Fishbowl: A Standup Comedy Game
1. Comics show up with lots of pieces of paper. If you can't show
up to a comedy workshop with a pen and pieces of paper, you don't
deserve to call yourself a comic and your family should be
killed. Just a thought.
2. Everyone puts in the same number of topics, just to be fair.
Three topics seems to work nicely. Keep your topic to a
noun. No premise, no explanation. Not "The agony of a blind
date" or "Thinking about standing up a blind date." -- No angles
allowed! Topics with angles are too limited for improvization,
and it's not fair to add extra burdens on people trying to help you
with your joke by riffing on your topic. Just a noun or noun
phrase, like "blind date."
3. Someone draws a topic at random. If they draw their own topic,
they put it back. This is a self-enforcing law, as the topic
owner has to acknowledge who they are to get the notes after the
4. The drawer announces the topic. Everyone else takes a piece of
paper and they write the topic on it. This encourages and reminds
everyone that they have to give feedback if they expect to get feedback
5. The drawer riffs on the topic onstage for a set amount of
time. Timers are helpful. Everyone else can raise their
hand with ideas for the riffer. Good questions to get the riffer
out of a rut: "What's wierd about (topic)?" "What's stupid about
(topic)?" "What's hard about (topic)?" "What's scary about (topic)?"
6. Everything everyone says and writes during the riff is the
intellectual property of the topic owner. That's how workshopping
works: we devote our brains to each other's problems so that everybody
7. Don't admit the topic is yours until the riffer leaves the
stage. This is to your advantage, because you'll get better
feedback if people aren't thinking about who owns the topic.
Admit ownership, then sweep the room for your notes. This
encourages people to give you notes because they'll want notes from you
when it's their turn to sweep the room for notes on their own topic.
8. If you think of something you want to keep, you can keep it to
yourself, but you'd better write another brilliant idea on the paper if
you want feedback in return.
9. Repeat until you run out of topics or everybody dies.