By | August 2, 2010


Free Association, Free Association Circle


This warm-up will help us get into the moment, and help us feel easier about being silly.


Free Association is a very common warm up in improv comedy. A free association is when a player associates meaning to something without judgement, censorship or thought. It is quite hard to do. For example a player may be exposed to the word “dog” they may free associate “cat.”

There are as many configurations for this warm up as there are free associations. The most common is to organize in a circle and have one player free associate on the previous player’s free association. It should sound like a series of disconnected words. “mouse”, “trap”, “crab”, “grumpy”, “goofy”, “mouse.”

There is no correct answer in free association. Some players will repeat associations, or have long pauses. This is a good opportunity to explore why this is happening. It is a teaching moment where the leader can discuss.

  • There is no need to try and be funny.
  • You are in a non-judgmental space.
  • Allow the first thing in your mind to come out.

This warm up helps with listening and commitment. Many players have editors in their head. Learn Improv calls it the headitor. The headitor keeps a player from using the first thought that an offer evokes. Free association should help a player break free form their headitor.

  • Physical offers – have the player freely associate a physical offer
  • Rhyming offers – have the players associate in rhyme
  • Last Letter – have the player associate with a word that starts with the last letter of the cue word
  • Closed Eye – have players close their eyes to enhance listening


  • Firing line – one player is hit with many words to free associate
  • Pass the Chi – players complete the second half of a word
  • Cross Circle – next player to free associate is randomly chosen
  • Milling – Players mill about the room free associating freely
  • Disassociation – Say the opposite of the cue word
  • Rhymes – Freely associate but using rhymes
  • Last Letter – Associate a new word using the last letter of cue word
  • Gibberish – Use gibberish to help free from headitor


The process of free association is credited to Sigmund Fraud