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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts my troupies have been writing about improv and all its magicalness! And I hope you’re not too disappointed that I’m taking a turn…

You know by now that I honestly believe improv is a mirror of human life and behavior. So I’m always intrigued when I see clear examples of that in class. I do a yes, and exercise with Level 1 Improv students, and it’s interesting the number of ways people find to TECHNICALLY yes, and their scene partner, while in reality negating the hell out of everything. This example is a mashup, but it’s not that far off:

First Person: Hey, remember that time you went to the store?
Second Person: Yes, and I forgot how to get there.
First Person: Yes, and you didn’t have a map.
Second Person: Yes, and I tripped and broke my ankle.
First Person: Yes, and you didn’t have your phone, so you couldn’t call an ambulance.
Second Person: Yes, and I died.

Improv shouldn't be an obstacle course.

Improv shouldn’t be an obstacle course.

Seriously, all we want is a simple, step-by-step account, layering information bit by bit, about the time Esmeralda went to the store. In order for it to be the story of the time Esmeralda went to the store, she has to get to the damn store! But human nature being what it is, we can’t go with what’s simple. We have to create problems and obstacles and make everything 1,000 times harder than it needs to be.

How many times in real life do we do that exact same thing? All the time. Seriously. All. The. Time. We look gift horses in the mouth, we don’t accept what the universe is telling us, we don’t trust our own instincts, we zig when we know we should zag. I don’t think life is meant to be one hardship after another. We make it that way by not being who we really are, and by doing things for the wrong reasons and… whatever.

What if we didn’t do that, in improv or in life? What if instead we recognized that going with the obvious answer is usually the best answer? What if our yes, ands were TRUE yes, ands and not fancy, devious yes, buts? What would life be like if we didn’t make it harder than it needs to be?

If you just can’t imagine life without obstacles, do a mud run. But for the rest of life, including improv, running on a nice, easy, level surface is the way to go.

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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