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

1.5 – Help Desk Games


Two players meet in the middle of the stage and focus on figuring out the scene together.

I want to return this vacuum.
What’s wrong with it?


I want to see a manager.
Ma’am, he’s on a break.


I bought this and it won’t work.
I’m going to need to see a receipt.


That’ll be five ninety-nine.
Okay, I have ten eighty-eight.

I don’t want to see improvisers question, oppose, negotiate with or engage in transactions with each other. Even written, honed, acted and edited these scenes can prove tedious. But we can salvage these boring scenes with our good friend, the pattern. Continue reading

Help Desk Game exercise

Help Desk Games:  A pattern can be based around a series of interactions.  This game rubric can be especially helpful in making scenes that had been bogged down in transaction, negotiation and/or conflict look good.

Suggested Exercises:

HELP DESK – Have a player assume a character and introduce a place of business; “The Help Desk is open for business.”  A second player comes in and interacts.  Players on the wings pay attention to language, reactions and the scene’s progression.  A third player will enter the scene (replacing the second player) to heighten the interaction – repeating some parts exactly and heightening other details/reactions.  A fourth player will participate in a third interaction – keeping the same the things that stayed the same and heightening the things that heightened.


  • Start at the beginning; remember the end – once we know we’re heightening the interaction, we can want to start subsequent interactions on the funniest part of the first interaction.  But starting at the beginning (heightening or repeating the first line of the initiating interaction) will build power heading into the funniest part.  And while over-excited improvisers will often cut off the end of interactions as they rush to start the next, remember that repeating/heightening the final line of an interaction will set up the progression’s edit.
  • Don’t rush the pacing – Lines that came out naturally the first time can be hurried once they’re known. The cadence of the dialogue is part of the pattern. Stick the dialogue’s natural rhythm – it’s part of the pattern and you’ll be rewarded in laughs if you try to match your fellow players’ delivery as well as their words.
  • Don’t skimp on the emotion – Player Two might have been simply overwhelmed during the Offer dialogue, but Player Three and Four heighten the emotion of being overwhelmed characters. Emotions connect players and audience, and heightened emotions will ensure an earned edit even should all else fail.
  • Don’t ignore what you perceive as “bad” moves – you can make anything look good through repetition. By employing the mechanics of a Help Desk game, you can make a boring scene exciting, you can make an unfunny move hilarious, you can make an uninspired character the star of the show.


  • For more than terrible scenesin heightening/repeating any interaction, utilize the Help Desk pattern mechanics.  Have players do any two person scene and have a third person initiate a Help Desk Set move.
  • Heightening Context a married couple complains about their house; a couple of mice complain about their hole; a couple parasites complain about their host.  These juxtaposed vignettes can leverage Help Desk mechanics and make for an interesting stage picture.
  • Tag Outs if we approach our Tag Outs with the same patience and concentration to patterns as our Help Desks our Tag Outs can be more robust.