To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.- Tina Fey about improv in her book Bossypants
On the night I finished reading Bossypants, I signed up for Improv Class. I’ve considered trying it out for a long while now, especially since I started listening to a lot of comedy podcasts. I’m not sure why, but Tina Fey’s book solidified the idea of signing up for a class to try it out. A full course sounded like a bit much to jump into, but just taking a one-time class sounded like something I could do. Who knows, maybe it would be really fun? In that case, I could always sign up for a full course then. If we can believe Tina Fey’s book, Improv Class is a life changing experience that teaches you a lot of important life lessons.
Improv class blew my mind. After only one class, I already feel like I’ve accomplished and learned a lot. Now that I’ve had a first taste of it, I want to dive right in and see what else I can learn from it.
We started with a simple exercise where we had to group up in pairs and tell things about ourselves. Here’s the catch: we weren’t allowed to actually talk. Acting out hobbies, things we have done, things we want to do, by miming really, really hard. The girl I was partnered with can tango, and is learning to fly airplanes. I write a lot, and play video games. There was a guy there who claimed he was an inventor, and hoped to sleep with a beautiful woman the following night. Who even needs language when you can tell people about yourself that clearly without saying a word?
The we had to do a word association and dissociation game. We were set in two circles. One circle everyone took turns to say a word they associate with the previous one. If the group disagrees on how relevant that word is, or feels you take too long with your word, you’re out of the circle and move to the other one. The other circle you have to give a word that has no connection to the previous one at all. Again, if the group disagrees about the lack of connection, you’re moved back to the first group. It was a quick way to show how relative the connections we make are.
We had to sell an amazing remote control as if we were on one of those TV programs that sells mail order products. This was the first one were we had to apply the “Yes, and…” rule. One person starts by saying he’s selling a special remote control that will automatically find channels not programmed on your TV. Then you add something to that. We ended up with a remote control that can pause, fast forward, and rewind live TV. And not just that, it can do that to the world around you as well! …And if you didn’t like the future you found yourself in, you could always change the channel on it!
One group was selling a vacuum cleaner that could drive you to work, fly you to foreign countries and could play tennis with you.
It’s amazing what wonderful directions you start going into if you just keep going into whatever direction you’ve set into.
Then we had a bit where we stood in a circle, and we had to accept a gift from the person to the left of us, then proceed to give something to the person on our right. So the person handing you the gift acts out the picking up of the gift and the giving of it to you. Then you have to say what it is and be happy with whatever it is. The person who gave you the gift then has to give a reason why he felt this was a perfect gift for you.
The gift I got was a ring, and the guy giving it caught onto this quickly enough to turn this into a formal proposal. When I gave the girl next to me something that I thought was a sword, she happily took the airplane off of my hands.
What happens when you get a group of people together, give them no restraints, tell them there are no mistakes, and have them just build upon every new thing is magical. Because there are no mistakes and the way things always pan out way better than you’d even expect them to it becomes this incredibly life-affirming and positive experience.
I’d really recommend trying it out at least once to everyone. Especially if you feel the need for that extra creative boost.