Air Personalities: Who’s Got Game?
by Amy Hale
You know the feeling. You should be wrapping up a break, yet are wandering aimlessly, desperate for closure. Searching for that exit. It’s not that you don’t want to end the break. You just aren’t sure how to end it! So instead, it keeps going. And going. Then, all at once, you realize it’s going in circles. What if there was a technique to fix that? There is. In fact, there’s a game for that.
Extended breaks searching for an ending are like being lost in the desert looking for an oasis. You just keep on going in an endless sandstorm hoping to stumble on something that makes it all better. It’s nerve-wracking and it’s rarely good radio.
This happens on a radio show when personalities don’t “have game”. Yeah, that’s right. Now that’s not a massive insult. Read further. It may sound trite, but “finding the game” is an improv technique.
Do you know how to play the game?
Who’s Got Game?
For an improviser, the term “finding the game” or “having game” is actually quite simple. It means the scene settles on one idea and then stays centered around that idea. Huh. Kind of like finding a story in a break, then staying focused on the story, right?
An improv scene that doesn’t care about “finding the game” will end up wandering on detours. It will be about many things that are all loosely intertwined, but is not likely to connect with the audience.
For instance, a man heads to a grocery store and finds it closed. He then loses his keys in the parking lot only to have his car towed for being in a non-designated parking spot. None of these things are specifically connected, but together the events create a story line.
Now when an improv scene “finds the game” in a scene it’s essentially a situation on steroids. The team finds the game by asking the question:
If this unusual statement is true, what else is true?
This is when you will find the game.
Finding The Game
Here’s an example:Let’s say the scene is about a husband and wife. The husband is frustrated leaving for work in the morning because his wife is constantly hiding his clean socks. The “truth” is to acknowledge “Okay, normal people don’t hide their spouse’s socks.”
If this is true, what other weird fact could be true?
And this is where the magic happens. I promise.
If the scene fails to “find the game”, it will become an argument scene. Just two people pretending to be married, arguing back and forth. It’ll start out being a fight about socks. Then dishes or taking out the garbage. Not fun. Not funny. The storyline would wander around in the desert looking for that oasis. And likely would never find it.
But, let’s say this scene finds the game. What interesting fact do we know? We know the wife is hiding the husband’s socks but we don’t know why. So if this is unusual fact is true, what else is true?
Maybe she hides his socks because she doesn’t want him to leave in the morning. She craves more attention, but doesn’t want to seem needy. Then she hides his socks, then pretends she doesn’t know why they are always missing. Later she finds the socks in order to get attention from her husband.
And maybe as soon as she magically finds his socks, he “can’t find his keys”. Then his car isn’t parked outside. Soon after, he gets a mysterious call that sounds like a woman pretending to be a man explaining “work is closed. You should stay home.” The game grows after starting with an accepted fact: The husband is always frustrated leaving for work in the morning because his wife hides his socks.
The Radio Game
Now you know how it works, but how does this improv technique sound on the radio?
Truth: I probably use this more than any other technique.
- There’s a generic human interest story about a man taking a selfie with a bear. That’s a pretty weird fact. Most sane people don’t pose with bears. If this fact is true, what else can be true?
- The Royal Wedding’s cake had 400 eggs in it. That’s a lot of eggs. If this fact is true, what else can be true?
- A report says the octopus may be aliens. Get ready to go wild because if that is true, imagine all the possibilities!
How could those stories develop on the air? Easy, if you’ve got game.
But first, a key point: Notice the technique asks, What else CAN BE true. Not what else IS true.”
Obviously, this is not a recommendation to lie to listeners, but what if it’s posed as a question?
It took 400 eggs to make the Royal Wedding cake. Do you think the UK is having the same issues we are with salmonella? Because gathering 400 eggs is a problem. The Royal Chickens have to be exhausted. That’s a lot of pressure. They’re screaming, “We’re done! We’re done! No more!”. They probably are purposely contaminating their eggs with salmonella because the Royals can really turn up the heat. They’re shouting, “Get ye this very instant to the dairy section at Wal-Mart!”
I doubt there are royal chickens providing eggs for the cake and I am almost positive the chickens aren’t purposely contaminating eggs with salmonella, but this is fun dialogue about a current topic.
It’s also an example of how to find the game, then explore the topic without getting wandering off on detours. This improv technique works for preparation, brainstorming, performance and writing promos.
Practice The Game
The only way to improve at the game, is practicing the game. And it’s easy to get better at this technique every day. One way is through air checks.
The next time you are listening to an air check and someone states an unusual fact, stop the audio and re-create the break spontaneously.
Use the statement:
If this is unusual fact is true, what else could be true?
You will be surprised at what you come up with. The show will sound more spontaneous, content will be more original and funny things will start to happen naturally.
Being funny on the air, just as being a great improv performer, is usually about making connections between things that are not logically or obviously connected. And that’s a skill everyone can develop.
Apple founder Steve Jobs is remembered as one of the most imaginative, creative entrepreneurs of all time. He once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”
Work on connecting things that aren’t otherwise connected. This will help keep breaks focused and segments will find that elusive exit.
Author: Amy Hale
Amy Hale’s life changed when her college theater professor told her she needed to move to Chicago and study improv. She did just that but ended up in Madison, WI after a job transfer. She started studying improv and found her “lobster”, live performance. (She married her other lobster, Tony.)
Amy eventually moved to Hot Springs, AR and started Hale Entertainment. She started writing live shows, commercials and plays for local businesses like Oaklawn Casino, Central Theater and Magic Springs Water & Theme Park. She acts and writes plays, sketches, commercials and films. Amy joined the crew at KLAZ in 2013. Amy currently hosts “Amy & Friends in the Morning on KLAZ”…but only because she can’t convince her boss to call it “One KLAZ-y Morning with Amy”.
When off the air, Amy teaches local acting and improv classes with her brother, Luke, who also fills in on KLAZ’s Morning Show. She is incredibly active in her community and soaks up all the awesome Hot Springs has to offer. While Amy’s childhood dream was to be on Saturday Night Live, she thinks she may have hit the jackpot as she is living her best life writing and performing live radio.