Bore Them A Little Bit

Brightly coloured illustration of couple sitting on sofa, seemingly on a stage, with dialogue in speech bubbles
Lessons from theatrical impro.

One of the most unexpected lessons I picked up from training in impro involved trying to bore the audience a little bit.

We took turns, going up on the stage in pairs to perform little scenes – then do it again, but this time to be a little more boring.

I’ve often wondered what makes this so effective. Partly, it removes from the performer some of the desperate need to please – to get laughs or whatever – which can strike an audience as horribly needy. But there’s something else.

It creates a kind of mystery – a sense of something being held back. And that’s terrifically compelling.


I drew this picture while I was training with Keith Johnstone. It’s one of dozens I made, there and then, to serve as a reminder of the things I was learning. Ten years later, I’m so glad I did.

In case you can’t read the text in the pictured speech bubbles, they say:

“Bore them a little bit.” (That was the voice of Keith.)

“I didn’t care about the audience at all.” (The voice of one of the performers, relieved of the needy feeling.)

“You look like you have a secret.” (Voice of an onlooker, impressed.)

I suppose it should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: the instruction is only to bore them “a little bit” – not bore them to tears.