Improv 101 — Yes, And…

 

Another important warm-up game for aspiring improvisers to learn is called Yes, And… These are typically short little snapshots of scenes in which both people must always start any line with “Yes, and…”. The idea is that on stage, you are working with the other cast members, not against them, so Yes, And… is a game that allows you to build off of the other’s statements without asking questions or denying. (You can’t really say “Yes, and why?” or “Yes, and… no”. It simply doesn’t make sense in the context of a scene.)

The game usually lasts about thirty seconds. One improviser starts on stage (starting off every scene game as though you’re playing ABA), and the other comes on and says something like “Hey, Jimmy, I need those reports you filed from last night.” (The first line of the scene doesn’t have to begin with “Yes, and”.) Person B says “Yes, and I was up all night doing it! I hate this job.” This could move Person A to say “Yes, and I think we should both quit right now,” and so on.

The key thing here is to make a comprehensive scene that not only builds upon what the other person said before, but also moves the scene forward. The example above is obviously progressing a scene, first we have two coworkers, they don’t like their job, so they quit. Then perhaps they go on to plan moving to a beach front house together. Who knows? Moving a scene forward is the goal improvisers are striving towards with this game. It’s pretty easy to say, “Hey, look my new car is awesome!”

“Yes, and it’s got seven hundred horsepower!”

“Yes, and the seats are really comfortable!”

“Yes, and red is my favorite color!”

This is not moving the scene forward. It is simply painting a picture and then adding detail after detail, some of them being sort of obvious and unnecessary. This is what an improviser should stray away from, because it’s boring and there’s only so much to talk about.

For beginning actors, though, the main thing to focus on is avoiding asking questions and denying. It’s easy to pretend that “Yes, and” is simply the beginning to every sentence and just use it because you have to. Consider this example: “Hey, Jimmy, I need those reports you filed from last night.”

“Yes, and I didn’t file them.”

You can see how it mostly makes sense, but that’s not really how people talk. On one hand, Person A already established that you filed them, meaning that the second line is denial. But saying “Yes, and I didn’t…” is not really a sentence you would ever hear somebody say in real life (of course, there will be exceptions). So, this being the case, it’s more important to make the conversation of repeated “Yes, and”s make grammatical sense before an actor worries about also ensuring that the scene moves forward.

As soon as an improviser can reliably play this game without questions or denial and move a scene forward, they can probably be expected to act in any scene with the same sort of results consistently.

On a side note, have you ever looked at a word so long it became unreal? “Yes” is a really weird word. Why isn’t there a second ‘S’? How many three letter words have ‘E’ as the only vowel?

4 thoughts on “Improv 101 — Yes, And…

  1. Semantic satiation. Seeeeemanic. Semantic. Semantic? Satiation. Semantic satiation. Saaaaaasheeeeaaaaashsssuuuun. Satiation. Semantic. Semantic satiation. Satiation semantic. Semantic semantic semantic semantic semantic semantic semantic semantic. Satiation?

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      1. So you’re not sure? THERE’S HOPE! HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE HOP HOP HOP BOING BOING BOUNCE BOING BING BOING BONG BANG AHH MY LEG

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