Hosting a work party - improv style part 2

In Hosting a work party - improv style part 1, I talked about emceeing a work party on your own. Here are some games that can adapt well to a work environment. Of course, you can always contact William or Rich and get some help or have us help you with hosting, improvising, teaching some improv, or just helping choose and adapt games for your audience.

Here are some games to try:


Have everyone stand up and then ask a question that has many levels and have people sit when their answer matches the ones you have prepared.An example:

When did you last eat sushi? Sit down if you answer is: (allow 5 seconds for each stage for people to sit and observe)

  1. Never
  2. Once
  3. Within the last year
  4. Within the last month
  5. Within the last week
  6. Within two days

If you ever...

Guests take turns saying something that is true about themselves. The crowd stands up with them if it’s also true saying “me too” or sits if it is not true of themselves.  Every person in the audience decides for themselves to  stand or sit on each truth revealed depending on if it is also true for them.

String of pearls

  1. Have 7-9 people come up and stand at the back of the stage.
  2. Have the audience tell the beginning line of a made up story and the ending line of a totally different story.
  3. Have two players stand at opposite ends of the front of the stage and say the two lines form the audience as if it was one story.
  4. Have a thrid person move between the first two on the front of the stage and add a line in the middle of the story. Repeat all the lines in this, now, 3 line story.
  5. Add another person with their own line and repeat again.
  6. In the last round, will have all players at the front of the stage, in order, with one line each.
  7. Together they will have created a complete story and can recite the lines in order to tell it.  Tell them to “sell it” and really pump up the drama in their own line.

Secret Handshake

  1. Everyone stands up and finds a partner. They have 1 minute to create a brand new secret handshake between them, and practice it so they remember.
  2. Have everyone find a new partner and share their favorite childhood book.
  3. Continue finding new partners and sharing information on topics (there is a list below)
  4. Then call out a topic names (secret handshake partner, childhood book partner) and they have to find that partner in the room and and share the info again quickly (do the hand shake, say the name of the book).
  5. Continue calling out topics until you feel the game is over.
  • Secret handshake
  • favorite childhood book
  • embarrassing story (title the other persons and share that title)
  • noise from childhood (person, game, environment - make the noise)
  • nicknames
  • secret dance
  • life dream
  • favorite vacation spot

Try to keep it as simple as possible and focus on fun!

Hosting a work party - improv style part 1

One of our readers, Stephaine, left a the following comment to the article [intlink id="663" type="post"]How to Host an Improv Show[/intlink]:

This year I am the emcee of our company Christmas party. i’ve been to a party before and the host was an improvisor. he really got the room pumped up with a couple quick games using different staff.

... It’s a sit down dinner in a banquet hall, so I will have a stage area and captive audience.

Here is my advise for Stephanie who has some improv experience a few years back.

Follow the two underlying rules from “[intlink id="663" type="post"]How to Host an Improv Show[/intlink]”

  1. Help the audience enjoy the show
  2. You are not the focus

Help the audience enjoy the show

  • Eliminate distractions
  • alcohol can prevent people from paying attention or cause interrupting
  • you are at dinner, so don’t compete with the food play games before or after
  • watching is thrilling for some, and scarry for others choose activities/games that allow for people to be comfortable
  • If the space is big it's hard to hear, and you can loose people's attention
  • The more active the "audience" is in the game, the more fun it is

You are not the focus

  • Unless you are the start of the show, help move things along and be prepared.
  • Be ready to fill space when needed for transitions
  • Be clear with instructions and directions. Practice with a small group ahead of time
  • Make everyone look good and ask the audience to help be supportive
  • This is a work event, so be sure that the games and play will be accepted by the corporate culture

What games do I play?

If you have experienced improvisers then play anything that inspires them. If it's just a fun group that is willing to play along, focus on starting with games in pairs or large group games that have everyone involved. It's more fun to be playing than watch others.

There are many game resources out there including my favorite, the Improv Playbook ( which has a ton of games to try. Also there is a new game every Monday on the site and archives are available.

Some other resources are the Improv Encyclopedia and The Living Playbook by Unexpected Productions.  Leave a comment with your favorite source for games.

In Part 2 of this series I will suggest a few specific games that are both fun and simple.

Audience Size Matters

Recently I wrote about emceeing improv shows which gave some good guidelines for emceeing any show. But the venue, audience size, and even audience temperament can change things quite a bit.

The one main rule I use is simple.

Stick with the truth of the show.


Acknowledge if the audience is small, and make that fun and happy. "You will be getting a custom show" etc.  Don't wear them out or present as if the theater is full. Maybe get their names so you can talk to them 1:1 if there are only a few.


The truth in a large audience may be that they will be better off coming down together up front if they are spread out. That you need to talk to 10's of people in a different way to get the same thing across.


The truth of a very large or unruly group is that you have more crowd management (or discipline in the case of student groups, etc.) Don't let them run the show, but add some filler as you talk so by the time they are listening you are just getting the the meat of things - I call this a verbal step-down and use it in corporate work and larger classes.

Verbal-stepdown Example:

In a Theatersports show you might start with something like "Ok that closed out the round and we are ready for another challenge here as the teams come out"  if they are rowdy.  By the time you get something like that out (which really says nothing of consequence yet) they will, in most cases, be moving to pay attention and be quiet. Then you can go forward with "Team X, it's your turn to challenge Team Y for the next scene" which is the real announcement.

How to Host an Improv Show


The lights come up, there is music playing, you are sitting in your comfy theater seat and waiting for something to happen. Who is the next person you see? The MC. The emcee. The Master of Ceremonies.The host of the evening.

The emcee is like the host of a party and the theater is their house.

For me emceeing in two simple rules that cover almost everything.

The two underlying rules of emceeing

  1. Help the audience enjoy the show.
  2. You are not the focus.

Emceeing a show? Here are some guidelines that might help

  • take your time and be calm (or present being calm)
  • fill in the setup for the games if the players miss pieces, so the audience knows what to do
  • keep the stage warm/hot - fill in big spaces during transitions when the energy drops, so the audience knows what to look at
  • there is no need to "cap" each scene, or add your own jokes or comments on what we just saw
  • you can help the show by calling lights to "save" scenes
  • if things go wonky, you can help by being lighthearted and adding what is needed or just acknowledge it
  • step on the tail of the applause with the next action
  • in Theatersports jump on getting the scores and announcing the challenges
  • in Freestyle or Micetro jump on calling out the next players
  • in  Theatersports you can make emcee challenges to help with shape of show
  • help facilitate the "schtick" for players/teams in costume but also help contain it (the balance is easier from offstage)
  • add enthusiasm to the show with good presence on your emcee duties
  • being shy drains the energy
  • being gaggy or "funny" will bleed energy and distract the show
  • keep the pace of the show, move things along

That's my take on it - what is yours?

What do you think - What makes a good emcee?

Leave your comments below, we want to know!