Credit: We first learned of this exercise through the infamous Maria Peters
This is a great warm-up exercise that forces you to get out of your head and create new characters on the fly. If players in your group seem to always default to the same couple of characters, then you need to light the character bomb fuse.
How does it work?
- A single player stands up in front of their improv group (aka the audience)
- The player begins to do any character they wish
- The audience shouts out “next” to bring on the next character
- When shouting out “next” the audience can also call out specific characters or traits they’d like to see. For example:
- Status: high/low
- Emotion: happy, sad, angry
- Age: infant, young, middle age, half dead
- Object: spoon, kettle, trombone
- Animal: bunny, frog, dragon
- Genre: alien (sci-fi), film noir, slap-stick comedy
- As soon as the player goes through 10 characters, it’s the next player’s turn
You go through characters fairly quickly during this exercise, so don’t be hesitant to shout “next” after 20-30 seconds. Depending on the scene, you may collectively choose to watch a character unfold for a couple of minutes.
Tip: It is often beneficial to go through the first 3-4 characters fairly quickly for each player as these tend to be characters they have in their back pocket. The objective here is to have them create new characters that are new to them and the audience.