Improv Glossary | The Improv Agency
TermDefinition
AcceptingEmbracing each offer made by other players to advance the scene.
AdvancingThe process of moving a scene forward. Generally a good thing, as opposed to blocking, commenting, sidetracking or postpoing.
AgreementImprovisers need to create a reality that is not really there, without knowing what other reality the other players have in mind. In order to clearly establish one united reality, improvisers should be accepting any offer from each other. If offers are accepted, we say there is agreement.
Audience SuggestionThe lifeblood of improv comedy. The audience may be asked for a location, a relationship, an action, an object, something about themselves, or just about anything else!  The goal is to get a seed for the rest of the show.
BulldozingBulldozing is moving through a scene without recognizing the other players offer and push only your own ideas into the scene.

Commenting / Asides

Stepping out of the scene or ‘support from the side’ and commenting on what`s going on.

Conflict

Conflict usually makes a story; once you`ve established a Platform you will probably use a conflict to advance the scene.

A good thing if the conflict fits within the platform, and if it advances the scene, but you usually do not want to start a scene with Instant Trouble.

Denial

We have Denial when players are not Accepting each other’s offers.

Edit

An edit is the act of interrupting or ending a scene. Sometimes, the host or director will edit scenes to cut them short. In Long Form, players can edit a scene to start a new scene.

Focus

The center of the attention of the audience. Focus should be in one place at any time – if more than one action/plot is going on simultaneously the focus is split. Less experienced improvisers often tend to steal the focus (i.e. split the focus and draw it to something unnecessarily new they introduce).

Freeze

Freezing is physically stop moving, usually verbally shutting up as well.

Game

The game is what is interesting, unique, strange about the scene, the relationship between the characters or the universe in which scene and characters move.

Give and Take

Improvised dialog going back and fourth between the players. In scenes where players interrupt each other, ignore each other, does not show good Give and Take.

Heightening

Heightening is adding information, to build upon what was built before and by others, to deepen character and emotion, to Raising The Stakes .

Justifying

Finding a solution for every Offer and every element introduced in the scene. The idea it to justify everything. A good thing, obviously.

Long Form

Category of improvised theater, in which a long play is improvised. As opposed to Short Form . The Long Form link gives a list of Long Form formats.

Monologue

To speak to an audience by yourself. Can be done in character or as oneself.

Monologues are particularly popular in Long Form , and are often used as openers, in which a player/character explores the audience suggestion. Monologues can also be used to break series of fast-paced scenes.

Object Work

Miming the objects and Props used in the scene. We have a number of improv exercises on this topic in the category Object Work.

Offer

Any action or dialog that may advance a scene. Usually a good thing. Offers are supposed to be accepted.

A strong offer is an offer that clearly gives a direction into which a scene might evolve. An Open Offer is an offer that leaves a lot of possible directions for the scene to evolve in.

Questions

Questions are generally frowned upon in improv, though they are not always a bad thing. A question that gives no information and leaves the rest of the action/the story to be defined by the other players is a form of Wimping . But a question that implies a lot of information about how the story might continue can be quite useful – assuming of course, that all replies to questions are positive, in the sense of Accepting the information in the question.

Reincorporating

Recycling or re-using ideas or situations from earlier in the scene, or from previous scenes.

While it`s always interesting to use elements that were introduced earlier and were neglected or forgotten, you don`t want to overdo this, and turn things into running gags.

Short Form

Style of improvised theater in which short and typically unrelated scenes are played. As opposed to Long Form , Short Form Improv is often more gimmickey and more based on silly games or handles, and less based on solid narrative and characters.

Both styles of Improv (long form and short form) have their zealots. There should be no discussion about which is best – both can be fun, both can be rewarding, and preference is based on personal likes or dislikes.

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