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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

Let’s talk about buts. That’s one “t” buts, people. Don’t get all excited; this isn’t that kind of blog.

improv adding information yes, andIn improv, you not only want to agree, you also want to ADD some information of your own. That’s why the rule is “yes, and” and not just “yes.” The thing that happens when you say “but” is you’ve actually subtracted information.

Yeah. Improv = math. Wait till we get to word problems.

The reason that “but” takes information away is because it negates or neutralizes what came before it. Even though you said “yes,” the “but” that follows it cancels out the information you’re saying yes to. It’s not as strong a negative as a flat-out no or denial, but it’s close.

But is also a way of making things okay, which of course you never want to do in improv either. If I say I hate you and you respond with, “But I’m really not that bad. You just don’t understand me,” you’ve sorta neutralized my feelings towards you AND made yourself not so hateable, and in essence you’ve taken information away from the scene. Now we have to find something else. On the other hand, if you respond with, “Arrrghh. I know! I killed your cat!” you’ve added information and we have another building block in our scene.

So just imagine the word “and” as a + sign, and the word “but” as a – sign. That made everything crystal clear, right?

Yes, and…

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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