31 Improv Emotions You Have Probably Felt

by Caspar Schjelbred

Some improv emotions during an Improfessionals show (Elena Michielin, Caspar Schjelbred and Florian Bartsch).

What the audience sees and hears is just the surface of what is happening in an improv scene. Underneath bubbles the secret life of the improvisers. Here is a dictionary of 31 improv emotions (and counting) to help you identify what is going on!

Feel free to submit your own improv emotions in the comments below. I will of course give you credit if I add yours to the list.

A SHORT dictionary of

Improv Emotions

The first twenty-three improv emotions listed here are paraphrasing entries in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The rest are of my own invention.

1

Sonder

The realisation that each stage partner has ideas that are as interesting and original as your own.

2

Opia

The ambiguous intensity of holding eye contact with a stage partner feeling simultaneously high- and low-status.

3

Monachopsis

The subtle but persistent feeling of being in the wrong scene or show, secretly blamed on your stage partners.

4

Énouement

The bittersweetness of hovering above the scene you are in and seeing how things will turn out but not being able to tell your present self.

5

Vellichor

The strange wistfulness of hearing an audience suggestion you have already used many times before.

6

Rubatosis

The unsettling awareness of the power of your own creative imagination.

7

Kenopsia

The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a rehearsal studio usually bustling with laughter but is now abandoned and quiet.

8

Mauerbauertraurigkeit

The inexplicable urge to refuse perfectly valid offers, even ideas you think are great.

9

Jouska

The compulsion to play out certain hypothetical narrative developments in your head during an improvisation.

10

Chrysalism

The enveloped tranquillity of being offstage during a scene that is failing miserably.

11

Vemödalen

The frustration of creating excellent space objects while knowing thousands of mime artists could still do it better.

12

Anecdoche

The vacuous feeling you get from a scene in which everyone is talking, but nobody is listening.

13

Ellipsism

A sadness that you will never be able to know how your improv format will turn out in the future when performed by unknown strangers.

14

Kuebiko

A state of exhaustion inspired by silly jokes and cheap gags.

15

Lacheism

The perverse desire to go completely blank in the middle of a scene and experience the disaster of not knowing what to say or do.

16

Exulansis

The tendency to give up your own ideas because your stage partners are unable to relate to them.

17

Adronitis

Frustration with how much time it takes to establish the relationship between the characters in a scene.

18

Rückkehrunruhe

The feeling after an intensive improv workshop when you find that nothing remains except a group picture on Facebook.

19

Nodus tollens

The hard realisation that the plot of your long-form does not make any sense to you anymore.

20

Onism

The frustration of being stuck in just one character and only having one point of view in the scene.

21

Liberosis

The desire to care less about being good on stage.

22

Altschmerz

The irreparable weariness you feel from reusing the same old space objects or lines of dialogue that you have dished out to your stage partners for years.

23

Occhiolism

The sharp awareness that the audience has a better perspective on the scene than yourself.

24

Kulturamaschrei

The mix of surprise and pride when you have just made a pop culture reference that no one saw coming (not even yourself).

25

Ordlekir

The irresistible temptation to make a pun even though it will be at the expense of the story.

26

Nonclusia

The suspicion that you are neither included in the narrative nor in the game of the scene.

27

Euphoramisé

The rush of joy when you suddenly connect for the first time with a new scene partner.

28

Lystikke

The oscillation between wanting and not wanting to go on stage when the situation in the scene clearly needs someone to enter.

29

Olskolaire

The comfort you feel when the unfolding of the scene confirms all your improv habits.

30

Attingalin

The excitement of not knowing what you are doing on stage but doing it anyway.

31

Nopiaf

The pangs of regret when you realise (after a millisecond of mental immobility) that your intuition was spot on, but it is too late now.


SOURCES AND LINKS

John Koenig’s long-time blog project The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows was turned into a book in 2021 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

If you enjoy words and definitions in general, here is another dictionary you might like: HipDict.

Published: June 27, 2022

Last modified: August 1, 2022

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