Suggestions for Taking Suggestions
Taking suggestions from the audience is an important part of improv performance. Try to really connect with your audience and let them know that their suggestions are important and essential to the show. Ask them to give intelligent, thought provoking suggestions. They might not, but it can’t hurt. And remember, if they think you’re not really taking their suggestions, they will turn against you.
Try to get suggestions that are specific. If you want a location, and they shout out “Spain” ask for a specific place in Spain, so you may end up with something like “A laundromat in Spain”.
That being said, also try to get suggestions that are open enough to leave room for your improvisers to be creative. Sometimes people in the audience will try to “write” the song or scene for you. For example, if you ask for a relationship they say something like, “An overbearing mother and her anorexic daughter who are shopping for swimsuits, but the daughter hates everything because she thinks she’s too fat, so they get in a big fight”. The person who gives that kind of suggestion may get a laugh (which is probably what they wanted), but it limits what your improvisers can do. So you might say “Let’s make it a mother and daughter out shopping, and we’ll let our improvisers do the rest.” Then if they want to use any of the overbearing/anorexic/swimsuit elements they can, but they don’t have to.
And remember, regardless of how you asked for the suggestion, once you get it you can take the scene anywhere you want. For example, if you ask “What’s your least favorite subject in school” and they shout out “Geometry”, the scene doesn’t have to be about hating geometry, it can be anything around geometry. It can be about a geometry teacher having a crush on the physics teacher, or trying to use geometry to design a house, or being Pythagoras and your friends thinking you’re crazy, etc.
We can get into ruts with what we ask for, and like anything else, it’s good to shake things up. So here are some suggestions for taking suggestions. You can always combine two of these if you want to get more for the scene. Some are more likely to get you pretty concrete suggestions. If you ask for a location; you’ll probably get something like a grocery store. If you ask for a three syllable word and a four syllable word, you’ll probably get something more abstract. Neither is better or worse, just different to work with. And of course, even the most mundane suggestion can of course lead you to very creative places.
-What’s your favorite food?
-What’s a relationship three people can have? (or however many are in the scene)
-Name a dangerous occupation
-Make up a fake petty crime
-What did you want to be when you grew up?
-What’s your favorite place?
-What’s the weirdest food you ever ate?
-Complete this sentence, “If I could, I would…
-What was your worst subject in school?
-Where’s a place you wish you were? (other than here)
-Who is a famous person you admire?
-Make up the name of a fake website.
-Name two things that don’t go together
-If you could bring one thing with you when you die, what would it be?
-What do you think will be the coolest technology of the future?
-Make up the name of a fake Game Show
-When you were a kid, where was your favorite hiding place?
-Make up the name of a fake corporation. What do they do?
-Name a place you’d like to visit in the U.S.
-What’s a place where people would be crowded together?
-Name something that’s in your junk drawer at home.
-Make up the title of a fictional Musical.
-Finish this sentence, “Someday I want to…
-What’s the silliest thing you ever got in trouble for?
-Name a place where people work.
-(Ask one person) “What are your initials? (When you get the initials ask the crowd) Give me an adjective and a noun starting with their initials.
-Who is a historical figure you’d like to meet?
-What’s the best present you ever got?
-Name a place you never want to go back to
-What’s something nice that happened to you recently?
-Name a major life event. (like a wedding, etc)
-Name a place that’s dangerous. (If they say some place large like “Iraq”, ask for a place in Iraq, like an Iraqi coffeehouse)
-What’s the worst purchase you ever made?
-Give me a three syllable word. Now give me a four syllable word.
-What was the name of your first very best friend?
-Name something that goes on top of something else
-Name something that’s behind something else
-What’s your favorite mythical creature or character?
-What was the first thing you ever saved your money for?
-What’s something you can get at the 99 cent store?
-Name an old fashioned job. (like coal wagon driver)
-Where did you meet your spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend?
-Give me an adverb. Now give me a verb.
-Make up the name of a fake Soap Opera
-Think of your favorite cousin. What do they do for a living?
-Give me a made up headline of fake news
-What’s something you’d find under a bed?
-What’s an era in history you would like to have lived in?
-If there was a movie made about your life, what would the title be?
-Make up the name of a foreign country
-Name a color. Now give me a science word.
-Name something that costs more than $50 but less than $100
-What’s your biggest regret?
-If you could be invisible, where would you go?