Improv Games You Can Play Over a Call During a Coronavirus Quarantine

Great over Zoom, better over FaceTime, best while drunk.

6 min readApr 2, 2020
The joy of Improv

My name is Darren. I was two sessions into teaching an Improv Workshop when we had to put the remaining sessions on hold for social distancing. I now have thirteen bored, eager enthusiasts.

Here are some Improv Games you can play over a Google Hangouts, Group Video Call, Voice Chat or other mass telecommuting environment:

  • Story Exercises — To practice
  • Latecomer Specials — Funny, fast, jokey games
  • Performances — Difficult, but rewarding

0. Some Quick Improv Ideas & Recap

  • Tell a story. Don’t try to “win” a scene or be funny; the question you should ask is, “What would be interesting, but relatable?”
  • Play with your partner. Listening is important. Start with “What did they just say? What did they want me to hear?” Meet them more-than-halfway, and remember it’s always two people.
  • Have Fun. Emphasis Play. Surprise your partner. Make an interesting choice. Just remember to keep going and not to fight.
Listen to Hitch: Go 90, and let them finish the final 10%

1. Warmups: Quick, Light, Easy

Alphabets: Every line of dialogue starts with the next letter of the Alphabet. Watch out for Q & X

One: Attack that hill!
Two: But sir! Our tent is on fire!
One: Crikey! Where’s our hose?
Two: Darn quartermaster’s making coffee with it!

Number-of-Words: Each player is given a number, and may say only the exact number of words in dialogue. Best with three; one with a small number, and one with a big number.

Three: Where’s the coffee?
Seventeen: I’ve just made this lovely cup of coffee by straining the coffee grounds through this spare pantyhose.
Seven: No, you idiot, I meant the firehose!
Three: Tent’s on fire!

Interesting question: Is firehose one word or two? Does Tent’s on fire count as three words or four?

2-Line-Vocabulary, from classic Whose Line, is more difficult but has a lot of the same games.

2. Story Exercises: 1WAATS & He Said, She Said

These next games tend to be played in workshop. They’re more fun to play than to watch. Regardless, they show you how to create an entire scene or even the full story by simply talking.

One Word At A Time Story (1WAATS)

  • One by one, each player tells a story, one word at a time. No tricks, no punishment, just go around the circle one word at a time. Try to keep it grammatically accurate. Works best with three,
  • You may notice some people have to be ‘boring words’ like The, And, But. Another way to look at it is these words hold the sentences and story together so it makes sense. Otherwise, you’d have an interesting but confusing sentence, the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie.
  • You may notice some people prefer to make bold, crazy choices. Others play as part of the ensemble and keep things going. Still others defer responsibility by extending the sentence with ‘and’ (“He was tall and brave and mighty and strong …”) A good player does all three, but knows when to do each.

One-Word-At-A-Time-Story is everything you need to know about improv: listening, setting somebody else to be awesome, being boring, being interesting, every concept is somewhere in there.

A fun variation is Three-Headed Oracle. The audience asks a question, and the three heads of the oracle must answer, one word at a time, each only saying one word.

Audience: Where will I find true love
1: Wherever…
2: …you
3: …lay
1: … your
2: …hat
3: …that’s
1: …disgusting.

If you get good at 1WAATS, you can do it in SOOOOOOOONG!~

He Said, She Said

  • Two players, gender doesn’t matter. Player One says a line of dialogue; Player Two narrates how Player One said the line (following the format ‘He said…’ or ‘She said…’), then responds.

1: “I want a divorce.”
2: He said, slamming the door.
2: “You can have it!”
1: She said, slamming the refrigerator.
1: “You’ve been sleeping with Bob!
2: He said, slamming Bob into the table.

  • Remember, narrate first. Lots of people think about replying, but forget to narrate.
  • Since you can only narrate for your partner, you can’t choose your character — your partner chooses it for you. This is also a great way to toy with your partner, but also accept that you have no control.

1: “I want a divorce.”
2: He said, loudly and triumphantly.
2: “You can have it!”
1: She said, not looking up from her autopsy.
1: “You’ve been sleeping with Bob!
2: He said, celebrating with a little jig

3. Latecomers Specials

These games are played for performances. They’re funny and fast and witty, but really difficult to get right. They’re great to watch, and excellent drinking games, but they don’t teach anything.

Sex With Me

Ask for a bunch of unrelated objects. Tell a joke, starting with “Sex with me is like [object], insert punchline here. Basically, the set-up is the same, but you write the punchline.

Sex with me is like cigarettes, it’ll shorten your lifespan.
Sex with me is like milk, good for seven days.
Sex with me is like a leaky faucet, you’ll be up all night and in the morning the floor will be wet.

There’s no learning here, other than practice at how to be fast, how to come at a subject from multiple angles, and how to be witty. Play with your friends as the best drinking game.

Credit to the most excellent Prescott for this one.


Ask for a word. One player is the Answerer. Each player goes up to the Answerer and asks them a Question, the Answerer has to answer with the word.

The intro to this game is always the same, get the audience to shout sausages after these three questions:

What do you like to eat in the morning? [Sausages!]
What do cute little piggies grow up to become? [Sausages]
If a ketchup is twelve years old, soy sauce is fourteen, and mayonnaise is six, what have I just told you? [Sauce-ages]

Yes. Bad puns. It’s funny. Basically, it’s the opposite of #SexWithMe: the punchline is always the same, you want to write the set-up. And because you have the same punchline, you all try to figure out the most different, unique, interesting set-ups to the same word as you can.

Most importantly, this teaches you a lesson: you can’t know what makes somebody laugh. You just have to keep trying.

Two of my favourites are below, way back from 2017, and I still have a giggle:

The word is ‘Vending Machine’: If the father is called a ‘Vending Pa-chine’, what is the mother called?

I’m quite proud to have come up with this one:

The word is ‘Tuba’: In the famous song ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, how many Baas do you sing before you reach ‘Black Sheep’?

Look, it’s hard to explain why an Improv performance game is funny over a bloody article. It loses all context and meaning. But in a live atmosphere, when five or six of you are all trying to make one person laugh, using the worst possible contortion of syllables and the lousiest puns this side of a Milton Jones/Tim Vine/Stewart Francis three-way Zoom call…

Look, just try it when you’re drunk with friends.

4. Performance Concepts

These aren’t really games but entire performance sets or shows. If you’re confident and fully trained, you can try them out.

Songs are always great. There are plenty of variations; these can be hard to get right, even if you’re an experienced performer. Luckily there are tons of Whose Line examples to learn from and practice.

Radio Play is a simple concept. Turn off the lights, sit in chairs, start a scene. It’s a radio play. You can’t act with your faces or body; you have to use only your dialogue or tone of voice. No props? You have to make sound effects with your mouth. Everything needs to be from you.

So. Those are some fun exercises you can try in the time of social distancing. If you liked that, you should check out my blog,




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