Pocket Line : A traditional low-stakes improv game used for decreasing anxiety
A traditional low-stakes improv game used for decreasing anxiety, staying present in the moment, letting go of perfection, increasing confidence and finding humor in stressful situations.
DMV EMPLOYEE: What do you want?
MEGAN: I need to renew my expired license.
DMV EMPLOYEE: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Everyone laughs including Megan who has been feeling anxiety about her upcoming errand to the DMV.
Here’s how to play:
Ask the group for suggestions of famous quotes from movies or history, song lyrics, and any other sentences you think would be funny to hear in a scene.
Write them on separate slips of paper, fold each in half, and put in a bowl.
Two players pull three slips of paper from the bowl each, and put them in their pocket. They get a suggestion for a situation, and begin improvising a scene. At some point they take a slip of paper out of their pocket and read the line out loud as if that’s exactly what they wanted to say. Both players react to the pocket line, and continue the scene until all six lines have been used.
Players should read the line out loud the first moment they see it. No reading it ahead, thinking about it, setting it up “perfectly” or changing it so it fits the scene better. We know the line wasn’t written for the scene. We know it won’t be perfect. Embrace that imperfection and find the humor in it.
This exercise forces players to stay in the moment. You can’t possibly plan ahead in the scene because you have no idea what the pocket lines say. It also takes pressure off of players to come up with funny things to say in a scene. Just say the pocket line, and it almost always gets a laugh, increasing our confidence.
We can use Pocket Line to find humor in any situation. Some other suggestions for scenes:
- Job Interview
- Parent/teacher conference
- Therapy session
- Driving test
- Dentist Appointment
- First date
Please note that not all people are comfortable reading aloud. Sometimes I’ll have players pair up and decide on one of them to read pocket lines while the other plays more of an interviewer type role.
Feel free to improvise variations of this game. Sometimes players write lines themselves to put in the bowl without us hearing them ahead of time. Sometimes it’s a group scene with everyone having just one pocket line. No matter how you play, it’s an exercise that both beginning and advanced improvisers enjoy without realizing all the mental health benefits they are getting out of it. Yay improv!
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