One of the most profound improv strategies that I teach is the idea of “Yes, And.” You’ve likely heard about it, or have a passing familiarity with it, if you’ve been around improvisation or improv comedy for more than a few minutes.
The idea is fairly simple, in a scene or an exercise, no one does anything wrong, or makes a mistake. Everything is responded to with an attitude of “accept and build.” Meaning, you take what is being presented to you, accept it and add something to it that can improve, clarify, build or make the idea better.
One place that people tend to get caught, however, is getting stuck around the notion that accepting something means you agree with something. That does not have to be the case…at all!
Acceptance does not equal agreement. In improv (and life), accepting something means you just accept the reality that something is. I don’t want to accept that I might have an injury or a disease. But, what good does it do to fight against the pain or a diagnosis? In this case, acceptance means that I am able to realize that I have an injury or I have a disease, then I can fight like hell against it! I can spend my time focusing on health, recovery and healing. But, until I accept that something is true, I have no power in that situation.
Think about it this way, how much time to you spend talking and thinking about how something should or should not be? Probably a lot, right? I get that. We spend time thinking and fighting against how things should or should not be. There isn’t any power in that. Our power comes from acceptance. But acceptance does not mean agreement.
Improv asks you to deal with whatever is in front of you. Don’t fight against what you wish would have happened or what should have happened. Accept it. Then build, change or transform something.