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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The secret "Yes, and... " trick

Amy Poehler

Don't you wonder where so many of our favorite comedians "cut their chops?" 

(Say Yes, and... )

Have you ever seen any of the improv comedy shows? That's where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey started... oh, and John Belushi and Steve Caroll and Will Farrell and Seth Rogen and the incredibly talented Canadian group from SCTV who brought us "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best of Show" as well as Monty Python and a good number from improv theaters around the country who became SNL cast members... and on and on.

Tim Conway
How did Robin Williams and Tim Conway and Johnathan Winters learn to make people laugh? Ok, so it's talent... I'll give you that. Oh, and a rich sense of humor... oh, and timing and imagination and on and on... but I mean, how did they practice their trade when they didn't know all the secrets?

That's where improvisation comes in. The good ones are quick on their feet and ready to be ridiculous at the drop of a hat. And here's one of their secrets--a four-lane expressway to the next best line:

It's referred to as the "Yes, and..." trick, never to be confused with "Yes, but... "

"Yes, and... " continues a thought, no matter how ridiculous, with an addition to that line of thinking but even more ridiculous. Someone starts:

"I had an aunt who thought she was a chicken... " 

Then you say "Yes, and she had drumsticks to die for."

And he/she says "Yes and did you see those silly little claw-like shoes she had on?"

And you say, " (Yes, and implied) They were the talk of the San Francisco Fricase-Fried Chicken Festival in February."

"Yes and she was especially popular around Easter... for the eggs."

Etc., etc.        

Get the idea? It's Yes and... until you have told the story for laughs or gotten booed off the stage... Yes and if you're new to the concept, you will be booed off the stage. But you get the idea.

Oh, there's lots more to comedy of course, but this shows how to keep a story going... and it works at cocktail parties too, though it comes with inherent dangers. Says one who knows, "You find yourself in a place where you're, like, how did I get here?" But nonetheless, it is a positive transition to whatever happens next. It could even lead to the next improve technique, "If, then..." and next thing you know, you are on SNL...  or the life of the party, or people avoid you like the plague.

Yes, and there is an improv school for you if you really care. Comedian Amy Poehler was one of four who founded the Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York 'cultural reach' for comedy where you can take lessons until you are good or run out of money, whichever comes first. An alum of the process said it is especially good if "you want to take the slow train to crazytown."

Yes, and the process is proving so helpful in boosting self confidence that it is sought by business men and women. Being comfortable in any communicative process is greatly enhanced by the confidence that is built over knowing you can always 'Yes, and...' Such confidence, those 'Yes, and' folks say has a holistic side for maximum feel good benefit.

All that is all especially complimentary if you are a comedian who's fortune is built on the next funny line. It's what you do if you choose to "be in the club." It's hard not to appreciate the many who make us laugh. And doesn't the world need more of that?

Yes, and... wait til you see my next exciting blog post.

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