Herman The Worm group warm-up

Here’s an annoying song my baby likes: Herman The Worm

Here’s the thing… It makes for one fun group warm-up with echos of One PersonTo The EtherHelp Desk and Hey Everybody game patterns.  Give it a try!If you didn’t make it all the way through the video (and I don’t blame you), here are the lyrics to the first two verses of the song:

I was sittin’ on my fence post, HermanTheWorm2
Slapping on my left knee,
Chewing on my bubblegum
Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp,
Playin’ with my yo-yo,
Doo wop, doo wop, doo wop, doo wop,
And watching the birds fly by,
Whish, whish, whish, whish,
When along came Herman the worm
And he was this big
And I said: “Herman? What happened?”
“I swallowed one grape.”

I was sittin’ on my fence post,
Slapping on my left knee,Slide1
Chewing on my bubblegum
Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp,
Playin’ with my yo-yo,
Doo wop, doo wop, doo wop, doo wop,
And watching the birds fly by,
Whish, whish, whish, whish,
When along came Herman the worm
And he was this big
And I said: “Herman? What happened?”
“I swallowed two apples.”

So each subsequent verse repeats the first 11 lines and then heightens the pattern of what Herman ate (three grapefruits, four cantaloupes, five watermelons). And then, after five verses see Herman getting bigger and bigger, the sixth verse throws the pattern on its head.

I was sittin’ on my fence post,
Slapping on my left knee,
Chewing on my bubblegum
Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp,
Playin’ with my yo-yo,
Doo wop, doo wop, doo wop, doo wop,
And watching the birds fly by,
Whish, whish, whish, whish,
When along came Herman the worm
And he was this big
And I said: “Herman? What happened?”
“I burped.”

How does this become a warm-up game?

Like this: Everyone up in a circle. It’s going to start slow at first and then ramp up once the repeated part is established and the progression of the song’s changing part is set.

1.I was [place]”
2. “[Why I’m in the place]”
3. “[Something I’m actively doing/seeing in the place]”
4.“[Sound of #3‘s contribution]”
5. “[Something I’m actively doing/seeing in the place]”
6.“[Sound of #5‘s contribution]”
7. “[Something I’m actively doing/seeing in the place]”
8.“[Sound of #7‘s contribution]”
9:When along came [someone/something]”
10:And [someone/something] was [adjective/ -ing verb]”
11:And I said, [Someone/Something]? [What happened]?
12: “[What happened (OFFER)]”

And then?

Repeat lines One through Eleven.  When it gets to the final line, the Player sets the direction of the heightening.  Then repeat again, and Cement the direction of the heightening.  The heightening does not ultimately have to be thrown on its head, but of course it can.

What’s the point?  First, fun: especially given the source material and set-up of steps, the group first attempts the exercise with a “it’s stupid but we’re all in it together” mindset; worrying less about being funny than going through the motions of the exercise, they find fun in the repetition; and ultimately they show how if committed to the pattern any childish line is funnier than the any attempt to be clever individuallySecond, Group Mind: after the repeated parts gets established the whole group makes each other look good through repeating (sometimes reminding the person who forgot) and maybe even singing together as the group gets SetThird, pattern practice: The repetition and shared tone echo the value of One Person Scenes; the action and sound cause-and-effect relationship practice Help Desk dynamic reactions; the rotation of roles provides a twist on Hey Everybody’s sequence; and, the last line of each verse progressing like a To The Ether game.

Fourth and finally, the components of the song match key pieces of a scene we should strive to establish. Like a scene should, the song has A Place, An Activity Characters Engage In, and Active Environmental Elements.  And the Active Elements make noise!  That’s always more fun than us just talking for our elements.

Now, yes, when Herman/[Something] “comes along,” that could be a plot move to be dealt with, but – remembering our Tertiary Good Faith Mantra– anyone entering a stage serves the game of the scene.

Let’s give it a try!

As training wheels the first time out, you might focus the team on reacting to the reality of where they actually are and what they’re actually doing.  For example: I was in Patrick’s basement, Warming up for improv, Hoping to get out of my head, React, react, react, react,…

But of course, you can go anywhere, do anything and see anyone…

I was in Washington D.C.,
Working in the Senate,
Trying to pass some bills,Trump Worm
Whip, whip, whip, whip,
Blocking the bad guys,
Nay, nay, nay, nay,
And getting gifts from lobbyists,
Graft, graft, graft, graft,
When along came President Trump,
And Trump was angry.
And I said, Trump? What happened?
“I got a mean Tweet.” (OFFER)

“I saw a cruel Op Ed.” (SET)

“I found a New Yorker issue.” (CEMENT)

“I was given Jeff Flake’s book.”

“I scrolled a liberal’s Facebook feed.”

(FLIP TO SADNESS) “Nobody likes me.”

But that’s just from my head.

.

UPDATE: The Johnsons tried it and liked it.

“It was like that board game that seemed laborious to learn but was easy and fun to play.” – Jessi Johnson

The key in watching the video is paying more attention to their reactions and enjoyment over your own. It is a warm-up and, as is customary in improv, you had to be there.

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Relax in how silly it is. Put no pressure on any one line. If someone forgets their line, sing along. The fun is in doing this dumb thing TOGETHER.

*Margot thinks it’s funny!

Margot Jane Gantz

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