Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Improv Tips

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Hoopla run improv courses, classes and shows in London and across the UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website:

This is a collection of all our improv tips from our twitter account (@HooplaImpro)
put together into one place:

- Catch yourself overly planning off stage? Shake yo head like an etch-a-sketch to come on fresh.

- If you treat the scenario as if it is real you don't have to act, you just have to live.

- Play, let yourself go, go for it.

- U could b anywhere so set scene somewhere you'd like 2 b. Why so many post office scenes when it could be blue skies on Mars?
- For long-form narrative characters with desires/objectives are fun. Have a protagonist that pursues something meaningful.

- Having a drink with a beginners improv class is a very fun thing to do.
 - "So just the fact that we're alive at all I find fascinating, and I guess that's a good place to start in drama" -random pissed bloke in pub

- "It is easy to forget, that until the past few centuries , story was always an intensely communal activity." - The Storytelling Anima

- Whatever the other person gives you, correct! Whatever they give you, treat it like it's awesome, cos it is.

- Listening should be active not passive, react to and use the other person's stuff.

- You can play physical and emotional versions of the Yes And exercise, not just verbal.

- Stay open to the audience and other actor when getting it wrong, in fact especially when getting it wrong. 

- improv decisions about teaching/style/content/technique made while separate from the actual audience are a total waste of time. 

- Alternative names for game o scene - patterns, repeating behaviour, fun thing, what's funny about that?, what's it about, theme

- First unusual thing, first mistake or first laugh can signal the game of the scene. React to it, repeat it, escalate it, play.

- Don't just pick up on what was said, pick up on how it was said. What was the emotional offer?

- Enter the stage as if you've just come from somewhere else.

- If feeling nervous about a show give yourself rule that you aren't allowed to be funny for the first 8 lines of every scene.

- React to 'mistakes' with Celebrate, Incorporate, Justify, Expand, Celebrate.

- Improvising in the state of 'avoiding criticism' is no fun so f**k that.

- When people say it takes 10 years to become an overnight success they don't mean wait 10 years then do something, act now.

- If "raising the stakes" doesn't make sense to you try "making it more important" or "make it matter" instead.

- If your game has got no oomph then play it like a child would play it and be carefree.

- Because is a good word in improvised storyelling. Because that scene happens, this scene happens.

- Be Honest.

- Improv is going to be big in UK, really big. No, bigger than what you just thought.

- Say how you actually feel and you'll find the character feels the same way. It's the scene making you feel that.

- Sometimes there's lots of technique to improv, but Yes Let's seems to be the spirit of improv.

- Explore environment as metaphor for relationship. That's what screenwriters & novellists do afterall. Dark & stormy night.

- Make the other person's offers, and the scene, more important not less so.

- If the character says "don't tell the queen I'd loose my job" the improviser means "tell the queen".

- Game of scene concept seeming too intellectual? Ask what's fun about the scene instead. Fun is fun not thought.

- Establishing platform of character, relationship, where can come from play listening discovery instead of isolated thinking

- You don't have to wait until audience give you a genre to play one, give yourself own suggestion and play genres for fun. 

- Staying in the bar for four hours after an improv workshop won't teach you much about improv but it certainly can be fun.

- Voice mirroring, saying the same words at the same time in your head, can help you stay focussed and ready when off stage.

- When doing object work go slower and bigger than you think you have to.

- If you believe the scene you're in is real you don't have to act you just have to live.

- From the excellent Mark Beltzman: "Replace thinking with listening". 

- Giving yourself the job of 'use one of the words the other person just said' is more active than just listening.

- Make your first response to mistakes "yes and" rather than "hide" and they turn from mistakes to genius.

- Say something honest from your own life or experience of the world and your character will have instant depth.

- Lines starting "I feel" "You make me feel" "You're being" "You're always" "I am" "You are" help build relationships.

- You can bring in behaviour, emotion, physicality, character, tempo, connection before you even get audience suggestion.

- Reactions & emotions bring impro to life and make it both human & funny. React to each line, gasp, laugh, react.

- When someone enters your scene react and adjust your status immediately, no matter what you were doing.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Hoopla run improv courses, classes and shows in London and across the UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website:

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