Hoopla Beginners Improv Exercises – Part 2

Hoopla Beginners Improv Exercises – Part 2.

This is part 2 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 1 please click here.

Setting the Environment (things we say at start of class)

We have an atmosphere of safety, trust and support.
You are not by yourself, we’re playing together as a team and supporting each other.
You are allowed to make mistakes, they often lead to the best bit in improv.
You can say the first thing that comes to you, you don’t have to edit yourself, as long as you are coming from a place of fun, love and respect for your fellow improviser.
You don’t have to be clever or funny or make up jokes, the humour comes naturally from the situation.
Yes And.

Warm Ups

Grandmother’s Footsteps: An old children’s game that we use to get people playing together. One person is Grandmother or Grandfather, stood with their back to the class. Everyone else has to sneak up and try and touch them on the shoulder. The Grandparent can turn around whenever they want and if they catch anyone moving that person goes back to the beginning and starts sneaking up again. The first person to touch Grandmother is the winner. We repeat with variations where the people sneaking up are pirates, zombies or cheeky 1950s cockneys, to encourage more fun in a game.

1,2,3: Surprisingly fun game for something so simple. Two people face each other. They count to three, changing who starts the count each time. For instance:

Brian – 1
Sarah – 2
Brian – 3
Sarah – 1
Brian – 2
Sarah – 3

We then repeat where instead of saying 2 they clap their hands, and then also adding in instead of saying 3 they jump in the air:

Brian – 1
Sarah – Clap
Brian – Jumps
Sarah – 1
Brian – Clap
Sarah – Jumps

Triangles: I originally got this from Mick Barnfather I think, and it seems to be used by loads of people. Everyone in the room thinks of two other people, but doesn’t tell them. When the director shouts go everyone tries to stay in an equilateral triangle with their two people, so the whole group is moving around and maybe even finds equilibrium.

Spontaneity Exercises

8 Things: Someone jumps into the middle of the circle. They are given a category of things to say 8 of. They say 8 things in that category as quickly as they can, with everyone shouting encouragement for each one and a round of applause at the end. It’s important that everyone enthusiastically supports every suggestion, this helps the group trust each other that ever offer will be supported. They are encouraged to say the first things that come to them, the game isn’t called 8 Right Things after all! For instance:

Brian – Hi everyone I’m Brian
Everyone – Hi Brian!
Director – 8 types of holiday
Brian – Skiing!
Everyone – ONE!
Brian – Beach!
Everyone – TWO!
Brian – Safari!
Everyone – THREE!
Brian – Naked skinny dipping holiday!
Everyone – FOUR!
Brian – Cheese museum holiday!
Everyone – FIVE!
Brian – Weston super mare!
Everyone – SIX!
Brian – Staycation!
Everyone – SEVEN!
Brian – Mountain climbing!
Everyone – EIGHT! Those were 8 things! (dance and applause).

Is there anymore?
We originally were taught this by Kevin Tomlinson. Here’s an example of it:

Brian – does small sound and action
Sarah – That’s great!
Brian – Thank you
Sarah – Is there anymore?
Brian – Yes! Escalates his original sound and action.
Sarah – That’s great!
And it continues repeating that dialogue with the sound and action escalating.

Yes And Exercises

Captain Welcome to Ship Chat: I have an example scene that I talk through with examples of the difference between accepting and blocking. It’s a bit long to write up at the moment but I will get to it one day!

Yes Based Conversations: People in pairs have simple conversations where they use the word yes lots and say yes to statements that pop up, and try to give each offers the other person would like to do. Originally learnt from Heather at The Maydays. For instance:

Gunther: Hey, let’s go to the theme park on Saturday.
Heidi: Yes, let’s make a picnic to go with us.
Gunther: Yes great idea, let’s take a picnic and eat it on the roller coaster.
Heidi: Yes I love extreme eating.

You can also repeat it where anything the other person says they then make it happen there and then, for instance snapping to theme park mentioned above. Also a variation is to physical act out anything that gets mentioned.

Yes And: Play a scene or conversation where every line starts with the words Yes And.

Two people improvise a scene with no words, physical only, while they are underscored by a film movie soundtrack. They are directed to physically yes and, being in agreement about the physical environment and activity and adding to it. First learnt this from Charna Halpern at IO.

Action and Justify:
One improviser does any physical action, their partner justifies what they are doing, they both agree with the established reality. For instance:

Igor: Waves arms around head wildly.
Maria: Gosh the flies out here in the wilderness are deadly.
Igor: I agree, we need to get to a bug spray shop immediately.

Being Obvious/Real/Top of Intelligence Exercises

Character Bench: Five actors sat in a row. They are all the same character type, for instance they all went to school together or they all were in a space station together. Director asks them questions which they answer, and they all agree with the first answer rather than distract from it. Coach them to say honest, real, obvious answers rather than attempting to make jokes that destroy the reality of the characters.

Scenes Exercises

Three Line Scenes: A nice way to get into doing scenes for the first time. People go pair by pair and improvise scenes with three lines in total. Either actor says the first line, then there is a response, then a response to that. Whatever is said is then wildly applauded, to help people get used to improvising in front of an audience.

Later in the course we can add in variations to three line scenes:

  • establishing where you are
  • establishing character
  • establishing relationship
  • bringing in emotion and reactions

But we tend to work on one thing at a time.

Fun End Games

Pan Left: A fun game of swapping channels on an imaginary TV set. Two or three actors on back line, two others stood in front, all facing the audience. The two closest to the audience are the TV channel we are watching. If we say Pan Left they all move around one place so that we have a new TV channel at the front.


This is part 2 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 1 please click here.


Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Improv. Improv classes, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK.

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