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“Lines From a Hat” Improv Game


hatupsidedown.gif "Lines From a Hat" is an improvisational comedy game in which two or more players perform a scene incorporating sentences provided by the audience.

Step 1

Distribute pencils and paper to audience.

Step 2

Ask each audience member to write sentences on pieces of paper. Tell them they can use a famous saying, something someone said to them, or something they just made up, and it's OK if it's unusual or even weird. (If you're trying to do a clean show, you may want to ask them to keep their sentences "PG". If you have a small audience, encourage each person to write several sentences.)

Step 3

Collect the sentences in a hat (or other receptacle).

Step 4

Select two players.

Step 5

Each player takes a handful of sentences from the hat without looking at them.

Step 6

Ask the audience to suggest a setting or topic for the scene.

Step 7

The players start the scene as usual, but every 5 or 6 lines or so one read one of the audience's suggestions.

Step 8

No matter how bizarre or random the sentence seems, the players must justify it as quickly as possible and incorporate it into the scene.

Step 9

Players should alternate in reading audience sentences. If player 1 reads the first one, player 2 should read the second one, player 1 should read the third one, and so forth.

Step 10

The game should end when each player has read at least three sentences AND the scene reaches a natural climax.

Bonus Tips
  • Getting sentences can take some time, so do it before the show starts. It will give early arrivals something to do while they wait.
  • You may want to have someone inconspicuously screen out overtly offensive material before the game begins. The screener should not be one of the players.
  • For a twist on this game, bring an audience member on stage to participate in the scene. Instruct the volunteer to speak only when spoken to and read lines drawn at random from the hat. In this version, the players improvise all their lines and must justify the sentences read by the volunteer.
NEXT: Find more games or start an improv troupe.

Photo by Peter Suneson