It’s the first day with a new group. They may be apprehensive about being in an improv class, a recovery group session or an event they are attending . They don’t know me, and I have yet to earn their trust. I want to show them that this is going to be fun, that we’re going to laugh together. 

I want the group participants to know they are going to be invited to express themselves in a fun non-threatening way. They need to understand that improv isn’t just doing scenes. It’s connecting in a variety of ways. 

I want everyone in the room to build some trust with each other. One way to do that is to have everyone get to know each other better, discover some things we have in common and laugh together. 

So I start with I Am Somebody. Here is how the exercise works.

Everyone sits in a large circle of chairs. There should be one less chair than players. I stand in the middle and explain. 

“We’re going to start with a warm-up game called I Am Somebody. I’m going to say my name and something about myself. If you have what I say in common with me please get up and go to a different chair. I’m also going to rush to a seat that opens up as well. This will hopefully leave someone new in the middle without a seat. That person will then need to share something about themselves. If you didn’t catch all that, all you really need to know is that if you have in common what I’m about to say, go to a different chair. Ready? My Name is Lisa, and I am somebody who loves watching football.” 

At that point, anyone in the group who also loves football stands up and goes to any seat made available by someone else who likes football that stood up. Since I was standing already I quickly get a seat. The one left with no chair to sit in stands in the middle, says their name and something about themselves. 

If a participant gets stuck trying to think of something to say, I might prompt with, “how about a place you’ve visited or an interesting food you’ve eaten.” The exercise continues until everyone who wants to share something has had a least one turn to do so.

Right away we are on our feet, doing something active together. We’re learning about each other and seeing what we have in common. We are laughing together. We’re being a little competitive (trying to get a seat), but we’re also looking out for each other. We’re standing in the middle of a group and sharing something about ourselves.  We’re warmed up, and ready to play together. 

This game inherently gives students, clients and group participants the right to pass, because you don’t have to get up if you choose not to. If a player calls another player out for not getting up when they think they should have, it’s a great time to remind the class that they all have the right to pass at any time during this class. At the same time, participants may want to challenge themselves to take risks, try something out of their comfort zone. This is a safe space.

There are other variations of this exercise. I’m not a fan of the “I like people who…” version because to me it implies that I DON’T like people who are different than I am. Sometimes I’ll add a theme such as emotions (share something that makes you happy, sad, angry, scared, excited etc) or share something about summertime. For more active groups I’ll add a “mode of transportation.” Before you say your “I Am Somebody,” you first say a mode of transportation like skipping or swimming through jello, and that’s how folks move to a different chair. 

No matter how you play it, there’s something magical about standing in the middle of a group of people and telling them, “I am somebody.”

Improv Therapy Group offers an applied improv approach to team building, communication, creativity and learning emotional intelligence.

A few example modules include:

  • Magic Words: Communication and “Yes, And”
  • On the Spot: Public Speaking and Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright
  • Heal Thyself: Humor and Self Care
  • Let Go: Stress Reduction Through Improv
  • Us is More: Group Mind and Team-Building
  • Feelin’ It: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
  • and many more . . .