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Additional Game List Site

I've added another website with a list of improv games to the post on improv game sites. I've seen this site referenced, but the links were always broken. I've just come across the current link: The Living Playbook hasn't been updated for awhile (the current list is dated from 2001), but it is a long list of long and short form games along with a glossary.

A List of Lists

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.

Links to Improv Games

There are a variety of websites that have lists of improv games. Some are comprehensive lists that are compiled with the help of many contributors. Some are the list of games a particular troupe use for their shows. As of today, Sept. 6, 2006, this list is accurate. I will try and update this post periodically with any changes that I find. Improv games often are known by several names depending on the group referring to it. Also, the game may have several variant methods of playing it.

Unfortunately, there isn't a single site that I go to for all games. Some are more comprehensive than others (listed first, below) , and I still review small sites to find any new or unique games. New games and variations are being developed all of the time.

Improv Encyclopedia has the most comprehensive list, and provides the games either alphabetically or by categories. They also try and list the games under all known names and variants. I use this site most often.

Chicago Improv Network Wiki is a new site to me. They have three lists, Exercises, Longforms, and Shortforms. I really like the layout, but there is a problem with a lot of incomplete definitions. In several cases, a page for a game is exists but without content. I plan on spending some time exploring this site.

The Improv Wiki has a small set of games, and doesn't appear to be updated very often. However, it's worth checking in on this one from time to time.

Learn Improv has a smaller list, but the descriptions are pretty good and their list is also categorized. Access their lists using the Structures box on the side.

The Living Playbook hasn't been updated for awhile (the current list is dated from 2001), but it is a long list of long and short form games along with a glossary.

Long Form Stuff Shaun Has ... is a list of long form structures that Chicago's Shaun Himmerick has collected from a variety of source. The descriptions are pretty good although brief.

Idiotica has a smaller list, and the descriptions aren't detailed, but they do try to rate the characteristics of each game. Each game is given a score between 0 and 5 for Character, Plot, Timing, Mime, and Group Mind.

Fuzzy's Game List is an older list that hasn't been updated for awhile, but is still out there and worth looking over.

Mark's Guide to Whose Line Is It Anyway, The Games is a fun site where a lot of the games seen on the Who's Line Is It Anyway TV show are listed. The descriptions are limited, but they include a sample of the dialog. It's a fun list.

The Spolin Games list games promoted by The Spolin Center. The group promotes the work of Viola Spolin, one of the founders of modern improv. The descriptions are way too short, but they do give you a sense of the games.

FNI Games is a site listing the games played by the FNI (Friday Night Improv) in Pittsburgh. A short list, but I sometimes like seeing this kind of focused list.

Improv Games for Rehearsal and Performance is an interesting site that has a short description of a large group of games. I'm not certain who put this list together, but it's a nice list.

Improv Games for Kids is a nice little list of improv games that are appropriate for kids.

Improv Glossary

There's a pretty good glossary of improv terms at the Improv Encyclopedia. Some of the definitions are a little thin and some are circularly referential (what is advancing?), but overall it's got a lot of good information.

Using all you know

I had a chance to read Chris Compton's article Every Part of the Buffalo from the newsletter. It's a great discussion of not dumbing down to the audience, not getting caught up in your head, and using what you know in a piece. I particularly liked his suggestion of naming characters using the names of people you know. Using names (actually, the lack of using names) is one of the many challenges I face in a piece (okay, I suck at it).

John Kinde, Humor Power

John is a magician, improvisor, teacher, speaker, businessman, and all around damn nice guy. He's also a prolific writer and marketer. Part of his improv education happened with SBIW, but he's someone who went out and actively educated himself on improv, and then built an environment in which he could continue to learn and perform. The Santa Maria improv group that he ran had some of the biggest improv audiences I'd worked with up to that time, and the performances were great. He was always welcoming, and encouraged the Santa Barbara group to come up and participate. I was sorry to see him move to Las Vegas, but could count on him to put together a significant improv community. So I was pleased to be toodling around the Web and discover his web site, Humor Power. I just subscribed to his newsletter and read some of his articles. He does a good job of pulling together what he's learned into a very approachable style. Check out some of his articles.

And, whenever you are in the Las Vegas area, check out his group's public shows.

Comic Theory in the Sixteenth Century

In future posts, I plan on discussing various improv related books that I have and am willing to lend out to anyone in the Workshop. However, as I was cleaning out a bookshelf today, I came across something I forgot that I own and just have to mention. Comic Theory in the Sixteenth Century by Marvin T. Herrick. This little gem was published in 1964 by the University of Illinois Press, Urbana and has a copyright notice of 1950! The preface is dated 1949.

Let's face it, you wont find any tips for spicing up your characters, or providing better support to your fellow actors. But, if you're looking for a discussion of Julius Caesar's examination of Greek theories of the laughable and its influence on Quintilian's Renaissance theories of the ridiculus (I kid you not, pp 37-38 in a section titled The Risible) then I'd be happy to loan you this book.

And, in keeping with the educational nature of this blog (from

ris�i�ble (rz-bl) adj.

  1. Relating to laughter or used in eliciting laughter.
  2. Eliciting laughter; ludicrous.
  3. Capable of laughing or inclined to laugh.

Applied Improv Network

I came across this group a couple of weeks ago, and they're doing interesting work with improv. They are the Applied Improv Network, and the're focused on applying improv skills in organizations. The key sentence from their mission statement is:

Our members are business professionals and academics who use improv tools, experience, and theory for human development and training in communities and organizations.

They've been around a few years and their blog has recent entries. They also have a conference coming up in San Francisco, scheduled for Novemeber.

LA Based Online Improv Magazine is an online magazine that's focused on the LA improv scene. It has class and performance calendars from a variety of groups, some of which are outside of the LA area. There are quite a few articles and short videos, a forum, and an Amazon based bookstore. All in all this is a fairly diverse and interesting site.

The New Improv Page

The New Improv Page website tries to keep current with improv groups, festivals, and workshops all over the world. Their games list is actually a set of links to other sites that maintain their own game lists. They've also got a pretty handy RSS feed to notify you of any additions or changes to their lists. Pretty cool reference site!

Improv Encyclopedia

One of the more complete lists of improv games that I've found on the web is at I use it as a resource for planning a class or a show. You can download a PDF of the games, but since they're still adding content, I browse and perform searches right on the site.