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by Darren Held

I have a but problem. That’s with one “t,” people. I mean, I suppose we could discuss the relative merits of my butt, but that would be a whole different blog.

Since this is an INNY award-nominated improv blog, we’ll stick with my original idea.

Of course, everyone knows the first rule of improv is to yes, and everything. “And” adds information. It moves the scene forward. It allows for expansion, or more of something. “But,” on the other hand, is a neutralizer. It qualifies what came before it, so rather than expanding on something, it narrows it. It stops or, at the very least, slows the forward momentum of a scene.

It can be a flat-out denial, or a less egregious but still agenda-driven redirection. It can also be a way to make things okay; ie, “Yes, I’m sleeping with your sister, BUT you slept with my brother first,” or “Yes, I smashed your wedding cake, BUT it was an accident.”

I watched the video from last Saturday’s show, and while I thought the show overall was really strong, I was dismayed at the number of buts I threw out. None of them was a blatant denial, and none of them were agenda-y. I seem to be the type who uses but to make things better. It makes sense, since a big weakness of mine is being too casual, and not having high enough stakes. Probably because in real life, I do try to make things okay.

But making things okay in improv deflates the energy of the scene and makes things anything but okay. It’s so hard to catch yourself saying things, but I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch my buts and turn them into, well, anything but buts.


By Sonnjea Blackwell

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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