Game Library: “Chatterbox”

I briefly mention this character-based game in my earlier Commandment #6 entry on Waffling here which also looks at ways to restrain vocal effusiveness. If you’re working on taming this particular improv inner demon, consider exploring games such as Sentences and Speaking in Turn that actively restrict verbal offers. Chatterbox, on the other hand, provides a rare exception where carefully embracing your verbosity actually aids the scene.

The Basics

One player volunteers to play the “chatterbox” for the scene. While other characters engage in “normal” dialogue and action, the chatterbox’s speech acts are deliberately, inappropriately (and generally, comedically) voluminous.


Two young children, Player A and B, begin the scene in a daycare sandbox. Their imaginative game is well underway as we join the action, each with an improvised stick in their hand to serve as their fictional character…

Player A: “I will rescue you from your castle prison!”

Player B: “Don’t get caught! The king is a meanie…”

Player A: “Fear not, I am brave…”

A teacher, Player C, enters with a new addition to the daycare center, Player D (the predetermined chatterbox.)

Player C: “Can Emily join you both in the sandbox? She’s new.”

Player B: “Sure! Grab a stick. We’re playing castles.”

Player C: (warmly, as they leave) “Thank you, children. Play nicely now.”

Player B: “Have you played castles before?”

Player A: “It’s my turn to be the prince…”

Player D: “Ah, I see. I wasn’t aware that this sandbox was really a portal in time sliding us all back into tired gender tropes and stereotypes. I am familiar with this general oeuvre, and the harm such narratives have imposed upon generations of the world’s youth, suggesting that we have no agency ourselves but must wait, instead, for a theoretical prince to save us from the very system he represents and from which he gains his power… I would like to be the horsey please.”

Player B: (handing D a suitably horsey stick) “Here you go…”

Player A: “I’m outside the castle, by the moat.”

Player D: “Ah yes, the moat – that medieval castle fortification system that trapped its occupants as much as protected them. Much like the modern education system that we find ourselves unwittingly engaging in currently…”

Player A: “What kind of horse are you?”

Player D: “A wild stallion…”

Player A: “Will you help me rescue the king’s prisoner?”

Player B: “I’ll send down my long hair, like Rapunzel…”

The Focus

Be cautious of coding the chatterbox as crazy or unpleasantly inappropriate as such a move will usually shut down instead of heightening the game. Similarly, doggedly challenging the overtalker’s facts or content tends to ground their flights of fancy rather than empowering them to reach for new levels of ludicrousness. A lot of the appeal of this game is experiencing in real time what rambling content the uninterrupted stream of consciousness ultimately creates.

Traps and Tips

1.) Leave room. The chatterbox, by design, tends to vocally dominate the scene especially if the tool isn’t used sparingly. It’s a helpful strategy to have this character enter the scene a little later for this reason as this gives the other players some stage time to establish the CROW and their own character deals. Such an introduction provides the scenic norm that the chatterbox can then disrupt and overturn. Once the chatterbox has been established, concentrate on the scenic give and take. Players should strive to pitch focus and fun launches to the chatterbox who should return the favor by not completely driving the scene without a sense of their scene partners’ needs too. Not every response needs to be a paragraph even if it is frequently so.

2.) Avoid blocking. Each chatterbox diatribe serves essentially as a built-in stalling device with their innate function as an unbridled and expansive musing. As is true of any waffling or wimping choice, you’re just a short walk from outright blocking territory. While it’s the chatterbox’s stated function to verbosely comment upon or overly contextualize the topics at hand, strive to also enable continued play and discovery. Player D could easily shut down the castle game completely with their societal critique, but by also then agreeing to join the activity they are serving the greater goal of the scene. This can be a hard balance to strike, but if you’re the chatterbox and you find your teammates scrambling to find one new scenic avenue after another, then explore a less overtly blocking tack.

3.) Find the POV. This character device can provide an overlay for almost any improv scene or serve as an impetus to craft a unique characterization. Often, the basic language and technique has much in common with an expert persona with their love of specificity, jargon, and historicity (whether or not any of it is even remotely truthful!) If you’re playing with this device for the first time, such an expert approach serves well, but also look for points of view or character qualities that can maximize comedic juxtapositions and support playful surprises. I thoroughly enjoy having a young child as the mouthpiece for this reason as it tends to add to the curve of absurdity in helpful ways. A meandering professor, for example, is probably a little more realistic in an unhelpful way than a student, staff member, or classroom visitor taking on the disrupter role.

In Performance

If all of your characters are versions of a chatterbox without even trying, you might want to reevaluate your ingrained verbal habits. But as a scenic novelty played with precision and a healthy dose of irony or satire, this characterization technique can provide a great deal of delight. And unlike accidental waffling that will stifle the contributions of your teammates, here its deliberate application invites the whole team to work together towards a common end.

Cheers, David Charles.
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© 2023 David Charles/ImprovDr

Connected Concept: Waffling

Published by improvdr

A professional improvisational practitioner with over thirty years experience devising, directing, performing, teaching and consulting on the craft of spontaneous (and scripted) theatre and performance.

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