YES . AND.....Improv Skills are Important On & Off Stage

by George Haynes


Yes. And... If you’re familiar with the techniques of improv comedy, these two words mean a great deal to you. They are the foundation and heart of what improv is all about. Briefly, the philosophy of these two words means agreement. No matter what your scene partner says, you agree and add something to it. For example:

Player 1: “Bob, you promised me you’d belly dance for me whenever I requested it.” Player 2: “Yes. And I have my finger cymbals at the ready right here in my pocket, Sue.”

Bob doesn’t deny Sue. He agrees and moves forward with the scene. This philosophy of radical agreement and never denying your scene partner makes for excellent improv. But, I’ll also tell you an “inside baseball” trade secret from the world of improv: Using “Yes And” in real life, and not just on stage, is a wonderful way to improve your life. If you make it a habit to “Yes And” as a way of life, people will like you more and your relationships will improve.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. This doesn’t mean that you lie about your convictions and give a false portrayal of yourself. In essence, it means you look for common ground with people and affirm their right to have their own opinions, even if you disagree with them. For example:

Bob: “These bunnies invading our backyard and eating our garden vegetables are vermin and need to be exterminated!”

Sue: “Yes. And, I understand how much work you put in to the garden and want it to provide healthy organic vegetables for our family. I’ll look into catch and release traps.”

Bob: “Thank you.”

Bob and sue had differing opinions regarding how to handle the bunnies. But neither of them assaulted the basic humanity of the other. Humans disagree. Humans have vastly differing opinions on everything. To deny that human disagreement is normal and to view differing opinions as an aberration is a denial of what humanity actually is, in my opinion.

Living the philosophy of “Yes And” can allow you to have respectful and meaningful conversations with those who are on the opposite pole of your philosophical globe. No one should be untrue to his/her deeply held convictions. Nevertheless, everyone should strive toward civil dialogue and a foundational level of respecting everyone’s right to think as one chooses.

Yes. I’m a long way from living out this philosophy successfully. And I’m working on it every day.

George Haynes is an improviser w/ CSz St Louis

Mike McGuire