Improv 101 — Bippity Bippity Bop

Bippity Bippity Bop isn’t really all that much of an “improv” game. There isn’t much improv (until you’ve played it too much), but it is amazing at both building energy and forcing actors to be more comfortable with each other. It’s quick, and works best with at least six people, but it can still work (and be fun!) with upwards of forty people!

Here is the gist: a large group of people stand in a circle (comfortably shoulder to shoulder works best), with one person in the middle. This person is “it”, and their goal is to get somebody to mess up, and make them “it”, meaning they would switch places. The person that is it has a few tools to work with, but as I said, this is an energy building game. The only consistent way to get somebody to mess up is to be quick enough to confuse them or catch them unawares. This person goes about the circle as quickly as possible and tossing words out to people, trying to get them to slip up. Henceforth, the person in the middle will be called the “It”.

There are several words (or phrases) that the It can say, falling into two distinct categories: response or actions. Response words require the person to respond a certain command. The It can say “Bippity bippity bop”, in which case the person they make eye contact must say “Bop” before the It. This means that the It must say the entire phrase quickly (while articulating each syllable), because obviously “Bop” can be said nigh instantaneously. Conversely, the It can say just “Bop”. In this instance, the person it is said to must say and do nothing. If they mess up and accidentally respond with “Bop” (or anything else) they become It. (Another response command is “Hippity Hippity Hop”, which requires the person to respond by hopping before the It says “Hop”. My group doesn’t use this phrase because it gets used too often and it is too easy to catch people with it.)

Action words are used more often. This requires not only the person to do something in response to the phrase, but it also requires the two people adjacent to them in the circle to also do something. Most often, we use the words “Elephant”, “Kamikaze”, and “Charlie’s Angels”. When the It says one of these, they say it and count to ten as quickly as possible. If those three people don’t complete a picture of what that phrase is, they are out. (Most often it’s one person that messes up the most). For “Elephant”, the primary target extends an arm out and puts the other arm around their bicep. This makes the trunk. The two peripheral people make big ears by pantomiming a huge open space with their arms (in the shape of ears). For “Kamikaze”, the primary target uses their hands to pantomime wearing goggles to be the pilot and the adjacent people extend both arm outwards to form the wings of the plane.
For “Charlie’s Angels”, the three people make the classic gun pose of the three girls.  The people make guns with their hands and stand in formation, one facing forward, and the other two facing in the direction of their respective sides.

Again, the only way this game will work is if there is energy. It is intended to keep people on their feet, and is a great way to warm up for a series of real improv games. As the cast learns this game and gets better and better about how they respond to what the It says, you can make it harder for everyone by throwing in the wild card of allowing the It to say whatever they want before counting to ten. If they say “Eiffel Tower”, the target and two adjacent people have to make a picture that makes sense with that phrase. There is no limit to the creativity when you throw this rule in. Just remember that if you do this, allow people to justify the pose that they are in. If their response makes sense, say “I’m a tourist taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower!”, perhaps what they were pantomiming is enough to justify the scene. It’s up to the actors’ interpretation.

2 thoughts on “Improv 101 — Bippity Bippity Bop

  1. I got to watch your group do this before the show recently. I’d seen off to the side before, but was actually “there” this time. It’s a shame you couldn’t do this during a show, because it’s great. But it doesn’t suit an audience well.

    Oh! I’ve got a solution – set everyone up with GoPros and get a big screen to display to the crowd – then just display It’s feed to the screen! Easy.


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