Not connecting through ideas

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Just about my favourite improv game at the moment is called Bunny, Bunny. It’s much easier to play than to describe. Which is fitting, as this post is in part about the limits of words as ways to connect.

The participants stand in a circle. Most of the time, all they have to do is go “Ohh, ahh” in time with each other, while bending a little at the hip and moving their lower arms forward in rhythm.

One person in the circle starts a move while this going on. In time with the “Ooh, ahh”, she points two fingers at her own eyes saying, “Bunny, Bunny”. And on the next “Ooh, Ahh” she points the same two fingers at anyone else in the circle. That person is now it, and has do the Bunny, Bunny move to herself and then another, staying in rhythm with the group’s Ooh, Ahh.

The final embellishment is that when someone is going Bunny, Bunny, the people either side of them don’t go Ooh, Ahh. Instead they go “Tukka, Tukka” turning to face the Bunny Bunny person while gesticulating a tucking motion with their hands.

That’s it. In common with all great improv games it is, on one level, apparently pointless and usually massively engaging. It seems to evoke some kind of deep tribal longing in people and most groups get determined to see how well they can do it and how fast they can go.

If you’re playing it and start getting fussy about players who aren’t doing it right, you will almost certainly distract yourself and miss a cue to go Bunny, Bunny or Tukka, Tukka. Most groups become quite accomplished at getting over mistakes with collapsing or starting a post mortem and get on beat again.

I am sure one day I will play it and it won’t be fun or engaging, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Here’s my hunch about why this game seems to go so well: I suggest it meets a profound human need for connection and togetherness. It’s a need that goes unsatisfied when we meet and exchange ideas because it’s so hard to find agreement that way. I watch a lot of arguments and sense that opportunities and needs to connect are lost in the urge to somehow get something right.

Those are the interactions where I’m more tempted to ask what the point is.

Here’s a YouTube of some folks playing a version of Bunny Bunny.

Update: Rob sent me this related link on our powerful links to mammals which get neglected when focussed on language. The key thought:

After you spend time with wild animals in the primal ecosystem where our big brains first grew, you have to chuckle at the reigning view of the mind as a computer.


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