Improv 101 — New Choice

New Choice is, without a doubt, one of my personal worst games. Funny enough, out of all the improv games, this one requires extremely quick thinking, and I am terrible at that. (The first thing I teach people about improv is that it’s not being creative, it’s about following the rules!) That being said, this game is really simple and the more experience the improvisers playing it, the more fun it can be.

This game is a scene game, and as with many scene games is usually played with about four people. For maximum entertainment value, it also requires a good referee that knows what they’re doing. As with all scene games, the improvisers should establish CROW, but everybody has the same rule here: When the ref (or designated person outside the scene) says “New choice!” the person that last spoke must now change whatever it is that they had last said. If the ref doesn’t like this new correction, they can call “New choice” again, and call it over and over again (much to the improviser’s chagrin) until they say something that satisfies them.  Here is an example:

*Improviser walks on stage, greeting another*

“Hey, Aunt Sally, how are you doing?” (New choice!)

“Hey, Uncle Bob, what’s new?” (New choice!)

“Oh my gosh a new puppy!”

Something to keep in mind here is that since the ref can keep calling “New choice” over and over, it’s best to completely change the topic on the third response. If your lines are said, in the following order: “Yes!” … “No!” … “Maybe!” … “I must go, Gotham needs me!” by the end, you’ve introduced an entirely new situation that, since it was so unexpected, will be hilarious for the audience. The out-of-the-blue randomness that this game requires is why I’m so bad at this game.

Many scene games should be played a certain way in order to be successful. For example, Forward Reverse and Replay Countdown should be played with a lot of large actions/pantomimes with limited amounts of dialogue. With New Choice, dialogue is encouraged, because that gives all the more opportunity for the ref to call out bad lines or weed out good ones. As an aside, the ref can also say “New action!” or “New sound effect!” whenever the phrase is appropriate.

The number one thing that all improvisers should keep in mind with this game is to speak one at a time. Never interrupt another improviser on stage, and never try to talk over each other. (This is especially a problem with new improvisers.) Obviously, this makes the ref’s job a lot harder, because you can’t call “New choice” when two people have just spoken. Who would start over? Would both of them say something new? That would be a mess! Instead, it’s best to make sure only one person is talking at a time, and allow at least a half beat in between each line of dialogue. Don’t immediately respond to the actor’s line in case the ref wanted to freeze the scene and call “New choice” there.

With a good, experienced ref that knows when to call “New choice”, this game is incredibly easy to do well. The ref can save you from bad lines, i.e. questions that don’t progress the scene, denial, missing pieces of CROW, etc. Since the ref can just keep making you say new things until you say the thing they want, it’s an incredibly good game for beginners because it forces them to, quite literally, correct their mistakes. So as long as you have one experienced improviser in a group of people that want to have fun, New Choice can be a blast.

P.S. And before you say it, saying “New choice!” at the end of a really long monologue or after somebody says something you don’t want to hear is an overused joke in my improv troupe.

2 thoughts on “Improv 101 — New Choice

  1. Despite this being one of your self proclaimed worst games, it remains one of my favorites with some of the most memorable scenes by you. Back in the nineteen seventy twos….

    Liked by 1 person

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