Line Gags

By | March 15, 2019




Please line up shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction.


Line Gag is a structure that is both an exercise and a handle. This is the exercise version of the structure.

Line Gags are a staple of improv comedy performance. In many ways Line Gags go against everything we strive to learn in improv comedy. However they are fun and do serve a purpose as an exercise in a workshop. The leader can pick from any of the copious line gags listed under variations. Some very famous and historically relevant line gags have their own structures.

In a Line Gag the players are called upon to make short quips relating to the gag type chosen by the leader. We will use the storied example of 99 strings. In 99 Strings there is a very structured format where players make gags about nouns getting kicked out of a drinking establishment. For example, “99 strings walk into a bar. The bartender asks them to leave because they are knot old enough.” Rim shot please. Strings is replaced with any other noun but the format remains the same. “99 buckets walk into a bar. The bartender asks them to leave because they are already full to the rim.” There are an infinite number of house variations on this structure alone.

Why on earth would we do this in a workshop after spending so much time working on narrative and open scenes. Line Gags, when done correctly, are excellent commitment and support exercises. Players are encouraged to step forward and say anything. Nothing can be wrong. All the other players on the live will react to their contribution like it was the greatest thing imaginable. It helps players work on the principle that they are supported on stage and their contributions are worth while.

Often spirited players will come up with an onslaught of silly puns and correlations. That is fine during a performance, but not during a workshop. It is best to go through the line in order. No one can hide and no one can overwhelm. For players that are paralysed by this exercise have them present their gag in gibberish. This will elicit a fabulous round of gibberish support from the other players on the line.


  • It is a gimmick


  • Competitive – any line gag where host conducts and keeps pointing forcing multiple responses from one performer
  • Reverse Trivial Pursuit
  • Jeopardy = Reverse Trivial Pursuit statement with multiple answers
  • Sex With Me Is Like – Players use the noun to describe what sex with them is like. Sex with me is like a string because I get afraid.
  • I like my lovers like – Players use the noun to describe what they like in a love. I like my lovers like string, tightly wound.
  • 99 strings – See detailed example above
  • 185 things – Same as 99 strings.
  • You know it’s a noun’s offspring – You know it’s a string’s kid because he’s so high strung.
  • World’s Worst – Take a profession and be worst possible member of it.
  • Props – most uses of object not the object
  • Famous Last Words – epitaphs for a noun or famous person. Here lies Beethoven decomposing his past work.
  • Marketing – new names/slogans for non-existent objects