The ABRIDGED Spontaneous
Combustion list o' games
Created by Rod Sanders. Added to by Nathan Zumwalt
('02) & Jeff Bishop ('04)
Warm-Up Games Closing
Games Games We Play Games
We Can Play Games We No Longer Play
Spontaneous Combustion Staples
These seem to be the biggest hits with our audience.
Since we love you so much, we perform them.
Players begin a scene. If the ref doesn't like it, he'll yell
'Beep.' That player will have to change their line/action/expression to
a new one. The ref can repeat as much as he wants, and the players have
to go with whatever the ref allows.
Ref scatters lines from the audience on the stage. Players come up and
start a scene based on audience suggestion. As the scene progresses, the
players pick up the lines on the stage and say them out loud. The scene
changes based on these lines.
Each guest at a cheese party has an odd audience-given quirk. The host
must guess each one of these quirks before the party members leave.
Do Run Run (singing game!)
Players stand in a line. They start to sing in the do-run-run style. "I
met her on a Sunday and her name was ____." <all sing> do run
run run, do run run. Next player in line sings a rhyming punchline. All
sing do run run.
Emotional Road Trip
Each player gets a different emotion from the audience. The first player
gets into the car and starts driving to a destination with that emotion.
When the second player enters the car, they both take on that emotion
the third player comes in. Repeat for all players. After a suitable time,
the last player leaves, and the emotions cycle back through until only
the driver is left with his original emotion.
<variations - Emotional Small Business. Emotional Party>
Two players on stage act out a scene based on audience suggestion, except
they're speaking in a foreign language! No worries though, as each player
has a translator to act as subtitles and give the actors a voice.
Players begin a scene based on audience suggestion. Ref can move the game
along with commands of forward, fast forward, reverse, slow-motion, pause,
or even changing the channel
Hoe-Down (singing game! stolen from Who's
Line is it Anyways?)
Four players stand in a row and have a hoe-down based on an audience suggestion.
Employs rhyming and mockery. .
The three-headed smartest man in the world answers questions from the
audience. Each player can only say one word at a time as they try to form
<tip for audience, ask them to sing songs, tell rhymes, or spell words>
Variation Games - Spelling Bee (world's greatest speller)
Murder Chain (currently our flagship game)
A player is alone on the stage. The audience provides him with a location,
an occupation, and a murder weapon that could never be used to kill someone.
This player must transmit these three suggestions to a 2nd player only
speaking gibberish, with the 2nd player killing the first with the murder
weapon. This repeats for the 2nd/3rd player.
Two players get a line from the audience. They must get the third player
to say this exact line, verbatim.
(Recent lines - "You can't throw a dead cat in Utah without hitting
a Mormon." "Don't speed with the 40s in the trunk." "Play
that funky music, manatee.")
Word From Our Sponsor
A talk show host interviews a guest expert. This interview is punctuated
with three 'Word from Our Sponsors,' in which three or four players create
commercials for a made-up product, a new television series, and something
that you would never hear a public service announcement for.
Games we can play, but often don't.
Players speak in alternating lines of one, three, and five words in
(Variation - 1-3-silloquy)
Players construct in a minute and a half a neutral scene. Then, they repeat
it in 45 seconds, then 22, then 11, and finally 6 seconds.
Two players construct a scene. While they're performing, two players off-stage
call off different emotions. Players switch to those emotions and continue.
2 actors, one with script, the other performs the scene without a script
as if he were really the other character in the script he's never seen
Three players must get a host to guess in 5 minutes 5 different things
using only miming and gibberish. Observe: We're riding in a hot air balloon,
but rather than a balloon, it's really a giant armadillo. And instead
of being in the air, we're really
IN SPACE! Repeat 4 more times.
Mystery Return Item
Take Item back to store, clerk doesn't know what's being returned, or
what store he's in. can be played with customer unawares also. Figure
Players get never-seen-before props. Do crazy things with them.
Standing, Sitting, Kneeling
Three players conduct a scene based on an audience suggestion. At all
times, one must be standing, one must be sitting, and one must be kneeling.
<variations - Standing, Sitting, Lying Down. Standing, Standing, Dragon,
<Elaine used to call this game "Lying, Standing, Fucking">
There's a world problem! Only a superhero can solve it. But he can't do
it alone, so he keeps calling in other superheros until they all solve
the problem together!
The Inappropriate Game
Six players in 2 lines of 3..
"World's worst thing to say @ ____" two actors up front say
lines, go to back first two go twice. When second in line are first again,
get new topic.
Games we used to play, but for some reason
or another have fallen from our repertoire.
As these are unfamiliar, you get the non-abridged version.
Replay (up to 2000. we brought this back in 2003 for St. Louis.
Then quickly dropped it)
The players first set up a neutral scene that does not necessarily have
to be funny for about a minute. Then the scene is spiced up with suggestions
from the audience, like emotion, character trait and movie style. Then,
the players will replay that scene three times using the different suggestions.
Usually suggestions come in one of two sets: funny, not so funny/ stupid,
and hilarious; or funny, funny, hilarious. You always want to save your
funniest endowment for last and your least funny for the middle.
Story (up to 2002. Then it stopped being funny)
The players line up and receive endowments from the audience. The players
have to tell a story (title also provided by the audience, a story that
does not exist) while using the different endowments they have been given.
The ref points to players and they have to continue the story for the
time that he/she has their finger pointed at the player. Players are called
out for hesitating, for not continuing what another player had said, for
continuing to speak after the ref has taken his finger away and for not
making any sense. (In this game, bring out your individual characterization
(lots of comedy here) while continuing the story and advancing the plot.)-it's
amusing to have Han Solo throwing in wookie references, while a Carebear
keeps trying to put a happy spin on the manic-depressive's plot twists.-but
remember the storyline. This is a good game to keep in mind the art of
"taking a fall" when too many people have been up for too long.
Changing Movie Styles (last played maybe 2001)
The players start a scene based on an audience suggestion and after
a while the ref calls out different movie styles from a list that the
audience provides beforehand. The players on stage have to change their
actions and dialogue to fit the movie style chosen. Try to keep porno
to the end, for the same reason as stated above.
Madrigal (used to be very popular. Last played in 2000)
Three players line up after trying to dress (or not)"Renaissance-like"
and each sing a line that is provided by the audience. The lines are like
"things you would hear in a bar," or "something that you
would see on a bumper sticker." One of the suggestions HAS to be:
"A tabloid headline with someone famous in the title." The players
each sing the line twice based on two four-counts. During the first time
through, one player will sing and the other two hum in the background.
After all three have sung once, then all players sing together. After
that, the players go around again and mix up the lines "accidentally"
to make them funny. The other players sing softly in the background. After
three times through, all players sing together, first quickly, then slowly
to an end. Bad singing accompanies the spirit of this piece, so don't
worry. Stick to one simple one line melody all the way through, each person
repeating it with his (her) phrase. Borrowing elements from other's phrases,
mix them up slightly, then ridiculously. This game will either go really
well, or flop.
Hesitation (last played in 2000)
The players start a scene based on an audience suggestion. After a while,
the players start hesitating in reference to something in the scene. The
audience yells out suggestions to complete the actor's sentence. The hesitation
should be made very obvious, "Uh, um, um
" with a repetitive
hand motion. When possible, show the audience, don't tell them. Most importantly,
give specific hesitations that are easy to fill in. "I just hate
it when my orangutan is
umm umm ("horny", "transparent",
"better looking than I")" works better than "I think
(because the audience won't know right off what to suggest.)
Then remember to work the suggestions into the scene. -Don't just say,
"my orangutan in transparent, but remember that, for the rest of
the scene, unless you talk your way out of it, your orangutan is invisible
(or horny, as the case may be.)
Writer's Block (last played 2001)
Similar to Hesitation, but the ref stops the action whenever he/she wants
to and asks the audience for a suggestion to continue the action. Similar
to Hesitation, but you can get abstract plot directions from the audience.
The ref can ask for an emotion (or ethnicity) for a character, or can
ask "what will he find behind the door?" or say: "Margaret
is getting angry at her boss now, why is she mad?" This has a lot
of potential with a ref asking good questions.
Six Lines (circa 1995-1999)
One player is sent out as another gets six unrelated lines and phrases
from the audience. The player is then called back in and the two players
set up a scene but the player that remained inside can only use the six
lines that was suggested by the audience (and only once each). The other
player has the responsibility of recognizing what the scene is about,
keeping it going and getting the other player to say their lines. Is made
funny by getting the "free" actor to deliver perfect setups.
Three Things (last played '97)
An audience volunteer is sent out of earshot (with someone to explain
the game) and the ref gets three active activities from the audience (no
sports or medical activities). These are then spiced up by adding unusual
locations, alternate items, other activities, and famous people. The players
as a group try to get the volunteer to guess the entire activity. Usually
only one player at a time is necessary to explain one point of the activity.
There should be no dead time during this game, the players should try
to map out strategy while the game is being explained to the audience
and while they are not on stage. When applicable, location needs to be
shown first. There is a five minute time limit. (I've never done this
Choose your own adventure (circa 2000)
Players begin a scene. At crucial junctions, the ref stops the action,
and lets the audience choose where the scene will go next.
TV show theme (popular only in 2000-2001)
Five actors createa rhyming theme song based on Gilligan's Island.
Author (invented and played in 2000-2001)
Typist narrating, etc. calls in characters, objects. Get title, three
objects, Moral? build story.
Moral Dilemma (invented and played 2000-2001)
Three players perform a scene. When the ref goes "poof" ? An
angel and devil pop onto shoulder of the protagonist. Try to sway his
conscience. Scene continues.
Radio (invented and played for Thanksgiving show with Philharmonics,
Ref gets four radio stations (ex. country, rap, oldies, etc.). Each radio
station has four a capella members singing the baseline and a lead singer.
The ref moves from station to station, with each lead singer singing about
the same topic (in our case, the key to the kitchen).
Warm Up Games
You, the audience, won't see these happen, but we use them to warm
up to make you laugh. We're putting them on the website for the sake of
other improv troupes.
Two players construct a scene where the first letter of their line of
dialogue starts with the next-in-line letter of the alphabet.
Boppa-Dee-Bopp-Bopp-Bop (stolen from Yale)
Players stand in a circle. The 'it' person in the middle walks up to someone
and goes "Boppa-Dee-Bopp-Bopp-Bop." If that person doesn't say
"Bopp," by the end of it, he is now in the middle. But if the
middle player just says "Bopp," the person he is talking to
must remain silent. Jazz it up with requiring actions "Charlie's
Angel's Boppa-Dee-Bopp-Bopp-Bop" makes three people go into the Charlie's
Players are positioned by audience member, and then create an action based
on that position. Someone from the troupe yells 'Freeze.' The action stops,
one of the two players are tapped out, the new guy gets into that exact
same position, and a new completely different scene begins.
What are you Doing?
Two players take the stage and get a location from the audience. One starts
miming things that you might do at said location. The second asks, "Hey,
what are you doing?" The first one says an action that one could
do at that location, "Um
punching a horse." The second
player must then do that action
goes back and forth.
Players stand in circle. One player points at another and says 'Zip.'
This person must point to someone else and say 'Zap,' who must point to
someone and say 'Zop.' Then repeat. Harder - do it without pointing, or
move to a different letter if you mess up (aip, aap, aop).
We always try to end the show with a high note with as much member
participation as possible... these games facilitate that.
Ref gets audience suggestion, and then players have to insert it into:
One hundred and eighty-five [objects] walk into a bar. The bartender says
"We don't serve [objects] here." So the one hundred and eighty-five
[objects] say, "[punch line]."
One hundred and eighty-five shoes walk into a bar. The bartender says
"We don't serve shoes here." So the one hundred and eighty-five
man, you got no sole!
Why I oughta sock you one
kick us out of here-just do it!
These shoes are made for walkin'-that's
what they're gonna do; one of these days these shoes are gonna walk all
Oh, c'mon, Mister-you gotta understand; we're under so much
pressure all day
Sooo, basically what you're saying is 'shoo
Jeez, you'd think after all these years of persecution, you
German beer halls would stop oppressing the shoes.
Based on an audience suggestion, players talk about how the audience suggestion
was so much better back when they were young.
Rice Women/Men/Sex/Life is Like (based on 1996 Thresher
Players get a topic from the audience. Read the
Backpage. You'll figure it out.
Players act out the world's worst [audience suggestion].