Start Over

start-over-improv-game

Number of players: cast

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 3 minutes

How Start Over works

Premise:

A series of microscenes, each beginning with the exact same simple physical action.

Game roles:

Starter: One improvisor performs and repeats a single, simple physical action to inspire a series of microscenes.

Improvisors: The remaining improvisers in play justify the Starter’s action to begin new microscenes—usually offering the first line of dialogue.

Host (optional): the Host calls “Start Over” to end a microscene and begin a new one. In the absence of a Host, any Player may call “Start Over” instead.

Gameplay:

Players take a suggestion from the audience. Starer then takes the stage alone, and performs a simple, repeatable physical action “”on loop.””

Starter repeats the action until another Improvisor joins them on stage to create a small scene based on that action. The scene continues until Host calls “Start Over,” at which point Improvisors leave the stage and Starter resumes the simple action. Improvisors then justify the action in an entirely new way, beginning a new scene.

Tips for playing Start Over

  • Microscenes can be as brief as a single spoken line, or can last a full minute.
  • The first line of dialogue should justify Starter’s action.
  • This is best played as a fast-paced game. The more microscenes, the better.
  • Simple actions win—keep them vague enough for Improvisors to justify in a variety of ways.
  • Starter can perform other physical actions within a microscene. (E.g., if Improvisor establishes that Starter is peeling potatoes in the kitchen, Starter can move about the kitchen and interact with other utensils—they needn’t peel potatoes for the whole exchange.)
  • Starter should perform an action that they can reliably repeat for 3 minutes.

9/10 (Nine out of Ten)

nine-out-of-ten-improv-game

Number of players: cast

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2 minutes

How 9/10 works

This is a competitive cast game that can be played as either winner-takes-all (for groups <6) or as teams (for groups 6+)

Premise:

The cast is given one minute of speaking time to present their arguments on a given subject. The catch: only one improvisor may speak at a time. Improvisors compete to be the improvisor speaking when the clock reaches zero.

Gameplay:

Host takes a suggestion from the audience for a subject of debate. One improvisor is selected to stand downstage “in the box,” to deliver an argument about that subject. Host begins a one-minute countdown, and the Speaker begins.

AT ANY TIME, the other improvisors may yell, “CHALLENGE!” When this happens, Host stops the clock, and gives the Challenger an opportunity to explain why the Speaker’s argument is invalid. If the Host rejects the challenge, the Speaker may continue and the countdown resumes.

If the Host accepts the challenge, the Challenger takes the box, becoming the new Speaker, and the old Speaker rejoins the rest of the cast to await an opportunity to challenge a future Speaker.

When the clock reaches zero, the game is over, and the improvisor or team represented in the box wins.

Tips for playing 9/10

  • This game is great for opening or closing a show.
  • Allow the first Speaker time to develop a line of thought before challenging them. Giving them 7–10 seconds to speak before challenging them makes it much easier for the audience to understand the game.
  • At the beginning, keep challenges realistic. Point out errors, caveats, or biases in the Speaker’s argument.
  • As the game progresses, challenges may become more zany. You may challenge the Speaker’s grammar, character, or even make up entirely untrue counterarguments.
  • Host can accept or reject challenges arbitrarily.
  • The game is enhanced when Host justifies every acceptance or rejection immediately.
  • This game relies on frantic pacing—there is no forgiveness for hesitation in this game.

Good Advice / Bad Advice

good advice bad advice improv game

Number of players: 4

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2–3 minutes

How Good Advice / Bad Advice works

Premise:

A daytime TV show in which a panel of three experts answer the studio audience’s most difficult questions.

Roles:

Host—One improvisor gets (and vets) questions from the audience.

Experts—Three improvisors take turns answering questions, usually sitting in a line.

Gameplay:

Host introduces the show, and allows each Expert to introduce themselves. Each Expert should be a specific character—the improvisor should sustain and build on this character as the game progresses.

Then the game moves to a round of questions. The Host gathers questions from the audience and presents a single question to the panel. Each Expert improvises an answer to the question. Gameplay usually concludes after 3–4 questions.

Variations of Good Advice / Bad Advice

  1. Put an audience volunteer in the center of panel.
  2. Choose a topic (relationships, home improvement, etc.) for questions to center on.

Tips for playing Good Advice / Bad Advice

  • Designate “good advice,” “bizarre advice,” “bad advice” seats on the panel. This helps maintain some believability in the game. The natural inclination is to give “funny” bad advice—but having one person designated to lead with good advice makes the game feel more grounded.
  • Give your advice from the character’s perspective.
  • Position your strongest improvisors on the ends of the panel—the middle space is a great spot for someone new to the game to learn.
  • Host should not be afraid to call the game before the question has made it through the entire panel. If the game-ending line is delivered by the person in the middle of the panel, call the game.
  • Host should repeat audience’s questions (so the audience and Experts know what question the Experts are answering)

Competitive Wheres

competitive-wheres-improv-game

Number of players: cast

Length: 2–3 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Game description: Ask for a non-geographic location from the audience. Divide the cast into teams. One member steps forward from each team and faces off with each other, alternating naming objects that might be found in that location at a high speed. If they falter, name an object that wouldn’t really be found in that location, or name an object that’s already been named, the audience makes a buzzer sound.

The other team earns a point, and a new player cycles in to face off with the winner of the last round.

Notes: The humor of this game comes in for the audience when the players get something wrong.

Half Life

half-life-improv-game

Also known as: N/A

Number of players: 2–4

Difficulty: medium

Length: 2–3 minutes

Game description: Do a scene in increasingly shorter increments. First 1 minute, then 30 seconds, then 15 seconds, then 7.5 seconds, then 3.75 seconds.

Variations: N/A

Notes: Much of the humor of this game is bound up in seeing someone do things much faster. The more you move around the stage in the first scene, the more drastic your motions will be as the scene speeds up.