The Most Interesting Person in the World

Playing Well With Self

Posted on: October 19, 2010

Dear Improv Lady,

None of my friends will play improv games with me, or none that I would want to see me try and fail. Are there any exercises I can try on my own?


Dear Someday,

First and foremost, there is no such thing as failure in improv. There are less-than-strong choices, but there are no wrong choices. It is the responsibility of your scene partner(s) to support you in any choice you make, so if your performance doesn’t go as well as it should, they are just as much to blame for not justifying your words and actions. And the same goes for you supporting your scene partners.

That said, there is a lot to do on your own. Try speaking (or writing) a monologue where every sentence begins with “I love,” or “I believe,” or “I am.” Get creative.

To practice your speaking skills, deliver a speech where your only words are counting the numbers 1-100. Make it apparent when you are telling a joke, making a point, starting a new topic, coming to the conclusion, etc. Notice your body language.

Jump into a character and speak for 30 seconds. You don’t have to speak the whole time. You can be speaking to yourself, to someone else, to G-d, or nothing at all. At 30 seconds, switch into a new character. Change the energy–if you were sitting at the last one, stand; if you were a quiet character, be loud; if you were slow, speak quickly; mix it up with accents, different ages and physicalities. Keep doing this for as long as you like–you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with!

For more solo improv exercises, see the back of Mick Napier’s book, “Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out.” I hope that helps. Let me know how the experience goes!

The Improv Lady


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