Stupid, Simple Improv
- 3 hour workshop
- 6 to 16 participants
You don’t have to be smart, fast or witty to be an effective
improviser; you need to pay more attention to what your teammates are
doing and less attention to what you are thinking. What they do tells
you what to do next, so don’t miss it. Plus, the more time you spend
watching them, the less time you spend judging your actions.
You don’t have to be unusually creative to improvise; you need to see
what you have already done and do it again and again. Constant new ideas
are not needed and do more harm than good. Do less but do it more
You’ll practice these two principles to develop habits that make you
a reliable improviser, who other improvisers will want to play with.
- Be stupid! Stop thinking and pay attention.
- Be simple! Do fewer things but do them more often.
- Zip Zap Zop emphasises eye contact and attention.
Warm-up 2 Hep
This is a fun warm-up not related directly to this workshop’s
content. The goal is speed and adding rules faster than players can keep
- Circle up.
- This is an energy passing game where one player has ‘it’ and passes
it to the next player using the rules.
- First rule is HEP
- P1 turns to P2, claps and says ‘Hep!’.
- P2 turns to P3 and repeats.
- It continues around the circle as fast as possible.
- Second rule is HA
- When the energy comes to any player, they say HA with their hands
up. The energy goes back to the player it came from.
- Third rule is DIPPITY.
- When the energy comes to a player, the player says DIPPITY.
- The energy will skip one player and go to the next.
- Fourth rule is DIP DIPPITY.
- Same as DIPPITY but two people are skipped.
- Fourth rule is DIP DIPPITY DEE.
- Same as DIPPITY but three people are skipped.
- Fifth rule is BANG.
- The player can make a finger gun at anyone in the circle and say
- The player who is pointed at then has the energy.
- Sixth rule is SCHLACK.
- The player throws the energy into the middle of the circle while
- One and only one player says IT’S MINE and grabs the energy.
- That player continues the game.
- This PUBISHMENT can be added at any time.
- If a player takes too long, hesitates, or does something wrong, they
throw their hands in the air and say ’I f*cked up.’ They do a lap of the
circle and return to their spot and the game.
- The game continues without them while they are running.
- Any other player should restart the energy without hesitation after
- Seventh rule us YOU.
- The player swaps places with while high-fiving any other
- The player that said YOU continues the game.
- Eighth rule is CELLOPHANE.
- The player says CELLOPHANE and makes a rolling motion with their
arms, the same as a basketball umpire’s travel motion.
- The player then adds another rule, e.g. HEP, HA, SCHLACK. That
action must be performed three times, e.g. HEP HEP HEP.
- You cannot cellophane a cellophane.
- Ask the group to create a new rule, then play with it.
- Circle up.
- The teacher can be player 1 (P1).
- P1 turns to the player at their side, P2, and makes a sound and a
- P2 replicates the sound and movement to P3.
- The replication continues around the circle for a couple of
- Each player should be replicating only what has just been done by
the previous player.
- Ask thoughtful questions.
- What can you replicate? E.g. sound, motion, body position, breath,
attitude. We can never hope to fully replicate everything so there is
always more to observe.
- How much thought/effort is it to replicate the previous player?
- Do you judge yourself while doing this? You are making silly sounds
and movements but, hopefully, you aren’t judging yourself.
- Is this fun to do?
- Repeat the exercise in the other direction.
Single word interview
- Maximum of 6 players in each group. More players takes too
- Each player chooses one word to be their word for the whole
exercise. E.g. ‘hammer’.
- Their word can be a noun, adjective, adverb, verb, or any word. It
cannot by a functional word, such as ‘the’, ‘if’, ‘any’.
- P1 will be asked questions, one at a time, by the other players.
They will answer each question as it is asked.
- A player’s question can contain any words but must contain their own
word. E.g. which hammer is best for roofing?
- A player’s answer can contain any words but must contain their own
word. E.g. my best friend is a hammer.
- An answer does not have to make sense but it must contain their
- The most important part of this exercise is that the players always
use their own word.
- A player does not have to include another player’s word but they
- When half the players have answered questions, ask thoughtful
- Is it easy or difficult to think of questions and answers?
- Once you know what a player’s word is, do you give them an easy or
hard question? When choosing a question, you can make it easy for them,
hard for them or ignore their word.
- Complete the exercise by having the remaining players answer
- To keep all players active when all but one group is finished, have
all groups join the remaining group so all players can ask questions of
the remaining players.
French Fry (Brian Uretta
- Circle up.
- P1 goes into the circle and embodies an object, e.g. french fry, and
says “I am a french fry.”
- P2 joins them as something else that makes sense, e.g. “I am a
bottle of water.”
- P3, P4 and all players do the same until all players are in the
- The last player to enter stays in the picture and all other players
return to the circle. This player repeats what they are and a new
picture builds from this new starting object. This is the second stage
- All players except the last player of the new picture return to the
circle one last time and create one final stage picture.
- These three stage pictures are collectively called one round of this
- Round 2 is the same three stage pictures played by the same players
portraying the same objects in the same order.
- Players can speak to help each other complete each picture.
Emphasise they are helping each other, not arguing.
- Round 3 is the same three stage pictures with the same objects in
the same order but players cannot play their own objects.
- Round 4 is the three stage pictures in reverse, starting with the
last object of the last picture.
Make a cup of tea
- Groups of 3 or 4.
- Choose an activity, such as making a cup of tea, or doing the
- P1 will play a 1-minute scene for their other players showing that
- P2 will then replicate that 1-minute scene in one minute.
- The next player will then replicate what they have just seen in 1
- All players in each group will do the scene twice, e.g. P1, P2, P3,
P1, P2, P3. This gives P1 the chance to replicate P3’s scene, and
emphasises that repetition is a foundation for entertainment.
- Ask thoughtful questions.
- What is entertaining here?
- What did you laugh at?
- What can you replicate? Object work, attitude, object locations,
- Choose a different activity and repeat the exercise.
- 2 players are art critics.
- 2 players are art.
- The critics come to this gallery a lot. They have strong opinions
about each piece of art. They have the same opinion about each piece of
- The critics enter the gallery and see the first piece of art. They
have the same opinion as each other and they have a strong opinion about
- Encourage players to repeat each other’s words, opinions, attitudes
- Encourage players to stay on their first idea and not to add new
- After a minute, the critics move to the next piece of art. They have
a new opinion, but they have the same opinion as each other.
- The scene is finished after a few pieces of art have been
- The two pieces of art become critics and two new pieces of art join
the next scene.
- Once everyone has been an art critic then you can do more reps with
3 or 4 critics and pieces of art.