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July 29, 2011

There are some people in this world who are perhaps not the best recipients of my admiration.  They don’t believe in God (Ricky Gervais) or they turn out to be a Scientologist (Beck).  Yet I love them for their talent.  Such is the case with Tina Fey, whose politics vary greatly from my own, yet I believe her to be brilliant, clever, and very funny.  So one of my first Kindle downloads was her new book  Bossypants.  I read it in one sitting – if you don’t count the multiple times I had to jump up to reprimand my kitten for getting into things he oughtn’t.  Part of the adventure of reading (I realize that sounds like a Book It! slogan… mmm pan pizza) for me is closing a book (or powering down your device) and having a new nugget (of the non chicken variety – for chicken nuggets please see this) to carry around with you.  I’ve found nuggets in unexpected places.  Little pieces of brilliance, anecdotes, some little quote or quip that stays with you.

Here’s what I learned from Ms. Fey today.  In a discussion about improv, no less.

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE.  Always agree and SAY YES.  When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created.  So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun.  It’s your finger.  You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a hault.  But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.

Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says.  But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place.  Start with a YES…

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND.  You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.  If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.  But if [you] say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures,”… now we’re getting somewhere.

To me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute.

So true, Liz Lemon, so true.  I had a conversation last night with my husband that would have greatly benefited from the YES, AND method.  That’s all for now.  The kitten is fishing q-tips out of the bathroom trash.


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