Rule 2 of Collaborative Improv is “Don’t Force Funny, or Creative.” I won’t give away the book, but ultimately you can’t try and be funny, or creative. It’s a muscle you exercise and build up over time. This was apparent to me this past weekend.
This weekend was Memorial Day in the States. Some friends and I took advantage of the long weekend and got out of town and relaxed in the mountains. With not much to do, I packed boardgames aplenty. One game, was Joking Hazard. The game ends when one player wins five hands. I won the game three times in a row.
Joking Hazard is effectively Cards Against Humanity but with cartoon cells. The judge rotates to each player in turn. That person turns over a card from the deck at random and then chooses a card from their hand to add to the cartoon’s story. There are now two cells on the table. Each player puts, facedown, their response to conclude the narrative and the judge awards the point to the card they find most appropriate.
So How Did I Win?
My friends said I got the better cards. That their hands sucked. But in reality, this is a 300+ card deck. The chances of me getting all the good cards at random? Enough to win the game three times? That seems unlikely.
Instead I credit improv.
Read the room
Knowing your judges’ sense of humor is key to winning games like Cards Against Humanity and Joking Hazard. Some judges may be more conservative while others more perverse. Knowing who was judging each hand allowed me to play cards catered to their interests, not my own.
Read the cards
What is the card saying, and more importantly what is it not saying? The cards are intentionally vague so players can make their own story. Identifying the explicit and implicit story allows cards that may seem disconnected to be the winning hand.
Raise the stakes
When in doubt, I just made things worse. What was the most absurd card I could play to conclude the narrative? Rule 7 talks a lot about raising the stakes and this is a great way to approach these games.
Often time I knew my card made no sense but it was so far out of left field it was the only logical card to win a game based around the ridiculousness.
Improv for Real Life
Improv can be used in all aspects of our lives. Collaborative Improv is focussed on the business-cases and specifically design and technology. But it’s a lens that applied to everything we do. I encourage readers to adapt the lessons of Collaborative Improv not just to work, but to life in general.
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