By Darren Held

Yes, And… I Almost Died of Ebola

by Sonnjea Blackwell
If you’ve been in an improv class for more than 5 minutes or seen 1 of these blog entries, you know the phrase “yes, and…” That’s because yes, and is the heart of all improv: I agree with what you’ve established, and I add something to it. Then you agree with what I’ve added, and add something else. And repeat, until we’ve built a whole, hilarious scene.

Students quickly grasp the concept of agreement, often to the point of feeling like their character has to be a carbon copy of their scene partner’s character. (Just so you know, it doesn’t.)

What’s harder to get the hang of is adding relevant information. Sometimes people just agree, period, and don’t add anything. That’s just yes, not yes, and. But more often than not, people agree and then add some information that has absolutely nothing to do with what the other person just said. Here’s an example that I wish I was making up:

Person A: “I wish we didn’t have to go on this study abroad trip to Cairo! I wanted to go to Paris.”
Person B: “Me too. You look like a slut in that outfit.”

While technically adding information, Person B has now agreed with Person A in theory, but added non-relevant information designed to take the scene in the direction they had in mind.

I get that it’s tricky, and even if you are listening and aren’t clinging to an agenda, it can be difficult to know what sort of information to add. But I have an idea that just might help. Yes, and… I’m even gonna share it.

Yes, And My Disease Is Worse Than Yours

You know when you’re talking with somebody, and they tell you they just had a bad cold, and you can’t wait for them to stop talking so you can tell them about your cold, which was even worse than theirs because it lasted two weeks? And then they jump back in and one-up you with the fact that their cold came complete with a hacking cough, and you continue with the fact that your cough didn’t even respond to purple cough syrup with codeine, and on and on until one of you is claiming to have survived Ebola?

That’s the type of listening and adding relevant information that builds a cohesive scene. It doesn’t have to be total one-upmanship, and you certainly don’t have to be competing for the best/worst of whatever, but being keyed into your partner’s specific details (like you are when you’re trying to one-up someone with your tale of phlegm) will help you add specific details of your own.

You’re welcome.

Yes, and now I have to go eat. What? Food is always relevant.