Make Problems Your Bitch!

This post is from a Level 2 Improv Conspiracy class I taught earlier in the year. 

Problems can be disruptive to our scene work because we can waste minutes explaining the new scenario to our scene partner, rather than having the two characters relate to each other. Problems come in two zesty flavours 1. “New bad thing happened” and 2. “New good thing happened” – Yes, a problem can be a good thing. Note that this is just a tool that I’ve used in the past, and not the be all and end all.

Let’s work with three standard problems and then walk through what can be done as Initiator and Responder.

  1. Car Broke down!
  2. World Peace has been achieved!
  3. Our son is dead!


My brain is full of problems, but I cannot do problems. So I’m stuck!
ADVICE: Be the problem, rather than be a person who knows of the problem.
Examples – you will learn to get more specific with this, but transform it into you BEING a problem person:

  1. Gerald, I’m broken down.
  2. Gerald, I am so glad we have found peace.
  3. Gerald. You’re dead to me, son.

These are fine. Add physicality because you’re a cool improviser, and bingo bango we got a scene.


Oh shit. This guy has initiated with a problem. Now the scene is about something that isn’t either of the people on stage. Well we’re fucked!
ADVICE: Bring it back to people. And don’t act surprised (even if it must be new information).
Examples – kept simple:

  1. Yeah. I did that. And I feel [emotion].
  2. Yeah. I did that. And I feel [emotion].
  3. I feel [emotion].

You could do more here. But you could also just say this and be fine. Taking ownership of an issue can be fun to play, but sometimes it’s nice to just have two characters affected by a bad situation.

If you’re wondering what to do next, the answer is to have them relate to, and be affected by each other.

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