Learning to Yes…And your scene partner is one of the first lessons you learn if you take an Improv class. It is the foundation upon which any improv scene is built. This might seem like an easy trick. I mean, improv scenes are generally short, maybe 2 to 3 minutes unless you’re doing a longer mono-scene, and improv is a hobby, right? It’s not REAL life. It should be easy to do the little, inconsequential Yes…And trick while playing make-believe. Uh-huh. Guess what. It’s not.
Saying, “yes…and” rather than “no” and “but” can help you open your life to more juiciness, but it takes practice. For most of us, “no” and “but” are autopilot responses, and we need to be very conscious to counteract the habit.
It’s amazing, even with some classes, rehearsals, and shows under our belts, how often my improv partners and I No or But each other. It happens all the time; the words, “no” and “but” are autopilot responses. Here’s why they make sense and pop out so easily. Autopilot activates when we’re under stress, when we’re judging something as bad, when we feel shame, when we’re scared, and when we feel like we’re not in control. As fun as improv is, as great as it is to get to play make-believe as an grown-up, it can also be a little bit of a scary ride, and sometimes the words that our scene partner offers don’t make sense to our minds (thus making us feel a little out of control), or those words hit a button in us — a should button, an ought button, a deep belief button — and even though we’re playing make-believe, our minds hit a wall, and our mouths open and spit out, “no” or “but” (which is really just another, sometimes softer “no”).
Who cares? You might ask. Again, this is make-believe. Improv isn’t real. And in a way, you’re right, but stick with me for a minute anyway. In an improv scene, a hard “no” can bring a scene to a screaming halt. If it doesn’t go that far, it can at the very least make the scene bumpy and difficult to play — for both parties. Being in the middle of a No or But scene can be really uncomfortable. And here’s another thing…improv is REAL LIFE because our lives are improvised. That autopilot “no” or “but” can have the same effect in our lives as it can on stage. It can bring things to a screaming halt, and it can make things, particularly in relationship, uncomfortable (even if we THINK we’re in our comfort zone!).
We weren’t born with a script, y’all. This whole big thing that we call LIVING is done by the seat of our pants — just like an improv scene (except that you probably…