Improv 101 — Good, Bad, Worst

Good, Bad, Worst is (another) game that requires a lot of audience interaction. This game goes really well if the improvisers have stock characters, which are characters the actor is familiar with and that they can become given the opportune situation. Stock characters aren’t necessary, but it does help a lot. (No, stock characters don’t make something scripted. Being familiar with a specific personality is not at all comparable to knowing what one is going to say beforehand!)

This is a hoop game for three people (or four if you want to use another improviser to be the ‘MC’ of the game rather than have the coach/ref do that). Each person sits in a chair and takes on the role of an expert on a panel. The MC can perform this as a television show, or simply a panel sitting before an audience. Each expert on this panel will have a specific character, and the MC will have them introduce themselves before the game really starts.

It’s important to note that each of these characters will be giving specific answers to the questions the audience will be asking them. The first person to answer, the person on stage right, will give “good” answers. Most often their character will be a doctor that gives real advice and answers to whatever the question happens to be. Whoever is playing the role of “good” should focus not on being funny, but being a real person, to make the difference in answer more humorous later on.

The second person will give “bad” answers. This can be virtually anyone: a mom with little education, a teenager, and a farmer are all prevalent characters in my troupe. The key here is that whoever is playing “bad” gives, as you’d expect, bad advice. This can be funny, or even nonsensical, but whatever the answer happens to be, it should be in line with the identity they have presented to the audience.

The last person gives terrible answers to whatever questions are. The person in the “worst” role will often go on tangents completely unrelated to the question, or give an answer based on ill-founded logic, or answer in a similar way every time. For example, one of my favorite “worst” roles in my improv troupe is somebody who plays the character of a guy who just went through a terrible breakup. Everything he answers refers indirectly to his own life experience and how sad he is, and with some questions he nearly starts crying. With most games, this character will be the source of humor, so you need to have a good character and actor to fill this role.

Overall, this game is actually pretty tough. This one can’t properly be taught without an experienced improv actor to distinguish the differences between specific “good” and “bad” answers. In my personal experience, it’s quite difficult to nail down a stock character who always gives one kind of answer, so creating a solid, fleshed out character will really help an improviser play it in a consistent way.

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