‘Games’ and ‘Tilts’ usually belong to the world of improv, but it has been interesting to apply them to cartooning this week.

My improv teacher describes looking for the ‘game of the scene’ or something ‘unusual’ or interesting to build a funny scene. This unusual thing is then explored with scene partners and developed, often with ever increasing exaggeration or accentuation. I haven’t read of the game being used explicitly with cartooning, although my friend SK aims to ‘spot the absurd’ when she’s cartooning to quickly find the funny idea, which is a similar idea.

‘Tilts’ are designed to destabilise your scene partner by considering what might throw them off-balance. This could be all kinds of things from interruptions, annoyances, or problems. For example, Bushmiller consistently used items from the Sears catalogue to create tilts in the comic strip ‘Nancy’ – this was his daily way into the humour in a career that lasted 6 decades (Karasik and Newgarden 2017). It would be interesting to consider how ‘game’ and ‘tilt’ works in other examples of single and multiple panel funnies.

I decided to explore the game and tilts with my old flamingo characters, because they are familiar to draw (and they always cheer me up). It was an interesting process of sketchbooking with inquiries:

It became quickly evident that one of the ‘games’ of the flamingo is ‘balance’ – they are unusually capable at balancing. The tilt here could have been what would kibosh this balance or stillness? But my own tilts went back to previous destabilising of flamingos with ballet poses going wrong (see earlier blog 36 for examples of this).

It is also possible to consider what could destablise others in relation to the ‘game’ of the character, as here where the trees are unsettled,

To summarise a few thoughts here, I think looking for the ‘game’ and ‘tilts’ has potential in cartooning. The ‘game’ provides a way of locating and exploring the incongruous in a character (and perhaps also in themes and other elements), while ‘tilts’ offers possibilities to destabilise the character in all kinds of situations. There is broad potential for play here to consider for future, but this is enough for my head for now,


Karasik, P. and Newgarden, M. (2017) How to Read Nancy The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels. Seattle: Fantagraphic.