In improvisational theatre, everything that you will need to ever know will ultimately
boil down to ‘yes and’. Yes/And is shorthand for the most basic ‘rules’ of playing with others in improv, and as simplistic and pure as it is as a rule can make it seem easy to accomplish on stage. Not so. Its tough.

Yes/Anding your way to victory is tough because it asks of you to actively really listen to what is going on around you. It also asks that you let go of control, agenda, and everything else. Its like when Jesus said: “love people and stuff.” Easier said than done. Just ask any asshole Christian.

I want to talk about one way that Yes/And can be misunderstood. I often myself slip into this and I have seen it in other players as well. It gets translated into “Restatement”.
Restatement, even with a fun or unexpected twist is still missing the heart of Yes/And.

Example of Restatement: (let’s look at the first lines of a scene)
“God the workload around here is skyrocketing!”
“We’re being worked harder than Queen Latifah’s scale!”

Okay, so that is also an example of a ‘joke’ which shouldn’t be done either. But, it serves to show that simple restating as a form of Yes is weak. Think of ‘Yes’ as ‘just don’t negate that’. Its a reality and as such should be respected. Thinking as ‘just don’t deny or negate that’ also will encourage you to create lots of statements about the reality too.
And that brings us to the ‘And’. ‘And’ will give more information about you, the environment, your relationship, the other (as a ‘give’), etc.

Let’s go back to our example:
“God, the workload around here is skyrocketing!”
“(mimes grabbing a turkey, cutting off its head) Thanksgiving is always the busiest time of year, Steve.”

This accomplishes more in a short period of time. Now you’ve got a location, (turkey slaughter house), a name for your partner, and a time of year (audiences will appreciate if you have scenes about current real time issues).

It’s hard to accept a reality, not negate it, and then take it to another level by adding to the shared story. That is why I wholeheartedly suggest you nurture the 3 second rule: Take your time. Listen, and don’t respond so fast. In your mind, during these 3 seconds, think about Yes/And.

More on Improv to come…
Ryan McGivern