Improv Diaries – Caricatures, Mimic A Punder and Family Portraits… [Case Study Conan O’Brien]

This week it was my turn to teach the Punders and this wee I wanted to focus on the world of Characters. I spent the week finding exercises and games that we haven’t played before to try and get us developing the mindset of creating them as well.

The first lot of exercises was to get us in the mindset of the world of Characters. In the first game you go round the circle to create quick fire characters. The first person creates a name, second the surname, third occupation, fourth acts out that character. It worked really well and was super effective. Another game we played in the night was when you have to do as many characters as you can think of in thirty seconds. 

 It wouldn’t be a a character themed lesson without a bit of mimicry! One of the games that i got us to do was mimic another Punder and the rest had to guess who that person was. It gives you an understanding as to how much you remember about someone the features and characteristics

The next warm up game we played was something I came up with the night before when I said the word Blooming and realised it is quite a fun word. You all say this word and have to come up with different ways of saying it. 

The next exercise we played was one of my favourite warm ups as I did not realise how well it would actually work in the first place! I made a powerpoint presentation with a variation of different characteures with really random facial expressions and then showed only one to a Punder at a time and they had to create a character out of that face and the others had to guess what it was. It worked really well and the fellow Punders made the characters so well that people were able to guess the sort of character that they were.

Another important thing about Character is the way you walk and I originally learnt this exercise by Tom from the Suggestibles in Newcastle. You walk around the room leading with different parts of your body and it naturally creates new characters because what you lead with creates a scene. We split the group and then did the who what where small scenes with the characters leading with a body part that has been given by our team members. it created a really fun scene, and worked really well.

The final exercise that we did was called Family Portrait. Everyone is a family of the same profession at a gathering / family reunion and they all have to be in the same room and be completely different to any of the other characters on stage – dentists at an award ceremony. It worked out really well and when someones character was too similar we told them to change and then they had to come on again. 

We then went onto games and tried a character version of the Emotional Car game,  Genre Restaurant – ( where two people are on a date in the restaurant everyone else is acting the theme of the restaurant that the audience gives ) and Character Ding ( One player in the scene will have three characters one normal two odd and then someone on the side will ding a bell and that person has to change characters – the other person is the straight person.)

Case Study – Conan O’Brien

When I was thinking about character there was only one person i wanted to talk about and that was Conan. I utterly adore Conan and I think would put it out there and say that he is one of those people that highly inspires me. The thing I love the most about Conan is is ability to create characters all the time no matter what the situation.

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 12.02.47

Conan’s First Show

I love the fact that Conan can create a character persona just by raising an eyebrow, making a slight lip movement or a hair movement or a death stare can really create some very entertaining comedic moments.

I think Conan is a very important person to watch in regards to improv because these slight movements that he can to and even the extreme are a examples of how characters can be created out of the tiniest things.

The other day I was watching his first ever episode that he hosted of the Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Whilst it is obvious it is his first ever journey into the world of television host of a night show, he is a natural and even though his character has not yet come out it is still slightly there with the hair and the eyes.

The best times when Conan’s personality well and truly comes out in new characters is when he is around animals, if you want inspiration for improv and characters – definitely search these out.  If you can’t watch his Netflix show Conan without Borders.



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