Genres – a warm-up for playing with expectations

Repetition of an interaction establishes expectations for the audience.  These expectations can be played to and against for fun effect.

As a precursor to Help Desk Games, the short-form improv game Genres can help us practice pacing in repetition of an interaction, and help us flex our memory muscles.

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

New Choice – a pattern pacing warm-up

The rhythm with which a game’s mechanic is played helps pace the scene and build it toward an edit.

The relationship between “When this happens” “this happens” is useful not only to focus improvisers’ choices but it also connects with the audience. In Short Form, where the mechanics of the “game” are told to the audience before the scene starts, the audience starts reacting to the “cause” and the expectation of the effect instead of just to the effect itself.

Short form improv games help us practice our patterns and pacing for long-form improv’s more organic games. Looking for a warm-up to practice pattern pacing?  Try New Choice!

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Carpool – an emotional matching warm-up exercise

Looking for an emotional matching warm-up?  Try Carpool!

If we agree, we can just be; we don’t have to explain or defend.  Have fun just being emotional together, trusting that your commitment to the same emotion is all the context for your relationship that’s needed.

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Susie and Rebecca – organic and meta

This was my favorite Organic game from my Spring 2018 Patterns & Games Class. There’s just so much to love.  This one could never be rewritten as a sketch, and that’s an asset to me here.  

It was born collaboratively in-the-moment with an ending no one set out to see but felt too entirely perfect in retrospect.  We’re talking Improv As Improv Does Best here, folks.  Continue reading

Awkward Allergies – a split screen Help Desk

A quick, fun Help Desk game utilizing the Split Screen.

The escalating pattern is fun but the commitment to emotion helps the pattern hit.

Listen for the laugh Adrienne gets just by reacting without words.

Note the key to the end is that Ben actually feels bad for his allergy to murder. The connection he makes between his allergic reaction and the dead bodies’ bloat is icing on the cake.

Players are (in order of appearance): Adrienne Thompson, Paul Costen, Becky CoppaJonathan Mostowy, Brittany Andersen, and Ben Hay

Mirror, Action, Object’s Scenic add-on

Personal Games are the focus of the base Mirror, Action, Object warm-up exerciseMAO1 Engaged in either how they feel about themselves, how they feel about what they’re doing, or how they feel about a mimed object, players build progressions of emotional reaction triggered by active endowments. As examples: A player loves his outfit, and as he scans himself toe to head he grows more and more impressed with himself (Mirror). A player grows more insane with every monotonous saw stroke. A player becomes more and more vain with every bite of the apple.

This add-on expands the warm-up to practice Scenic Games as well.  Continue reading

Showcasing Students

I’m wishy washy about improv class showcases.

On the one hand, if the point of going through classes is to learn to do performance-ready-level improv, then it seems sadistic to make 101 students “put it up on its feet.”

But on the other, nothing informs an improviser like improvising and all it entails – collaborating to build something out of nothing in-the-moment before a live audience. And so practice in front of a live audience should be part of each course.

So the in-between place becomes preparing each class for a performance that showcases – in grand improv style – all that they learned in class, on top of everything they’ve learned before, within bounds that keep them from stumbling into unknown territory. 

Here are examples of how to do it…from 101 to 401… Continue reading

Sustainable Set – The Johnsons Cover Coldplay

Learn rigidly. Play loose. Wall Turkey

The Johnsons are the most dyed-in-the-wool Improv As Improv Does Best group there is. Makes sense. I coach them.

They were taught the contents of this website. They learned the mechanics of spontaneous collaboration. But the desire has never been for them to conform to one style of improv as dictated by their lessons. Rather the goal is always providing tools unique improvisers can utilize to enhance their personal approach.

The Johnsons are at their best when they Continue reading

Monologue-based Format: Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer

A monologist shares a personal story. Ideally one recreating their emotions about a specific  moment with rich details. Performers then replace the speaker on stage with a series of scenes inspired by the monologue. Ideally not just scenes reenacting the recollection but scenes that heighten the ideas of the monologue through new contexts. Maybe the monologist returns to relate another story; maybe not. If monologues separate the format into beats, ideally earlier scenes are referenced in later scenes.

That’s the Monologue-based Format.

The Armando Diaz Experience is a famous one. The Coalition Theater puts up a “Richmond Famous” wherein local public figures are invited to be the monologist.

LINC, the Legal Information Network for Cancer, puts up “Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer” annually as a fundraiser for their efforts to assist income-qualified individuals with legal and financial issues related to their cancer diagnoses (GREAT organization!).

And, yes, the show revolves around monologists sharing stories related to their cancer. Then the performers create scenes based on those monologists. Funny scenes.

And it works. Check it out.


The show’s monologists in order of appearance are: Jim Guy, Lulú de Panbehchi, Keisha Harris and Ann Hodges

The Coaliton performers are Katie Holcomb, Patrick Gantz, Matt Newman, Lauren Serpa and Jim Zarling.

Fantastic videography provided by Joey Tran and Double Take Productions.