Published by ShawnKinley on

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What's the Point?


Let’s be honest. Our brain doesn’t always fire on all cylinders.  There are times you simply don’t have the… uh… words to create the details or the inspiration to kick the scene into a healthier place.  Here’s a tip that makes life a little easier. 


 We know that a scene with details is more fun and more likely to be successful than a scene without.  And we know that emotional change can propel a scene forward more easily than talking heads.

We also know that creating the details and having those emotional changes takes great effort for people who are hesitant to take risks.

I suggest a little physicality and emotion can fix these problems.

WHAT’S THE POINT?boy and girl standing at beach

Here’s the point. 

  1. Point somewhere and have an emotional reaction. 
    That’s it. On your part, that’s all you need to do to alter the path of the story or start the ball rolling on adding details to scenes. Your partner will take the inspiration into the next step which is to…
  2.   define the “Point and Emotion”
    Look to where your partner pointed and define what it could be BASED ON THEIR EMOTION. photography of woman pointing her finger near an man
    — Them: Fearful face – pointing at the ground –
    — Your Response : “I see you’ve met my Tarrantula, Trevor.
    Be Changed when possible:
    – Them: Angry face – pointing at the ground
    – Your Response: “(crying) It broke when Trevor and I were playing. I’ll buy you a new vase. Just please don’t tell dad.”
    Sometimes join the emotion:
    –Them: Scared – pointing up –
    –Your Response (scream with your partner) THE ATTACK WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN UNTIL THURSDAY!!!


 You’re visiting a work friend for the first time at their home.

At the beginning of the scene, you, the improviser, feel there should be a little more detail but your brain draws a blank and all you can do is sip your imaginary beer and smile. 

Remembering the POINT tip, you stretch your arm out and point to the imaginary wall between the stage and the audience (you could have pointed anywhere).  You add some emotion. “Awe and Amazement”.  (it could have been any emotion).

Your partner takes over. She takes the emotion and sees the location you are pointing and makes sense of it. She doesn’t have to make any drastic or clever statements.

“Yes, I took that photo on my last trek to Kilimanjaro.”

Simple. It doesn’t need much more if you are just looking for some detail. Now you have a little more depth to the character and history.  Easy. 

 BUT… what happens if you are further along in the scene and you want something bigger to happen?

Point… Have a stronger emotion. 

Greater emotion warrants a greater reaction from your partner.  If your partner points and looks horrified at the image before him, that would call for an equally strong reaction. 

“Yes!!! That’s one of my favourites!!! I took that photo of you when you were sleeping.” 

That should alter everyone and make it easier to move forward. (“Why did you take my picture?” “Is that my bedroom???” “Who are those people in the picture beside me?”)

This BLIND OFFER does just enough to inspire your partner and passes control with great trust. 

Extra bits to think about: 

  • Any direction and any emotion will do. Try it now. Point, emote, make sense of it.
  • It’s best when you let your partner define what you are pointing at. Your gift was the Point and the emotion. Their gift will be the brave definition of what you’ve just seen.
  • Your aim is to be physical and emotional. Don’t talk about what you are seeing. EMOTE and let your partner define it. If your partner is lost, of course, help them out but try to let your action and emotion speak for themself.

DON’T OVERUSE THIS LITTLE TRICK!!! It’s unfair for you to expect your partner to always carry the weight of definition in every scene…  

Keith Johnstone has a similar concept in status exercises where a King or Queen could snap their fingers and the servant would make sense of it without discussion.


  • Yes, your Highness. (-pours the afternoon tea for the King sitting in the garden)


  • (The servant tosses 12 doves in the air).


  • Of course your Eminence. (The servant releases the dove-hunting falcons).  Sir, I was thinking that we might re-consider our afternoon act of barbaric aggression.


  • Right away sir. (The servant releases the servant-eating-lions)
Keep building fun tools to play with and don’t over use them.


Remember… USE QUICK TIPS, hacks and tricks WITH CARE!
Easy Tips and simple Tricks can be dangerous for improvisers… They are no replacement for good technique and risk taking.  Use these little tricks ONLY WHEN THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY, MIND-BENDINGLY NECESSARY.


Go on, get out of here if you feel any sense that you are about to grab a couple of fancy little hacks to make an audience laugh at the expense of solid narrative.


You won’t listen anyway. BUT DON’T COME CRYING TO ME when your friends are saying “We saw you do that lame little trick in the scene at the end of the show … and the week before you did the same thing.  You really aren’t as fun to watch as the moth that flew into my room the other night.”

OK… agreed?  Agreed!


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