When I first saw The Improv Comedy Game I didn’t know what to think. A board game based on stand up improv comedy just sounded like a really weird concept for a board game. What would it even be about? When I thought about it some more though I actually thought it it could lead to an interesting game. A game built solely around getting other players to laugh is an interesting idea. Many board game can be funny, but you don’t see a lot of games whose main gameplay mechanic is to get other players to laugh. While not much of a comedian myself I am always up for a good laugh. While I didn’t have high expectations for The Improv Comedy Game, I hoped that it would surprise me. The Improv Comedy Game was an interesting idea that fails due to the lack of actual funny jokes.
How to Play The Improv Comedy Game
- Each player chooses a color and takes the two pawns of the color. One pawn is placed on the start/roll again space on the outer track. The other pawn is placed on the beginner space of the score track.
- The player who bought the game will start. If none of the players bought the game, the player that borrowed the game will start. Play will proceed clockwise around the board.
Playing the Game
A player begins their turn by rolling all three dice. The number on the white die determines how many spaces the player will move their playing piece clockwise around the outer track. The player will then take an action based on what space they landed on.
Most of the spaces on the gameboard are self explanatory. If a player lands on a space that says gags, cracks, groans, or improv they will read a joke from the corresponding booklet. The joke that they will read is determined by the three dice they rolled. The number that they will read is the white number, red number, and then the black number. For example the player rolled one white, three red, and two black. They will read the joke #132.
There are also a couple other special spaces in the game.
- Your Choice: You get to choose which booklet you will use following the rules listed above.
- Their Choice: The other players will choose which booklet you will use following the rules listed above.
- Tell Your Own: You will get to tell your own joke.
- Lose Your Turn: You lose your turn.
- Lose or Earn Points: You will lose or earn the corresponding number of points.
The player has the ability to prepare for their performance by reading through their joke or coming up with their own joke (if they landed on one of these spaces). When you are ready to perform you will have 30 seconds to tell the joke. If you landed on one of the spaces corresponding to one of the booklets. they will have to use the entire joke without changing it. They can say the joke in any way they want or perform other actions along with telling the joke though to try and get the other players to laugh.
On the spaces that have you tell a joke (your own or from the booklets) there will be one other piece of information.
Spaces that say “You Pick” require you to pick one of the other players before you start telling the joke. If you get this person to laugh during your performance you will receive two points. To record points you will move your marker in the center of the board toward the “Star” side.
Spaces that say “All Play” reward you for getting any of the other players to laugh. For each player that laughs (not including yourself) will score you one point.
Winning the Game
The first player to get their scoring peg to the “Star” space will win the game.
My Thoughts on The Improv Comedy Game
As I mentioned in the opener I had conflicted feelings about The Improv Comedy Game before I played it. The game looked cheaply made and just a terrible idea. The whole idea behind a game being built around getting players to laugh was an interesting idea though.
While I am guessing that there have been other games that have utilized a similar concept, I have yet to play a game quite like The Improv Comedy Game. There are plenty of games that strive for humor and to get the players to laugh and have a good time. These are usually a side effect of the gameplay though and don’t become an actual mechanic in the game. Getting another player to laugh may make them more likely to vote for you, but it doesn’t directly help you in any other games that I have ever played.
This is different in The Improv Comedy Game though as you directly benefit from other players’ laughs. For each laugh in the game you score a point. The first player to score the designated number of points will win the game. Therefore the winner of the game is the player that gets the most players to laugh. The gameplay actually feels a lot like a precursor to “Try Not to Laugh” challenges. In theory I actually think this is a pretty clever game mechanic. I could see a really good party game being built around getting other players to laugh.
Unfortunately The Improv Comedy Game never capitalizes on this potential. This leaves The Improv Comedy Game as a game that has some good ideas that never really work.
By far the biggest problem with The Improv Comedy Game is that the included jokes aren’t funny. There are opportunities for you to tell your own jokes but they don’t come up often and most people aren’t going to be able to come up with their own jokes on the spot. Usually you will be stuck with the material that is chosen for you based on the roll of your dice. I actually like that the game came with jokes as it would immediately turn off people that aren’t creative if they had to come up with their own jokes on the spot. The problem is that the jokes in the booklets just aren’t very funny. I will admit that it might have something to do with the game’s age as it was made in 1989 (I was really young when the game was initially released). Still for a game that relies on the jokes being funny most of them fall flat. Most are groan worthy and some I didn’t even get. The sign of a great joke is one that none of the players even get.
I ended up laughing maybe a couple times but those laughs were scarce. If I were to be generous I would say that maybe 10-20% of the jokes we encountered in the game we played were actually funny. Most of the jokes that were “funny” were due to the setups being so random. Some were so strange that you could get someone to laugh before you even finished the joke. There were also a few “dad jokes” that were mildly entertaining. I would say that the highlight joke from the game we played was Gags #452 which I have copied below:
A man went into a bar with his 180 pound Irish Wolfhound. “Hey!” said the bartender. “You ca’t bring that animal in here!”
“Wait a minute,” said the guy. “This isn’t just a dog. He can talk!”
“Sure,” sneered the bartender. “I bet you 500 bucks he can’t!”
“Okay, you’re on!” said the man as he turned to his dog and said, “Here boy! Now tell me, ‘what do they call the top of a house?'”
“ROOF, ROOF!” answered the dog.
“Good boy! Now tell me how sandpaper feels.”
“ROUGH, ROUGH.” said the dog.
“Okay, one last question. Who was the greatest baseball player who ever lived?”
“RUTH, RUTH!” said the dog.
By this time the bartender was fed up. He grabbed the guy, smacked him a couple of times and threw him into the street. As the dog sat by his bruised master he turned to his owner and said, “Gee you think I should have said DiMaggio?”
The joke above is likely one of if not the best joke in the entire game. As most of the jokes are quite bad, you better hope that you get one of the few good jokes in the game. I have played a lot of games that have relied on a lot of luck and yet I have never played one where the luck comes from getting a good joke to tell. As most of the jokes aren’t very funny it is hard to get laughs out of the other players. To get laughs you have to get creative. At least with our group the best way to get laughs was from how we told the jokes. The game forces you to tell the jokes but it doesn’t specify how you have to tell them. The best ways to get people to laugh in the game is to use weird accents or talk in funny ways. You can also do weird actions while telling the jokes.
The bad jokes are not the only things that are wrong with the game. I was also not a fan of the “you pick” rounds. In these rounds you pick one player that you think you can get to laugh. In theory this isn’t a bad mechanic as it adds a little deduction/guessing to the game as you figure out which player you think is most likely to laugh. The problem is that excludes everyone but the joke teller and the chosen player from the game for the current turn. All of the players not chosen basically have to just sit there and wait for the next turn. For a party game like this I don’t think it is a great idea to sideline some of the players.
I was also not a huge fan of the gameboard either. I personally think the game would probably have been better off without using the gameboard at all. The problem is that the gameboard just adds more luck to the game. The space you land on determines what you will do on your turn. Some spaces have you lose multiple points which is big especially with how hard it is to get laughs in the game. Having the space you land on choose what book you have to read from just adds more luck to the game. The game would have been better off if it just let you choose your own booklet. With all of these problems I don’t know why the game didn’t just ignore the gameboard entirely.
Speaking of the gameboard the components in The Improv Comedy Game are not great. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a lot from the components for two reasons. First the game was made by TDC Games which is a board game company not known for great board game components. There was also the fact that the game was made in 1989 and it shows as the game is pretty typical of a lot of board games made in the 1980s. In addition to the gameboard feeling like a waste of time, it is quite bland. The playing pieces are also quite generic. The only component I give the game a little credit for are the joke books. While most of the jokes are quite bad, I do give the game credit for coming up with quite a few jokes. The game includes four different joke books and each has a lot of jokes. Unless you keep rolling the same numbers you should be able to go through quite a few games without getting any repeats.
Should You Buy The Improv Comedy Game?
I didn’t have high expectations for The Improv Comedy Game, but I was intrigued by the game’s concept. The Improv Comedy Game deserves some credit for coming up with an interesting mechanic that rewards you for getting the other players to laugh. Unfortunately that is about all that works for the game. The first problem is that the jokes just aren’t funny. Few of the jokes are actually funny with some being so bad that I didn’t even get them. The best way to get players to laugh in the game is to just act silly. In addition to the jokes not being funny, the gameboard feels pointless and the component quality is not very good.
Basically your opinion of The Improv Comedy Game will depend on how much you like the concept and how much you can stand terrible jokes. People who can’t stand bad jokes or aren’t interested in the concept probably won’t like the game. If the concept sounds interesting to you and you are willing to sit through the terrible jokes, it may be worth picking up The Improv Comedy Game if you can get a good deal on it.