Read an Excerpt
From the Preface:
Anyone can do comedy because we all have funny inside us. All it takes is a willingness to allow our playful spirit to be in charge once in a while. The games in this book cover the comedy gamutfrom writing jokes and scenes to creating funny facial expressions and body movements to improv to stand-up. There are even some high-tech comedy games. All of these games can be used for groups of kids (I recommend age seven+) or groups of big kids (aged nineteen to ninety-nine). Although you may use them for kids and big kids together, because so much of comedy depends on our point of view and references, it’s usually easier to work with kid groups and big kid groups separately.
I love teaching comedy, and I’m sure you will, too. It combines bringing joy and laughter to others with teaching life skills that may have a permanent positive effect on the lives of others. Really, what’s not to love? But, you may be asking, what if I don’t trust my own comedy skills? Not to worry; most of the games in this book have prompts or lists so you don’t have to come up with comedy suggestions all by yourself. And once you feel that you’ve developed your funny legs, you can add your own ideas to the list.
This book is divided into chapters by types of comedy: The content includes sections on breaking the ice, physical comedy, comedy writing, sketch comedy, stand-up comedy, improv, musical comedy, prop comedy, and high-tech comedy. You can focus on a different element of comedy every time your group meets or mix and match to explore a little bit of everything. As long as everyone keeps laughing, there is no wrong way to use this book except, of course, to use it to level out the legs of your desk!
Prop: A television large enough for everyone to see it simultaneously
An easy way to create laughter from misdirection is to put the words in someone else’s mouth. This game does just that.
Directions: Tune a television into any nonviolent program (animal shows, sitcoms, and how-to shows all work really well, as do informercials) and mute the volume. Select the same number of players for the game as there are people (or animals) on the screen.
Ask each player to voice one character. Although you want the players to try to be funny, encourage the group to create a story line that flows from person to person rather than just throwing out funny lines. Once you feel they’ve gotten as much from the game as possible, switch channels and invite another group to play.
Tip: Funny accents help make this game even more fun.
Add an extra player who is in charge of sound effects and music. Sound effects may be made using any items available in the room.
Encourage the rest of the group that is not actively involved in the game to serve as the “laugh track.” Suggest they laugh hard and obnoxiously.
12. Stuck on You
Many comedy games, especially improv and sketch comedy, require players to be comfortable touching each other. This game helps students understand that in the context of these games, touch can be used for comedic effect. For teenagers, you may want to establish boundaries, pair players of the same gender, or encourage volunteers rather than selecting players at random.
Directions: In this game, players pretend to be glued to each other and must play out a scene without separating. Appropriate body parts at which the players may be joined include: arms, shoulders, hands, elbows, feet, legs, hips, or heads. Players not in the scene should suggest actions for the “stuck” players to try to accomplish together. Here are some to prime the pump: try on hats, wash windows, ride a bike, dance a jig, or hitchhike.
If each player approaches the task differently, the humor stakes rise.
Bigger movements are funnier than smaller ones.
Try the game with three players glued together.
At the end of each scene, the players must devise a way to get unstuck that is as funny as possible.
29. The Stories My Bumper Can Tell
Props: A whiteboard, chalkboard, overhead projector, or flip chart on which to write players’ ideas
Directions: Bumper stickers are also the inspiration for this game, but rather than simply filling in a blank, the players create a story based upon funny bumper stickers. (See list below to get started.) Either provide a written list of the bumper stickers to each player or show the list on an overhead projector.
Each player will write by herself for this game. She may write any kind of funny story she wants as long as it incorporates the five bumper stickers. Here is an example you can read to help players understand the game:
“Ambivalent? Well, yes and no,” she said hesitantly as I fiddled with the radio dial, trying to find a station we both agreed upon.
She stared at me vacantly because she was heavily medicated for your safety, and when the patrolman drove up to the car, I smiled and said, “Hello officer. Put it on my tab!”
He looked inside and winked. “I should ticket you because friends don’t let friends drive naked, but I’m a deeply superficial person.”
Allow each player no more than 10 minutes to write her story, as longer periods of time tend to drag the game down. When the time is up, ask each player to read her bumper sticker story out loud to the rest of the group.
Players work in pairs to write their stories.
Everyone uses the same 10 bumper stickers to write their stories.
Funny Bumper Stickers:
5 out of 4 people have a problem with fractions.
Allow me to introduce myselves.
Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
Can I trade this job for what’s behind door #2?
Clear the road! I’m 16!
Do I look like a people person?
Don’t follow me. I’m lost, too.
Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
Every time I get with the program, someone changes the channel.
Heavily medicated for your safety.
Help! I’m having an out-of-money experience.
I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.
I don’t get even, I get odd.
I am a deeply superficial person.
If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
If you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning.
I live in my own little world, but it’s okay, they know me here.
I’m only wearing black until they make something darker.
I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.
I used to care, but now I take a pill for that.
Lord, give me patience, but hurry.
My other bumper sticker is funny.
Never trust anyone over 10.
Out of my mind; back in five minutes.
Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.
Please do not honk. Driver trying to sleep.
This is not an abandoned vehicle.
We regret to inform you that tomorrow has been cancelled due to lack of interest.
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
Why is abbreviation such a long word?
You! Off my planet!
49. Entrances and Exits
When it comes to funny ways to come in and out of a room, no one did it better than Michael Richards on Seinfeld. In fact, a great way to warm up players is to have them watch anything titled “Kramer’s Entrances” on YouTube.
Directions: Ask players to think of a unique and funny way to enter and exit a stage. You may want to give them prompts such as “Your foot is asleep” or “You are being chased by bees.” Have each player demonstrate his entrance, say something funny about what just happened, and then exit in the same way.
For young kids and teens, anything that involves falling down or almost falling down is usually funny.
The more exaggerated the movement, the more laughs it will get.
Have all of the players attempt to imitate each individual’s funny entrance and exit.
Have each player exit by doing his entrance in reverse.
62. Bad Museum Tour
Props: A prop and costume box isn’t required but does add to the fun
As the very funny Night at the Museum series of films has proved, even locations that are typically thought of as serious and stuffy can bring out the laughs. This sketch comedy game lets players be on their worst behavior while visiting the museum of their choice.
Directions: Divide players into groups of 4 to 6 and allow each to select a museum from the list below. Ask them to create a funny sketch in which one player is a museum guide and the others are either people taking a tour or entities having “come to life” from something on display. The group should decide whether the guide is good or bad at his job and what kinds of trouble will ensue.
Allow 10 minutes for the groups to write their sketches and 5 minutes for them to rehearse their roles (a shorter rehearsal period in this game encourages more improvisation). When the time is up, each group will show off just how much funny mischief they could cause (but don’t) the next time they visit a museum.
The more at odds the guide and tourists or exhibits are, the more potential for humor.
When paintings, sculptures, or people come to life and claim everything that has been said about them is a lie, it just adds to the fun.
75. Hey! Can You Lend Me a Hand?
We can all use some helping hands now and then. But if those hands have a mind of their own, that’s a differentand often hystericalstory.
Directions: This four-player game lets two players play a scene while two other players provide gestures and other hand and arm movements. The two players who speak tuck their hands in their pockets or behind their backs to avoid using them during the scene.
Once the players and their roles have been determined, give each speaking character a role that requires the use of lots of hand motions and gestures (a list of suggestions follow). Players who are the “helping hands” may either provide hand motions that follow the storyline created by the speaking players or they may create action that requires the speakers to follow along (or both).
Players should be comfortable with each other before playing this game because it requires a lot of physical contact.
Players of relatively equal height should be paired to make the game easier for everyone.
Only one of the speaking players has helping hands.
The speaking players use one hand and the helpers provide the other.
Boy Scout/Girl Scout
jump rope turner
telephone pole climber