We've all been in those awful situations where we have to go around the room and introduce ourselves and answer some stupid question. Or those times when someone from the stage is facilitating group activities and we have to go around and introduce ourselves to everyone. No one likes to do those things, especially given the questions we're forced to answer.
And because I hate those crappy questions so much, I'm here to offer you an alternative for discussion starters, silence fillers, and introduction topics.
Why this question is a good one:
Anyone can ask about favorite TV shows, and now more than ever (with the writers' strike) that question might reveal something a little deeper about someone since people will have to dig a bit through their memory banks to remember what TV used to be like.
But with the fringe question, people really begin to rifle through their television highlights. In order to name a fringe character (especially a favorite one) from a show, you have to know the show pretty well. Thus, group members can get a glimpse not just which show you like, but which show you're dedicated to.
And, like all good icebreaker questions, we should usually get a story with this one. We may get to hear about exactly how much television someone watched as a kid (or how much they watch now). Someone may also share how that show makes them remember something in their lives of importance – friends, family, a stage of life, a transition time. Or, we may get a quick story about certain posters of certain main characters that might have hung in bedrooms or lockers.
As a bonus, here are specific variations on the question (along with my answers):
- Who's your favorite male on Sex in the City? (Steve, with Aidan as a close second)
- Who's your favorite adult on Saved by the Bell? (Mr. Belding's brother – he was a substitute teacher once and his long hair made him seem so much cooler than all of my substitute teachers)
- Who's your favorite patient on Scrubs? (I like the lady who dreams of singing on Broadway – she ultimately dies and sings a Colin Hay song teaching JD about death)
- Who's your favorite friend on Full House? (how can you not like Michelle's friend Teddy?)
- Who's your favorite cameo on Friends? (Bruce Willis did a fine job, but I'll always enjoy Brad Pitt at Thanksgiving)
These are good if you have a group of a certain age that you're certain has all seen the same show.
What this question also teaches is how people observe things. Fringe characters only make brief appearances, even if they have recurring roles. Therefore, it's always interesting to see what people pick up in a brief amount of screen time. The parallel is obvious – we all have fringe characters that dramatically shape our lives. Our worlds could be even richer if we paid as much attention to them as we do to actors who take the stage only briefly on our TV.
Although a lot of people watch TV, not everyone does (believe it or not). And, some people may not be dedicated to TV as much as others. Thus, the term 'fringe character' should be an ambiguous one. Once person’s Jazzy Jeff may be another person’s Nurse Jennifer (the school nurse that Zack Morris wanted to go out with instead of Kelly). You should also allow other people to uses fringes in other worlds as well (favorite guest musician on a favorite artist's album or favorite fringe character in a novel).
So far in this series:
What do you think of the Melting Pot?
What kind of art can you stand?
About the series:
Better Icebreaker Questions is a series to help you have better meetings, gatherings and conversations. Use these questions during your next staff meeting, neighborhood gathering or first date. Thank my by buying something from this store.