Improv Game: Paper Cups Are Great

“Paper Cups Are Great” is a fun game that forces people to stretch their minds, work together, and tap into their creative flow.

Purpose

The purpose of this exercise is to tap your creativity by practicing saying things that are ridiculous. This game also develops teamwork.

Summary

In this exercise, you and your partners will trade off throwing out ideas very fast that don’t make sense but do demonstrate creativity.

How to Play

You and two partners will play the game. Start in the middle with your partners on either side of you. Pick some basic object, such as paper cups, and the person in the middle starts stating reasons why paper cups are great. Each phrase will start with “Paper Cups are great because.” For example:

Paper cups are great because you can drink out of them
Paper cups are great because you can crush them and use them as a hockey puck
Paper cups are great because you can use them as spare tires

Keep going saying as many ideas as possible. These ideas can be true but it is not necessary. This game will work if you are willing to say ideas that don’t make sense or are just funny and goofy.

The ideas can get more and more ridiculous; they need not make sense or be justified. Just say “Paper cups are great because you can power your car with one.” It’s not true, and that’s ok. The point is to flow.

When you start to stumble, stutter, or hesitate, one of your partners will tap you on the shoulder and switch places with you so that they will jump into the middle of the line and you will go on the outside. They’ll pick it up giving their own ideas for why paper cups are great. When they start to hesitate, one of the other two people will tap them. It’s a big trade-off where you just flow as fast as you can and when you have run out of ideas, one of your partners will help you.

This is a really great exercise to generate ideas quickly and really practice tapping into that creativity.

Improv Tips and Things to Remember

If you’re on the outside and your partner in the middle seems to be struggling just a little bit, tap them and jump in. Even if you think you only have one idea, that’s okay because that’s the teamwork aspect— really supporting the other person with your own creativity.

As with any creative activity, go very fast, opening your mouth and beginning the phrase to see what comes out afterwards. Obviously you can change the object from paper cups. It can be turtles, jeans, or anything at all..

Improv Lessons

The goal here is to loosen up the creative flow. What you’ll find is that as you’re on the outside listening to the person in the middle, they may say something that will trigger ideas in your mind. This is how creativity works. If you are brainstorming, even if you are working with another person who does not have the best ideas, they may still trigger ideas for you.

Pay attention to when you surprise yourself and come up with clever ideas or random thoughts that just pop out. This is an excellent sign that you’ve tapped into your creativity. Discuss with your partners afterwards as to whether you felt supported. This is a combination of creativity and teamwork. Sometimes if you are in the middle and you are running out of ideas and nobody is tapping you to replace you, you might feel abandoned..

Once you develop your ability to use this on silly ideas, you can use this as a brainstorming exercise. Take a question and pose it to your group of three and start rattling off answers, switching in and out not worrying about the validity but seeing where the creativity comes from. If you don’t have three people you can do this with two people and just swap back and forth. Just as in, “What’s fun about ___,” you can play this exercise in that format. If you have a tough situation, the person in the middle will start by taking the situation and saying, “What’s fun about this.” It’s a good way of adding some levity and really shedding some light on a dark situation.

Example

Below is an example of a two-person version of this game. Since every time you play this game you will be using a different item (as opposed to repeating “paper cups” over and over again), in this example we use “turtles”)

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