yellow Pages
- OK. There are 3 people in the world who like Yellow Pages and none of them are in Crazy Monkeys. That said, some players are going on errands. They ask for a random number that will be a page number in the yellow pages (so it's going to be different depending on your yellow pages, see). So their next errand is a visit to [one of the firms listed on that random page]. The other players are that firm. We usually do three or fours errands. The reason we hate Yellow Pages is that the joke usually ends up being a misunderstanding/pun. Like, our errand is to go "Star Grooming" (under Pet Grooming in the YPs) and the joke is that they actually groom STARS there. Big glowing balls of gas. Yuk Yuk.
- Channel Surfing
- Cocktail Party
- Several different conversations at a cocktail party come in and out of focus.
- Spoon River Anthology
- A group of actors tell a story ('something that would change a small town forever') through intertwined monologues.
- TV Show
- Different TV shows talking about same topic - person remote controls.
- Blues, the
- Doo Wop
- The Doo Wop is often used in Chicago long-form improv as an overture/theme generator. One actor begins singing a short musical phrase. Others join in one by one until the entire troupe is singing along. An accompanist may provide some structure. Once the musical base of the Do Wop is set, actors step forward and do verses or monologues on the suggested theme.
- Irish Drinking Song
- Waving your (mimed) beer in the air, and using your best fake Irish accents, players sing successive lines of the Irish Drinking Song. Usually uses an AABB ryhming structure.
- Musical Chairs
- An object is suggested by the audience, and then a game of musical chairs is played. When a player is out, they must get a suggestion of a musical style from the audience and then sing a song in that musical style about the object.
- Musical Torture
- Actors do a normal scene. Whenever the accompianist wants, they can start to play and the actors must sing their lines (in the style of the music).
- Record Promo
- One actor is the singer of a greatest hits collection. They sing a song and a conductor tells them 'hit', upon which they must begin to sing a new song about the word they were saying when 'hit' occurred.
- Chain Murder
- Complaint Department
- Naive customer trying to return audience-selected object to complaint departtment at store. Ends when customer guesses what object is. Works best if customer makes assumptions about object rather than trying '20 questions' style guessing.
- Mystery Date
- Uhh. I forget. Based on the name, I'd guess it would some sort of endowment game and then you have a blind date. Oh wait, I remember. Maybe. I think it's just a naive game where you're going on a date with a famous person and then you have to figure out who it is. Maybe. Make it up yourself.
- Naive Expert
- Naive Party Host
- Naive Bartender
- Naive Bus Driver
- Naive Hitchhiker
- Naive Skydiving Instructor
- Naive Therapist
- Secrets is a triangle of naiveness. Three actors do a scene where each knows a secret about one of the others.
- What are You Doing? (Guessing Phrases)
- 4 commonish actions are gotten from audience (riding horse, making pizza) and then embellished (..with Madonna, ...using pop tarts instead of pepperoni). Naive player comes back and rest of players try to commincate a phrase at a time, without actually doing the actions and using only gibberish. MC calls out when Naive player might have it 'Hey, What are you doing?' In ComedySportz(tm) points are given for each correct answer.
- Top Ten
- Prepare by getting audience members to write nouns (including specific places, people, etc.) on slips
of paper. One player sits at a table with a soup bowl full of the slips of
paper. The other players line up. The "customer" pulls a slip of paper out
of the bowl and says "Waiter, I've got a (noun) in my soup." Someone steps
out of the line and utters a witty one-liner response. Repeat until out of
paper or booed off stage.
- World's Worst
- Get suggestion of occupation, social situation, etc. Players line up then step out with the worst thing to say or do in that situation.
- Actor's Nightmare
- One player reads from a script, reading one character's lines. Another actor improvises around that reading. It's a cop-out to just have the reader be crazy or on drugs.
- Construct comedy by constraining your comments to consecutive alliterative lines.
- The actors do a scene backwards and then replay it forwards. Can also be done as a controlled scene (ala VCR). Questions are deadly!
- Bucket Game
- Three actors do a scene. On stage is a bucket of water. One of the actors sticks their head into the bucket. The other two do a scene. When the person in the bucket is running out of air, they hold up their hand. One of the two active actors must find a reason to leave the scene and tag the bucket actor out of the bucket and into the scene. They then stick their head in the bucket and the cycle repeats until the scene ends. Don't forget to justify your wet head.
- Three actors each get a different consonant. They then improvise a scene where they replace the first letter of each word they say with their assigned consonant.
- Death in 30 seconds
- Actor gets some suggestion from audience and then makes a scene around that sugestion that ends within 30 seconds with his/her death.
- Don't make me laugh
- A scene is built around a very serious topic (death, illness, etc.) Any player who laughs must leave and have his place taken by another player.
- Empty Dialog
- Actors given 6 to 8 pre-written lines of vague and non-committal dialog and try to make it a definite scene with distinct characters. Example dialog:
Did you bring it?
Of course I did.
Nothing I couldn't handle.
I wouldn't want anything to go wrong.
Everything will be fine.
- Fiendish Torture
- Two teams of two players. Each player has a bizarre physical motion and/or song etc (think of weird dept. store in Monty Python) which is 'triggered' by an action from the other team. Players attempt to make a scene. Extra restriction: a trigger cannot be given until a line has been said (to give the scene a chance at advancing)
- Letter Replacement
- Two actors create a short scene. Each has a letter that they cannot say that is replaced by a letter suggested by the audience. e.g. must substitute 'f' for 'b' 'Are you enjoying the farfeque? Would you like a furger or some fred and futter?'
- Mousetrap Game
- Mousetraps (NOT rattraps) are placed randomly on stage. Two players are blindfolded and perform a scene. Don't forget to justify your yelps of pain!
- N Words
- Audience gives N: 2<=N<=6 and suggestion. Actors make a scene where every line of dialog is exactly N words long.
- One Word
- You sick bastard
- Similar to 'Don't make me laugh' except it is audience laughter that forces a player off stage. If you want, when an audience member forces you off stage by laughing at your treatment of this very serious issue, you can turn to them and exclaim 'You sick bastard!'
- A scene is played out in 1.5 minutes by two players. A second team replays the scene in 1 minute. The first team replays it in 45 seconds. And so on down to 5 seconds.
- Musical Styles
- Character Endowments
- Generically, any game where the characters are shaped by audience suggestions out a category. The most common variation is Animals, where each player gets a suggestion of an animal from the audience and lets that shape their actions. A player who had 'elephant' would not act like an elephant, but instead as a elephant-like person (subtle, no?). Variations: political causes, appliances.
- Dr. Suess
- A scene is improvised in the style of Dr. Suess. Lots and lots of rhythmic rhyming. And when you're stuck for a rhyme, just use a nonsense word.
- Old Job/New Job
- All of the characters in a scene have the same job, but one of them has a previous occupation that affects the way he acts.
- Pregnant Pause
- Pregnant Pause is a game of anticipation and tension. People want to say interesting things... Something dramatic is about to happen... If done right, everyone is on the edge of their seats the whole time (if done wrong, it's very boring).
- Soap Opera
- Super Hero
- The audience gives a bizarre name for a super hero. That super hero is then on watch in the hall of justice. Another player walks on stage and the first player names him. They interact and more players come on, each being named in turn by the player who came on before them.
- Star Trek
- A real loser of a game that we only left on the list to appease one member
of the troupe. We tried to do improvisational scenes where we made fun of
the old Star Trek ("give us two objects and a color" "potato, fly swatters,
green" "OK, in this week's episode, the Enterprise travels to a world of
ancient, intelligent, incredibly powerful fly swatters and Captain Kirk
gets to make out with a beautiful green woman with a potato on her head.")
But you know what, it just wasn't that funny. Feel free to give it a try,
- Stunt Doubles
- Tragedy Troupe
- You improvise a tragedy. It shouldn't be funny. Not a bit.
- Wild Kingdom
- Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Marlin Perkins narrates while Jim nearly gets killed by some exotic beast.
- Wonder Twins
- A game based on the characters of the Wonder Twins from the classic
Saturday morning cartoon "The SuperFriends". Get suggestions of two
categories ("appliances, reptiles") and two nouns. The villians of the
piece are then Captain (Noun1) and his henchman, (Noun2) Boy. The Wonder
Twins have the ability to transform into anything within their category
("Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE!" "Shape of a blender" "Form of a iguana").
The villians are trying to take over the world with an evil plan based on
_their_ powers (Captain Pumpkin plans to steal all of the world's pumpkins
and ruin Holloween, for example). They are foiled by the Wonder Twins.
- Mad as Hell
- Pet Peeve Rant
- A line of actors is conducted to rant about Pet Peeves. Can rant about a variety of topics and converge, or rant about aspects of a single topic, or just rant. Can be used as a long-form overture.
- Freeze Tag
- Object Freeze
- A player or two are handed an object. They do a short scenelet using the object as something it is not, but that its shape suggests. Another player freezes them and jumps in to use the object as something else entirely. And so on...
- Space Jump
- What Are You Doing?
- Slow Genius
- Three players are seated on stage and are asked 'imponderable' questions. They answer together, trying to all say the same thing at the same time.
- Professor Know-it-all
- Three players form a single brain and answer questions from the audience by speaking one word each in turn. 'What is the meaning of life?' 'LIFE - is - Like- A - big - Balloon - MADE - of - Cheese.'
- Siamese Twins
- Spelling Bee
3 players are the 'all-knowing, all-seeing' Sphinx and answer 'imponderable' questions one word at a time. (Questions like 'What is the meaning of life?' and 'How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll tootsie-pop?')
- Two person, active story
- Two actors create a word-at-a-time story that they similtaneously act out. Simple sentence structure helps. Can end with 'the-moral-of-the-story-is...'
- Faceless Acting
- Give and Take (focus)
Give and Take is an exercise where one, and only one, person on stage has the complete focus at any time. The person who has the focus moves and/or talks (nonsense is fine) and everyone else is frozen. That person can give focus to another player by looking or gesturing at them and then freezing. Or another player can take the focus by moving and/or speaking. The person who has had their focus taken should instantly freeze.
- Group Activity
- One player begins miming an action. As other players figure out what the action is, they enter the space and begin miming actions related to the first player. Players can interact. Eventually, everyone is involved in the same sort of activity.
- Mirror, Mirror
- Two players face each other and try to mirror the movements of the other. Try passing control back and forth. Try getting so seamless that somebody else can't tell who is controling. Try achieving mind-meld so that you don't know who's controling.
- Outta That Chair
- A chair is placed center stage. A player sits in it. Another player comes up and tries to get the seated player to leave. Every offer must be accepted! (Though if you can accept an offer, but still stay in the chair, that's fine.) If you block while sitting in the chair, you're gone. If you block while you're standing, you lose your turn. You can set a time limit and who ever is left in the chair at the end is the winner.
- Passing Imaginary Object
- Talk Show
- Three people in a panel, on a talk show. Each one can only talk after the person on their left.
- Truth or Lie
- A very simple exercise: someone makes a statement and other people have to decide if it's the truth or a lie. To make it harder, the other people can ask questions.
- Unwritten Scene
- Useful for actors using improv to prepare for real play. Actors act in character a scene that is not actually in play.
- Yes and...
- A pure game of all accepting. One player makes and offer. The other player enthusiastically agrees and adds to the offer with another one. 'I'm a walrus.' 'Yes, and what beautiful tusks you have.' 'Yes, and this liferaft is very cosy.' ...
Thanks to Gregg, and many others for prodding me into adding to this games list.
Maintained by Fuzzy, firstname.lastname@example.org