Setting Ideas for Improv Acting and Comedy Sketches

Student and adult actors can check out these short plays.
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One of the essential ingredients to a good improv scene is a setting. But sometimes, the ideas just don't flow, which is why we put together this list of settings for improv acting and comedy sketches.

Keys to Success

If you're not relying on your audience to suggest a setting, you'll need to think quickly and choose one yourself. One of the goals of improv is to learn how to think quickly and creatively when confronted by the unexpected.

To do that, you'll need to bear a few things in mind:

  • Go with it. If you're told to wear a trenchcoat, then do it. Now you've got one detail to add the sketch of the character you're building, one who's a private eye in an old detective movie. Accept everything as literal truth that people do or say, and don't try to deceive or outwit your fellow actors.
  • Create a backstory. You can also add realism to your character by asking questions or making statements that reference a past event. Maybe your detective character just had a run-in with a cop who doesn't like him. As the two glare at each other, your character asks, "You going to arrest me just like last time?" And just like that, you've established a backstory for your audience that gives them more information about the scene you're creating.
  • Be specific. Improv actors rarely work with elaborate sets or with many props. Instead, the challenge is to create a sense of place and character with your words and actions. Don't speak in monosyllables. Be descriptive. 
  • Begin mid-action. Unlike scripted acting, improv doesn't have the luxury of building up to a dramatic climax through a prologue. You want to keep the activity (and inspiration) moving. Each sketch should start with your characters already engaged in a scenario, like being up to their elbows in a sink full of dirty dishes.
  • Act without words. Speaking is just one way that an actor can convey information. Try choosing an improv setting and then using pantomime or try another means of non-verbal communication. 
  • Don't be yourself. You're not playing yourself in improv; you're someone else. As you perform, push yourself to act and react in ways the real you may never do.

Suggested Improv Settings

Once the actors are ready, it's time to choose a setting. Some performers let the audience make suggestions, with the troupe picking their favorite. Others leave it to the director or host to pick a scenario. There's no right or wrong way to do it. That's the beauty of improv.

A:
Art Gallery
Ambulance
Adoption Clinic
Amazon Rainforest
Antique Store
Attic

B:
Barbershop
Balcony
Boat
Bird's Nest
Blacksmith
Bakery
Butterly Habitat
Beaver Dam
Bootcamp

C:
Castle
Cat Lady's House
Chessboard
Cheese Factory
Classroom Cemetery
(Inside a) Comic Book
Chiropractor's Office
Circus

D:
Dance Studio
Dragon's Lair
Desert
Deep Sea Diving
Department of Motor Vehicles
Detention
Drunk Tank

E:
Egypt
Elephant Sanctuary
Elf's Forest
Execution Chamber
Earthquake Preparedness Class

F:
Ferris Wheel
Fire Station
Fishing Pond
Football Stadium
Future
Fortune Teller's Shop

G:
Grocery Store
Golf Course
Ghost Town
Gondola
Garbage Dump
Garage
Goldmine
Gypsy Camp
Grand Canyon

H:
Hardware Store
Helicopter
Henhouse
Hogwarts
Hospital
Hawaii

I:
Igloo
Island (Tropical)
Iceberg
Ice Cream Shop
Ice Age

J:
Jungle
Jet Pilot's Cockpit
Judge's Chambers
Jury Box
Jewelry Store
Jurassic Age

K:
Karate Class
Karaoke Bar
Knight's Training Grounds
King Kong's Cage
Knitting Circle
Kangaroo Farm

L:
Lagoon
Lighthouse
Library
LOST - The TV Show
Lifeboat
Lumberjack Camp
London
Laundromat

M:
Make-up Counter
Marathon Finish Line
Mechanic's Shop
Moon
Mousetrap
Mummy's Tomb
(Inside a) Microwave
Mountain Top

N:
Nursing Home
News Station
Neverland
Nature Trail
Nightclub
Newspaper Office

O:
Orchestra Pit
Office Cubicle
Orchard
Outback (Australia)
Open House (Real Estate)
Optometrist

P:
Picnic Spot
Panda Exhibit
Prom
Pirate Ship
Pet Store
Post Office
Photography Class
Police Station

Q:
Queen Elizabeth's Court
Quiz Show
Quicksand

R:
Radio Program
Restaurant Grand Opening
Red Carpet (Movie Premiere)
Riverboat
(Inside a) Romance Novel
Robber's Hideout

S:
Safari
School Lunchroom
School Nurse's Office
Santa's Workshop
Ski Slope
Spider Web
Summer Camp
Smurf Village
Softball Game
Spaceship
Second Hand Store
Submarine
Stable

T:
Treehouse
Travel Agency
Truckstop
Theater Audition
Tidepool
Tribal Ceremony
Tourist Trap

U:
Ugly Princess' Birthday Party
Underground
Underwater
Unemployment Office
Utopian Society

V:
Vampire's Home
Volleyball Court
Volcano
Voting Booth

W:
Witch's Cavern
Warehouse
White House
Waterslide Park
Wrestling Ring
Wild West
Woodshop Class
Wedding Ceremony

X:
X-Ray Lab
Xylophone Store

Y:
Yard Sale
Yoga Class
Yearbook Club

Z:
Zeppelin (Blimp)
Zombie Vacation Spot
Zoo

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Your Citation
Bradford, Wade. "Setting Ideas for Improv Acting and Comedy Sketches." ThoughtCo, Apr. 23, 2018, thoughtco.com/improv-locations-and-settings-2712996. Bradford, Wade. (2018, April 23). Setting Ideas for Improv Acting and Comedy Sketches. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/improv-locations-and-settings-2712996 Bradford, Wade. "Setting Ideas for Improv Acting and Comedy Sketches." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/improv-locations-and-settings-2712996 (accessed May 23, 2018).