Take an exercise, leave an exercise

FS (Fart Sounds)

This warm up is perfect for the teenager, but it is also a really good focus game for everyone. Our school's improv troupe came up with this because we were farting around, literally, and we wondered whether we could come up with a game that revolves around fart noises. So we took the concept of Questions Only and came up with FS...

If you have ever played Questions Only, FS will come in less than a millisecond.

But none the less, here is how to play FS...

1. Make two even lines facing each other with two designated 'farters.'

2. Find a really dark and serious topic.

3. The first two actors facing each other will begin a scene based on the serious topic.

4.The two farters can begin farting with their hands, or whatever they choose to make the scene really awkward. The actors can choose to ignore the farts like they never happened, or they can incorporate them into the scene.

5.The actors will not be allowed to laugh. If they do, they are eliminated and sent across to the other line.

6. Then a new scene about the same topic begins and so on and so forth.

We play this for about ten minutes as a warm up to get us focused and in the laughing mood after a week of school. We play for ten minutes because people do get used to the fart sounds.
I need new ways to explore second beats other than breaking it down and talking about it. I'm finding people getting in their heads.

Got this from Dan Sipp for characters

Since we treat people from different ways of life and difference scenarios (we treat our boss different than our friends, but we also treat our boss at work different than if we say him on the street)

So everyone lines up, you do a first beat of a scene and choose one player to follow a la the slacker, but everyone picks a different facet of life (work, play, home) or different person in life not following plot. Time jumps backwards or forwards in this persons life are allowed.

This gives a character more of a third dimension, especially if they are a "one note" bit.
Nothing new in nearly a year? Damn.

Here are a couple that we've used recently:

Best in the World (warm-up/confidence building/positive team bonding game)
-One person coaches, everyone else is on stage playing.
-Players are directed to act as if they are the best in the world at whatever is called out.
-Coach calls out various occupations, activities, skills, etc. "You are the best windsurfers in the world!" "You are the best cowboys in the world!" "You are the best bird watchers in the world!"
-Players should be coached to all jump in physically as soon as the activity is called.
-Any players who hesitate or seem unsure of what they are doing should be reminded that they are the "best in the world" at the activity, and that whatever they do will be perfectly correct. "You know exactly how to do this! You have no doubts about what you're doing!"
-Any players who criticize, try to correct, or otherwise react negatively to the other players should be reminded that everyone here is equally "the best." They are all colleagues with the utmost respect for one another. "You're all on the same team! You're all honored and happy to be working with everyone else here!"

This is good for identifying and dealing with overall lack of confidence and any tendencies to play "negative".

Observations (scene work/relationship/listening/awareness game)
-Two players sit facing each other. They are directed to simply comment on what they see in the other person.
-Direct the players to focus on things like body posture, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
-Players may tend to focus on things like clothing, hair jewelry, etc. Keep re-directing them to focus on the things above. "What do you see in his/her face right now? What is his/her body telling you now?"
-Players may also tend to go off on tangents, discuss past events, talk about 3rd parties, etc. Keep them focused on each other and the immediate present.

This is a good tool for getting the players to stay focused on the relationship component of their scenes. You should start hearing things like "you seem upset" or "something I said just made you smile a little." You can run this exercise every once in a while, and use it as a reference point later when they need to find or work on the relationship in other scenes.


Everything is Art!
It's been a while since I've posted on these forums and there is a good chance this exercise has been posted, but it's one I've been really into lately:

...I don't know what it is called. I'll call it Double Word Association EXTREME

So two people face eachother and place word association...at the same time. They each count down from 3 and on the '0' they instead say a word. The goal is to be able to listen to what they other person said and try your best to find what they may say next. They will be doing the same, so you may find a word that is 'in between' both words. For example, if I said forehead and Frank said jaw, we might both decide to say nose.

It's a really fun game for getting out of your head and into the zone.
Here's a game that I just came up with recently and I'm working the kinks out of.

It's a game I like to call "Line" Two people are in a scene and at any moment they may call for a "line" The audience will give them the line and they must work that into the scene.
It's similar to "Whose line"

This is good for taking what you're given and running with it.
Conversions - group mind/teamwork/free association game

This thread is incredible. Thank you so much, guys!

Here's a game I learned at a summer camp from a counselor named Calvin Da Costa, who doesn't even really do improv.

It's called Conversions, and it's an exercise. Not for a performance.

Two improvisers do this, and it's easiest to explain when you know that the end goal is for both of them to say the exact same word.

Improvisers A says out loud to Improviser B "One," then Improviser B says out loud "Two," then they both say "Three" together, and then they both name something in the universe. It could be an object, a person, a time period, a concept, anything. Just one singular thing.

They then think for a second about the two things that were said, and repeat the one, two, three and try to get to the same "thing" with their partner.

Player 1: One
Player 2: Two
Players 1 and 2: Three!
Player 1 (at the same time as Player 2): France
Player 2 (at the same time as Player 1): Monument
Player 1: One
Player 2: Two
Players 1 and 2: Three!
Player 1 (at the same time as Player 2): Eiffel Tower
Player 2 (at the same time as Player 1): Eiffel Tower
Players 1 and 2: THAT WAS AWESOME.

It's incredibly fun to get to the same thing with someone, and it really helps group mind.

Here's some other tips:
  • You cannot repeat anything said in any form.
  • It doesn't have to be the same player saying "one" every time. It should switch naturally.
  • If your partner says "one" and you don't have anything to say, wait to say "two!" The game is ruined if you get to three and only one person says something, because it's supposed to be about completely pure free association.
  • This happens a lot naturally, but encourage people to celebrate in some way when they get it right. High fives are always good.
  • When played with a group, have everyone spread about the room in pairs. After a round or two, switch people.
  • the game gets really tough when you add a third person, so beware.
M'kay, I've been cherry-picking this thread long enough. Time to give a little back.
These are all short-form games and exercises, as that's what we've been doing here in Beijing. They can be good exercises for long form though.

Here's a group story-telling exercise:
ManWomanStoryVortex! (credit to Olof Nordenstam, currently running Xiamen Improv in Xiamen, China, for the weird game and weirder name)
-Players stand in a circle
-One player, in the middle, starts telling a story as he slowly spins around
-When he touches a player in the circle, they speak at the same time
-He can then bring that person into the middle to continue the story, while he takes her place on the circle
-That person continues telling the story, etc.
When this exercise gets fun is when you touch two players at the same time. Now, you've got three people trying to say the same thing at the same time. Basically, anytime there's contact made, those folks speak at the same time. A different twist on conducted (self- or otherwise) story games.

The Tornado
-A 4-person game
-1 person stands with her arms out, and starts to spin, very slowly at first, gradually speeding up. She is the Tornado.
-Players A and B are on opposite sides of the Tornado's arms. They will each have their own scene, inspired by one suggestion.
-As the Tornado spins, it spins the scenes around so that only one scene is downstage at a time. We see and hear that scene. The upstage scene continues in silence.
-Player C is in both scenes (we played it as two different characters, but whatever floats your collective dinghy), and is always in the downstage scene. Thusly and thereforenessly, he has to jump to the active scene whenever it is downstage.
-The Tornado should gradually spin faster (and sweep the scenes more quickly) as the scenes progress.
-The Tornado's shoulders will get tired.

House Rules (this and the Tornado were created by several folks during the 2011 Seoul Improv Fest)
-It's played like Gods, but with four people making the rules, standing at the four corners of a house. (If you use audience volunteers, like we did in Seoul, it's probably better if they've seen a bunch of short form already.)
-The scene is played in one room of a house, and the four corners of the house get to make new rules as it continues (you're all talking dogs, the room is filling up with corn, Player A secretly wants to smell Player B's hair, etc.)
-If it is played as a performance game, played with audience volunteers, the players should control the pace of getting new rules by asking for them one at a time. If it's just in rehearsal, or played with other improvisers as the corners of the house--the gods--have at it and rule away!

In Traction (credit to Pauline, for breaking her back while skiing)
-It's basically a much tighter, faster Revolving Door
-Three players onstage, A, B, C; B in the middle.
-Players A and C give initiations for two different scenes at the same time.
-Player B has to play out both of the scenes; ideally, but not necessarily, as the same character.
-A and C should keep their scenes going continually, leaving just enough room for responses from B.
-If it's done right, B has the easy job of just reacting and responding, while A and C have the pressure of continuing their respective scene while actively listening to the other one.

-Divide the stage into four quadrants.
-Each quadrant is occupied by a unique character.
-The player(s) play out a four-character scene by jumping from quadrant to quadrant, acting out all of the characters.
-If you're super improv-nerdy like me (and Jeffrey Scwhab), this game is fun to play by yourself, in your apartment. However, we typically played it as a two-person game, with the players on the sides adding the third and fourth characters.
-The switching of characters should get faster and faster, until you're jumping back and forth like an idiot, high-fiving yourself, flirting with yourself, tickling yourself, etc.

A'ight then...

AWESOME RESOURCE. Thank you to everybody who has contributed. I've written down about two dozen things here that I want to try with my group.

I'm still new as a coach, but I'm going to contribute some ideas anyways, take, leave, modify them as you see fit, if there's anything there that inspires you.

CHARACTERDOME: "Two Characters Enter! One Character Leaves!"

Improvisor A starts onstage, surrounded by the rest of the cast. Improvisor B walks on and starts a short scene - they should follow all the regular rules for starting such a scene, but above all, they need make a strong character choice. Improvisor A immediately adopts as similar a character as possible - they can have whatever differences are required by the scene, but the energy, status, accent, body language, etc. should all make it clear that these characters are two peas in a pod. The scene continues for however long is necessary before the improvisors agree that one character is being played more satisfyingly to the audience than the other. The "loser" fails gracefully/joyfully/humourously and walks off, and then Improvisor C walks in with a completely unrelated (hopefully contrasting) character and starts a new scene with the survivor.

My group includes some improvisors who are very good at creating characters, so I thought this might help the others exercise some of the same muscles, so to speak. The results so far are encouraging and surprising - the best character creators aren't always the best mimickers, so to speak. So far, there's been no need for a hard and fast rule for when the scene needs to end; the improvisors can usually tell who has "won" and agree mutually, sometimes right away. If a "duel" is too close to call it's easy for the teacher/crowd to intervene, or you can declare it a tie and send both out (or a third improvisor in).

What's really interesting is when one improvisor feels s/he has lost and starts to walk out, and the class (and sometimes the other improvisor!) responds with loud, outraged objections.

Possibly not good for new people who have ego problems, and certainly creates the potential for people to gag and ham it up... having an experienced teacher judge the winners could help the latter problem.
A friend of mine was telling me about an exercise he took in his 201 class called Sergeant Dick/Sergeant York. Unfortunately he can't remember anything about the exercise other than the name. Does this ring a bell with anyone?
I've taken a lot from but never gave anything back to this site. Recently though I have been writing a ton about improv theory and application focused on establishing patterns of emotional behavior for satisfying and sustainable two-to-twenty person scenes. The Richmond Comedy Coalition has been doing great work based off this stuff and I've been encouraged to find new ways to share it. It's all on the RCC's website currently, and a link to the Library is here: http://www.rvacomedy.com/2012/07/09/improv-as-improv-does-best-0-0-liebarry/
I hope it's not too douchey to post a link here. If people found interest in it, I'd happily port pieces over to this forum.


Registered pretender
I created this game as an exercise, but my improv group thinks it will work well with audiences, too.

I call the game "Anywhere But There." Two improvisers take the stage and the audience suggests a location. The two improvisers then improvise a scene. The catch is that they are not allowed to use the location as the setting of their scene, yet they must use the suggestion in some form. So, if the suggestion were "the Titanic," the improvisers could be watching the movie "Titanic," or in a drafting room designing the Titanic, or refer to the Titanic in a line of dialogue, or be in some disaster situation (perhaps the Hindenburg), but they CANNOT be on the Titanic. As the name of the game suggests, they can be "Anywhere But There!"

The purpose of the exercise is to get the improvisers thinking more creatively about audience suggestions. If someone else has had this same idea, I apologize for not giving them credit. Ditto if something similar has already been posted.
Just read 9 pages and I don't think I saw this, so somebody beat me over the head if it's a repeat.

Learned this in a pit class lead by Rebekka Johnson, or Pat Shay, I forget now those classes blurred together.

Players get up two at a time and stand at a comfortable distance from each other. Maybe 5+ feet apart. One player (the guesser) turns away from the other. The other player (the presenter) makes these choices.

1. the relationship
2. what just happened
3. how they feel about what just happened
4. how the guesser feels about what just happened

These should be specific and explicit. I found it's good to coach the presenter through all four choices for the first couple of rounds of this. "Ready? Have the relationship? Know what happened? Decided how you feel about it? Decided how your partner feels about it?"

Without the coaching people tend to fudge/forget a choice the first few times through.

Now the presenter will embody their choices in a pose. They should take all four choices into account in how they present themselves. Happy presenting to sad isn't the same thing as happy presenting to curious, etc.

Once the pose is locked in, instruct the guesser to turn around. Give them 3-5 seconds to take it in and then ask them what they think the 4 choices were.

Now it's time to ask the presenter what was really going on. #3 and #4 are usually the most accurate. But it is amazing how often #1 and #2 are very close, or even right on the money.


glass hidden in the grass
Took a few so I'll leave this one:

I feel like I got this from Anthony King, but I have teams play 7 Things by making the 7 things lines or moves in specific scenarios.

Ex: 7 things a firefighter would say after he puts out a fire.
Ex2: 7 things a burglar would do if she was caught by a homeowner.

This warms up two muscles 1. making big choices through honest reactions, and 2. starting scenes from interesting and unique scenarios.
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This is a kind of stupid, but surprisingly challenging focus/rhyme game that my friends and I came up with recently. Nothing too inventive or anything, but challenging. We were fiddling around with a box of pick up sticks (the actual children's game, all the different-colored sticks), and the game came from that:

You sit in a circle. One player holds the clump of pick up sticks and, without looking, pulls one out. In a rhythm, you hand that stick to the next person and say "Name one thing that is COLOR."

This person says the thing, then takes the whole stack, pulls out another one, and it becomes "name TWO things that are COLOR." This is all done in rhythm, and the things have to rhyme.

1st guy draws a green stick: name one thing that is green.
2nd guy: the grass in the field.
hands the stack, next guy draws a red one: name two things that are red.
3rd guy: the flame and the hair of the dame.

We were just hanging out when we tried it, not in a proper workshop setting or anything, and didn't even go at it for very long, but it was super hard. But it was tough in a way that seemed like, with enough practice, it could be a really beneficial exercise.

It's not a very developed exercise, so mess with it if you'd like.
A/B Scenes

Yep. I feel it is my time to post an exercise. I don't believe it is here, but if it is, my apologies obviously.

These are called A and B Scenes. Four players are paired off with each other so that there are two groups of two. Each pair controls one half of the stage/practice space/whatever. They receive their suggestion and will begin simultaneous scenes. However, one pair will talk and the other will do their scene silently (but it is still going on). At any point, the silent pair can begin to talk, at which point the talking pair will fade out in their speech, but continue to do their scene silently. The focus can change however many times the team desires.

The main focus with this exercise is to be physical and stay out of talking head scenes. You want to stay on the same page as your partner, and it is easier to do so through physical cues rather than saying what you want to be doing. Emotion may be heightened to show how a character feels as well. If your character is angry, get REALLY angry. Throw things, do whatever.
What is this warm up!?

Heavens to Betsy! I love this thread like brownies at a Weight Watchers meeting.

There is a warm up that I so remember that was hilarious (at least for me) and it was competitive.

All players were in a circle and a 'caller' was off to the side making calls of some kind...if you messed up, you got eliminated........

I have no other info..other than I laughed super hard.
Any ideas?
One I learned from Patti Stiles: World's Worst Improviser

Two players - one person plays the scene normally. The other tries their hardest to be the world's worst improviser. They do everything they know they shouldn't do in a scene. The other person has to play with them and continue the scene.

It forces the "normal" player to get out of their head and react to each and every thing their partner gives them. I found it incredibly freeing and made improv so easy. I didn't have to worry about what was happening or going to happen because in trying to engage the "bad" partner, you'd create a relationship effortlessly.

Patti said "give them what they want". Yes, and ... everything so hard and you'll be golden.

The hardest part about the exercise is for the "bad" improviser. There comes a point in the scene where you just want to drop all your denial, silence and closed-off-ness and play, too but it's important to hang onto that character until the scene is over.

I go into more detail about this exercise on my blog, which I've linked in my signature

Law Tarello

Silent Physical Discovery

Silent ACTIVITY Morph & Swap

Two improvisers stand back to back (facing away from each other)
Begin physical activity. (ground it… know what it is. something repetitious helps but is not necessary.)

Count to Turn (or coach says turn)

OBSERVE! Remember… everything is a gift.

MORPH: to undergo transformation; especially : to undergo transformation from an image or object into that of another . (NO RUSH)

Within a few moments you should have swapped activities completely.
*Note – Pay attention to the physicalities/activities along the way. What do they inspire?
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I saw this and immediately thought it would make a good exercise. It forces players to give weight to what's happening in their scene and not gloss over something their partner does.
I took, now I give

We used Mullaney's exercise for taking new points of view last night. Worked fabulous. The class is mostly older and everyone has a difficult time taking points of view other than what they really held. In a circle, we went around telling true statements about ourselves. The we went around telling what we believed about the world. Then we gave a belief that someone else might have about the world which we did not agree with. Then we played that character. Wonderful results.
So now I give an exercise that we have used with good results.
It's a concentration excercise that is really just an extension of the alphabet circle.
Start with just the Alphabet passed with eye contact around the circle. The coach then starts another sequence with numbers. Then the coach starts another sequence with months. The last sequence started is just names, where you look at someone and say someone else's name. They go to that person and say someone else's name.
There are then four competing sequences going on. Really good for concentration.
There. I gave one after taking one.
And I just joined.