Improv 101 — Tag Team Monologue

Tag Team Monologue is a simple, usually low energy hoop game for three or four people. This is a game that requires little to no improv experience, but can always be improved upon. The improvisers will be making up a monologue on the spot, but this is easier than it sounds. (A lot of improv is actually simple and requires far more practice than skill. As I always say, improv isn’t about being creative and funny, it’s about following the rules, as strange as this may sound.)

First, you get a suggestion. You can take anything: an occupation, a location, a genre, but for this game my troupe usually takes a suggestion of either a conflict or a ‘first world problem’. Then, you get a stool (a chair works, but a stool is preferable), and whoever is sitting will be the one telling the story. The other three improvisers will stand behind the speaker, and at any point can tag them out. If the speaker is tagged, they immediately stop talking and stand, while the other person sits down and continues the same story from the last word (or better yet sound) that was said. This continues for about three minutes (like any normal game) until the ref calls scene, when the story finds a natural conclusion or a button.

That’s the basic premise of the game, but as with most games, there’s are several techniques that can make the game more enjoyable. The most important one is pacing. At the beginning of the game, improvisers should be telling their part of the story for about twenty to thirty seconds before somebody tags them out. This translates to about three to five sentences. After everyone has narrated at least once, it starts to quicken. You can always tag somebody out whenever you want, but it works better if you do it in increments from thirty, to twenty, to fifteen, down to five and then finally one second. As people start getting tagged out faster, mid-sentence and even mid-word, the drama and energy of the scene should go up. When people are only saying a word at a time, the story will have lost control and, in a general story arc sense, this is the climax. At some point, the improvisers should stop tagging people out quickly, and the last one or two people should have twenty seconds again to wrap up the story before the ref calls scene.

Another critical thing to remember is that the improvisers are all the same speaker. This means they’re all playing the same character, telling the same story. Not only is it best to sit in the exact same position as the person before you, but you should also use the same accent and cadence. If you tag somebody out while they are sobbing, it adds to the entertainment value of the scene if you start sobbing as you begin talking. If all four people had the same exact voice, this game should sound like somebody giving a perfectly normal monologue, with no two second break in between words. As soon as you tag somebody out you should begin talking just as the last person stopped. This part specifically isn’t easy, but it’s the goal improvisers should try to hit as they practice.

2 thoughts on “Improv 101 — Tag Team Monologue

  1. This is one of the more frustrating games, coming from the audience. It might be because I’ve seen it several time, but it always devolves into a game of “tag in” first and “move the narrative forward” second. The improv completely falls away.

    I think I would enjoy this game much more of there was a rule where no tags are allowed until at least 3-5 words have been said. It’s always a little disappointing when I expect someone to say something clever or silly, but then all it looks like was was a “I can too!” then deer in headlights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that. The idea is that the clever things will still be said, even when it is one word at a time. We’ve never been able to reach that level, but that’s the target.

      Like

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