Improv 101 — Interrogation

Interrogation is one of the harder games to play, primarily because it requires a high degree of skill in puns, pacing, and knowing the rest of your cast and how they think. (There is a variation of this game called Good Cop, Bad Cop, which I’ll talk about later in this post.) This game is sort of like Chain Murder Mystery in the sense that you are conveying three ideas to another person without being able to outright say what it is, and while this is still a hoop game, it holds a far more cohesive scene than the other game. Also, this is going to be a longer post because there is a lot to cover with this game.

Interrogation is a four person (team), low energy hoop game. This means that the focus of this game is on the rules (or, the hoop) rather than forcing the improvisers to build a scene. This game is low energy, meaning that the humor involved is based on what the actors are saying rather than what they’re doing, and thus the energy of both the stage and the audience will be low (though that doesn’t mean it won’t be funny!)

Here’s how the game works. You have one of the four people be your ‘criminal’, and you have them leave so that they can’t hear the audience’s suggestions. The other three improvisers will be cops trying to get that criminal to confess to a crime they will have to figure out based on puns and context clues. The three cops will have to communicate three ideas to the criminal: location, accomplice, and crime. They will do so by using puns that describe that place, person, or action, narrowing down the possibility of what those things could be until the criminal confesses and says “I ate the last cookie in the jar at the Golden Gate Bridge with Prince Charming!”

So, how do you use puns to know what’s going on? This is where it gets difficult. When a cop says “Why there of all places?” this tells the criminal that the subject they will be covering is location. It is the cops’ job to provide clues through puns that get progressively easier as the game goes on. You don’t want to say an obvious pun like “This must have been a golden opportunity for you!” because that severely limits the possible locations instantly, and there’s no point in playing the game if the criminal knows the thing you’re talking about. Your puns should at first narrow the possibilities while still keeping the criminal in the dark. If they don’t get it after a minute, you can say things like that. This is also why you have three cops–it’s a lot easier to come up with suitable puns if three of you are working on it. You don’t want to have any down time, but you should never have all three cops doing nothing as they each think of puns. Remember you are performing!

Since this interrogation is so one-sided, it can be hard for the criminal to respond to questions they don’t know they answers to. You have to develop a pseudo-code with the rest of your cast to tell each other what’s going on. If the criminal says something like “Plenty of people hang out there. You’ll need more evidence than that if you want to book me!” This indicates to the cops that the criminal understands the location. Bonus points to you if you come up with a pun to tell the cops what you think it is! Plus, if your pun doesn’t suit the location, it’s obvious to the cops that you have the wrong idea.

When you transition to the next thing, always tell your fellow cops and the other criminal what you’re now talking about. “It’s not the location that disgusts me. It’s who you got to help you!” (changing the topic to accomplice) or “But the worst part of it all is your crime.” etc. If the criminal gets mixed up as to which pun is referred to which thing, the game is already over. But it’s okay if the criminal isn’t spot on, either. Either way, once they have a good idea of what all three things are, they confess, and the game is over.

Good Cop, Bad Cop variation: I’m not as familiar with the way this is played, but as far as my experience goes I think this is the more popular version. Instead of three cops, you have two, and each have their own distinct personalities. I prefer Interrogation because experienced actors will already give their cops distinct characters and personalities. You shouldn’t be forced to act a certain way, because you run the risk of the game being funny because of the actions rather than the clever puns. Shouting and doing silly things for the sake of easy laughs doesn’t require as much skill as forging awesome puns!

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