Improv 101 — Zip Zap Zop

Just like Bippity Bippity Bop, this game doesn’t involve much actual improv. It’s a good warm-up, and it can build energy if you play it right (though it takes the effort of the whole cast in order to use it in such a way). It’s really simple and quick, but there are tons of variations to this game. It’s pretty adaptable! This game can work with any number of people, but I’d say it works best with a group of between six to thirty. Any more than that and you run the risk of getting people who are “playing” but never actually participate.

This game is essentially a game of imaginary hot potato. Everybody stands in a circle, and one person claps (to draw attention) and points to any other person, making eye contact and saying “Zip!” The person they point to claps and points (the same action), pointing to a different person, and says “Zap!” The last person repeats this action, saying “Zop!” At that point, you circle back around to “Zip”. The idea is to get into a rhythm of zip, zap, and zop as quickly as possible. This builds energy because it’s supposed to go as fast as you can, and it also promotes a nice group mentality, since you have to make eye contact (and trust me, you have to make eye contact or people won’t know who you’re pointing to).

Baseline, that’s it. That’s the whole game. But this is a great game because since it’s so simple, it’s easy to build upon. The more familiar the actors get with this game, the harder you can make it. For one, you can stop clapping and pass the zips and zaps purely via eye contact. This is far more difficult because you no longer have moment to draw the eye’s attention. (It’s also obviously more quiet because now nobody’s clapping.)

Again, you can make it more difficult by passing around two (or even three) at once! This, as you can probably imagine, is super tough because now you can’t just be following the movement. You have to watch for two different things at once, and be prepared if one (or both) land on you. If you practice this, I recommend looking straight ahead so you can use your peripheral vision to see if anyone points at you. You drop the eye contact, sure, but its the only way to ensure you are ready to pick it up. If two fall on you on the same beat, best case scenario you point at two different people to make sure there are still two going around. If you try this method, establish a beat that the actors can work with. You want both people to always be saying “zip” (or whatever the relevant word may be) simultaneously and so on so it doesn’t get confusing. Make sure the beat isn’t too fast so everyone can use it without getting flustered!

Lastly, if you intend to be playing this game for a while, you can add penalties for messing up. You can define what constitutes as “messing up” on your own, but for my troupe its defined as whatever stops the flow of the game. Sometimes we can’t pin the blame on one person so we throw it on two or three. In any case, whenever somebody messes up with this rule, they must say new “words”, going down the alphabet every time they mess up and skipping vowels. If you’re on “zip, zap, and zop” and you mess up, now you say bip, bap, or bop instead. If somebody calls “zip” on you, you now point to somebody and call “bap”. If you mess up again, now you say cip, cap, or cop, and so on. It can get pretty difficult when you’ve been playing for a while and it sounds like “Dip! Bap! Hop! Tip! Gap! Fop!” Especially when it can be a sort of funny-embarrassing for that poor soul that is already on the letter T.

Again, there’s actually virtually zero improv in this game. It’s just a fun game you can play with a group of friends. Super simple, and the variations are only for when you get too good for upping the tempo to mean anything anymore. If nothing else, this is a game everyone can have fun with.

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