Mick Napier – Improv at home by yourself (1/5: Exercises for thinking faster)

You should buy this book.

My local library had a copy of Mick Napier’s Improvise. I like it. A lot. It’s got tons of information for a slim 130-page book, but more importantly (to me), I like the tone. (The blurb describes it as “irreverent.”)

I’m especially digging the chapter on “Exercises to Do at Home.” For the sake of trying to preserve copyright but still disseminate this awesome information, I’m just gonna summarize the exercises here. For better and more in-depth explanations, find the book. (It’s good.)

I’ll also split this into a few posts. I didn’t realize until I started writing that there are 24 of these, which would be overwhelming to take in all at once. (They aren’t numbered in the book.)


Exercises for thinking faster

(1) Dada Monologue

Launch into a nonsensical Dadist monologue. Make sure it makes absolutely no sense (e.g. if you say “jolly,” do not follow it with “giant,” because that starts making sense). Ex.:

Lamps are cats when vitamins take the frog outside. Back in the pot, my crabby melons cried to three weeks. Do you realize the flappy bat song? Modicum of freelancing forever tastes in campy wallpaper. Coated tape scrolls, right?

The point is to free up your brain to make random and absurd associations you couldn’t normally make.


(2) Word Association

Look around and find an object. Say the name of the object out loud, and immediately start talking about the object. Describe it, or (preferably) talk about some experience it inspires. After ~10 seconds, without pausing, interrupt yourself with the name of a new object, and launch into another 10-second description. Continue for a while (at least 10 objects).

(Eventually, the starting words can be drawn from the ether, instead of taking physical objects in your view.)

DON’T pause. Often, people will say the word out loud, repeat the word as a buffer to give their brains time to catch up, and THEN launch into the 10-second association. The whole point here is to practice talking and catching up with yourself, honing your ability to talk about anything.


(3) Gibberish

Do a scene in gibberish:

Pick a character, and speak a line of gibberish from that character’s point of view/energy (“Meeny tocka fleek marni!”). Then respond as another character with a totally different PoV (“Noop wock.”)

The purpose is to get you to stop worrying about what you’re saying and start focusing on how you’re saying it.




Here’s links to all of ’em:

Part 1: Exercises for thinking faster [You are here]

Part 2: Exercises for unthinking character creation

Part 3: Exercises for physical body and space

Part 4: Exercises to improve scenic improvisation

Part 5: Miscellaneous bonus exercises



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