I am thinking about creating a list of critical improv aphorisms or 'rules'. But, I've come across a lot of exisiting lists that are available of the web and before I publish mine, I thought it would be a good idea to reference some other (and possibly better) lists.

The first list is The Eleven Commandments of Improv which is found on the Improv Encyclopedia website. They reference Del Close as the source. Here's the list:

  1. You are all supporting actors.
  2. Always check your impulses.
  3. Never enter a scene unless you are NEEDED.
  4. Save your fellow actor, don't worry about the piece.
  5. Your prime responsibility is to support.
  6. Work at the top of your brains at all times.
  7. Never underestimate or condescend to your audience.
  8. No jokes (unless it is tipped in front that it is a joke.)
  9. Trust... trust your fellow actors to support you; trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them; trust yourself.
  10. Avoid judging what is going down except in terms of whether it needs help (either by entering or cutting), what can best follow, or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is called for.
  11. LISTEN

Another list at the Improv Encyclopedia is named the Ten Commandments. They didn't reference where they found this list. The commandments are:

  1. Thou shalt not block
  2. Thou shalt always retain focus
  3. Thou shalt not shine above thy team-mates
  4. To gag is to commit a sin that will be paid for
  5. Thou shalt always be changed by what is said to you
  6. Thou shalt not waffle
  7. When in doubt, break the routine
  8. To wimp is to show thy true self
  9. (S)he what tries to be clever is not; while (s)he that is clever doesn't try
  10. When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn't matter.

The third (and last) list at the Improv Encyclopedia is named The Rules. Again, no reference of the source, but here they are:

  • Trust
  • Don't negate or deny
  • Don't ask questions
  • Make actional choices
  • Make assumptions
  • Give and Take
  • Listen, watch and concentrate
  • Work to the top of your intelligence

The next list comes from the Pan Theater Improv Theater and is titled The Rules of Improv Part I- the First Ten . The group is from San Francisco, and the article was written by David Alger. Here's the list:

  1. Say "Yes and!"
  2. After the "and", Add New Information
  3. Don't Block
  4. Avoid Questions
  5. Focus on the Here and Nows
  6. Establish the Location!
  7. Be Specific- Provide Details!
  8. Change, Change, Change!
  9. For serious and emotional scenes, focus on characters and relationships
  10. For humor, commit and take choices to the nth degree or focus on actions/objects

David went on to write a follow up article cleverly titled The Rules of Improv Part II. The ten rules in that list are:

  1. Give information to your partner
  2. Listen to your partner
  3. Respond to your partner
  4. See the impact of the response
  5. Look beyond the words
  6. Use more than words
  7. Accept silence and being self concious
  8. Be doing but don't focus the dialogue on what you're doing
  9. Sooner is better than later- Do it now!
  10. Have fun and relax

Dan Goldstein has created a long list consisting of some basic rules of thumb. The article is titled How to be a Better Improviser and the list consists of:

  • Accept Information: Yes And
  • Add History
  • Ask Yourself "If this were true, then what else is true?"
  • Be very specific
  • When Beginning Scenes, Cut to the Interesting Stuff as Soon as Possible
  • Commence with Characterizing Actions
  • Don't Deny
  • Enter and Exit with Purpose
  • The Game of the Scene Should Rhyme and Heighten
  • Get Behind the Story
  • Get in Groups when the Number of People on Stage is High
  • Give Yourself a Suggestion when you Don't ask the Audience for One
  • Go Against the Voice of Reason
  • Go Line for Line
  • Justification
  • Keep the Focus Human and Onstage
  • Maintain your Character's Point of View
  • Don't Make Jokes
  • Mime Better, Much Better
  • Play the Opposite Emotion
  • Provide Information About the Other Person
  • Raise the Stakes
  • Take Care of Yourself
  • Questions Should Give More Than They Take

The Purple Crayon of Yale is the college's improv comedy troupe. They have a list of rules that they call Improv Wisdom. That list consists of 160 rules so I'm not going to duplicate it here. I find lists that long to be be distracting, with only a few of the rules being generally useful or unique. However, I give you the link in case you want to mine it for your own gems of wisdom.

By now you are probably cross-eyed from the all of these lists. You can see that there are some common items to all of them. The differences generally define the style of improv performed by the list maker.

What's the best list? Well, you know I'm not going to answer that directly. Instead, I'll be putting together my own. You should do the same.