Improv 101 — Beastie Rap

Beastie Rap is one of my troupe’s favorite games, and the biggest requirement is knowing your cast. Also, having somebody that can beatbox works wonders. This game is a crowd-pleaser, and while I think it’s a little silly, I can’t deny the fact that it brings a lot to a performance.

This is an elimination-style group game that requires lots of energy. Typically eight people works best for this, but any even number works. (An odd number still works if one of the improvisers can beatbox instead of play in the game.) The way that it works is you’ll get a simple name like ‘Matt’. You have a beat, and the first person on one team will say something like “Walking down the street with my best friend Matt!” (anything that fits a similar amount of syllables works, though), and on the last word of the lyric, everybody else on their team will jump in with whatever word they want it to be, much like the style of Beastie Boys from whom this game was inspired. The opposing team will answer with their own lyric that rhymes with ‘Matt’, and this is where it gets tricky. The person coming up with the word has to let the rest of their team know what that word is using the rest of the lyric. For example, “You pet it and it purrs, it’s called a ___!” and the rest of the team will jump in with ‘Cat’.

It  sounds tough but it’s actually pretty easy, and this is because of two things. The first is that whatever the word is, you know it will have to rhyme with ‘Matt’. The second thing is the fact that you don’t have to make a cohesive plot to this song. Each lyric is individual. The cat lyric doesn’t have to retain any continuity with the Matt lyric, (though bonus points to you if you can manage it), so you can use that time to tell your team what you want to say. This goes on until one person from either team messes up, and another person steps in. This sort of elimination is fun because even if you’re “out”, you can still participate by shouting the words at the end.

How do you mess up? Simple. If the person fails to convey the word to the rest of their team, leading them to shout out different words, or if they can’t think of a rhyme, they’re out. Really, though, it’s up to the ref (and the audience) whether some mess-ups are worth being forgiven, though often none of them are.

When you’re playing this game, you don’t have to stick to any strict words. You can take objects as suggestions, not just names. You can also take polysyllabic names, though by virtue of how rhymes work, this doesn’t necessarily make rhyming any more difficult. You can also open the song with any dialogue. You can say “Walking down the street with my best friend Matt!”, or “This guy at work, they call him Matt!”, or “I hate this jerk and his name is Matt!”. The only factor is fitting it into the rhythm of the beat. Though, in a performance where you’re taking people’s real names as suggestions, I would refrain from insulting them for fear of them taking it personally, so be cautious.

And that’s the whole game. Final parting words, though. My troupe rarely practices this game, because you don’t want improvisers to be too familiar with the names that are used. This is an elimination game, and if they’ve practiced so much that they know all the words that rhymes with every common name off the top of their head, they won’t get eliminated, which is half the fun of the game. So when I teach this game, I do enough to explain the game and get them into a rhythm that works, and after that we only play it every few months to make sure we all still know how it goes.

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