Reminders Part One

A few reminders on how to make improvising more fun and, therefore, easier

I learned all of these from other teachers, directors, performers and audience members.

Your ego might read this list and think, “That’s not true. He’s wrong. I’ve seen this rule broken and it works.” For sure. That’s absolutely true. All of these have been broken and the opposite has worked in scenes. However, the hit percentage of the following ideas are really, really high.

Take what you can, leave the rest.



All you need are the two words you learn first: Yes! And… Period. End of story.

Say it with excitement in your brain. Everything that follows this is just a subset of “Yes! And…”

We forget that “Yes! And.”…is the only answer. About once a year (or more) improvisiors think, “know what, saying no is funny.” It’s not. Saying no sucks the air out of the room.

A yes is always a yes. Ever heard this: “Sometimes a no can be a yes"? Sure, absolutely. But a yes is 100% of the time yes.

Yes and means no judgment -- your scene partner and, most importantly, of yourself.

When I teach, my #1 note, without question, is “say yes.” In a scene, when someone says no, I’ll say, “What’s the answer?” and make them choose to say yes immediately.

In your mind think, “Fuck yes” to everything. Say, “Yes, and” to EVERYTHING. With passion and enthusiasm. When we say no, it halts any momentum we’ve built. Another way to think about it as “Yes, because.”

We can even drop the yes and shorten it to “And!” The yes is implied.

Saying “yes, but” is a polite way of saying no. The “Canadian No,” it’s called. It’s because you already have a thought and think that by just saying "yes", it meets the criteria. It flies in the face of that.

Physically nod your head yes in scenes. Makes it hard to say no.

If you say “no” in a scene, the audience wonders, “Why not?”

No is a power word. We think by saying no, we add weight to our own opinion.

Improv is a series of doors. Every “no” closes a door that would lead to greatness. Remember “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe?” “Come, through this door, there’s a magical world of talking creatures and a majestic lion and—-“ “NO!” “Why not?” “I just don’t want to. I don’t have any other offers. I just don’t want to accept yours.” It’s because of Fear.

A no will sometimes get an initial laugh. It might be something unexpected. But then you lose the scene. And you’ve denied your scene partner


AGREEMENT is the engine that drives the show. If you don’t agree, show comes to a screeching halt.  

URGENCY Treat every little thing with urgency. “Today’s the Day (something wonderful happens)!”

Improvisors are supporting actors. Support and follow. Go with the flow. 

You are the least important person in the room.

LISTENING is the number one, greatest skill needed for any improvisor. Followed closely by vulnerability.

Incorporate everything.

Listen like a thief, with your whole body. Absorb everything. Play like a paranoid. Make everything a big deal.

Listen more than you talk.

Listen then react then respond.

Story instead of plot.


Bad news is, you can’t completely. You spend your life there. We spend way too much time regretting the past and worrying about the future. Most importantly, when you’re in your head, you’re not present. And being present is what it’s all about.

Good news is there are habits you can practice. 
1. Get into their head 2. Get into your heart. How do you feel? 3. Get into their heart.


There are no “pimps” or “pimping” — everything is a gift. EVERYTHING.

Start scenes in the middle, enjoy the gift of a shared backstory.

Strong statements provide information and questions take information.


It’s never what you say it’s how you say it.

Show, don’t tell.

Listen more than you talk.

Play the silence. Silence is very powerful.


You can never go wrong with the truth.
 Focus on the truth instead of listing the facts. The facts are “Here we are at this Gap is huge! There are so many clothes in this Gap. Look at all these clothes in the Gap!” The truth is what’s going on between you two and how you feel about each other.

Be honest and believable on stage.

Conflict is boring. Tension through truth is where it’s at.

The scene isn’t about WHAT you’re doing. It’s always about the relationship between two people. Who are you to each other?


Follow follow follow. Follow your scene partner. Follow the fear, it shall set you free. Jump out of the plane and the parachute will appear. If it doesn’t=, do summersaults on the way down. FOLLOW the FOLLOWER. -


Think organic and fluid.

Let go of that which does not serve you.

Be willing and excited to drop your idea.

Go with the flow and add to what’s happening.

Discover, don’t invent.

Mirror and follow.

Heighten explore transform.

Let the show and the scene come to you instead of forcing it.

Go wider, not deeper. Explore rather than list.

Enjoy the ride.


Positive choices and assume positive intent.

In scenes love each other or want to love each other.

No one ever left an improv scene saying, “Great argument! You both really held your point of view and no one budged. No one was affected by the other. Kudos!”

There are no mistakes, only gifts. “Happy accidents.” Incorporate every little detail into the pattern of your show. At the end is when you know what the show was about and what “form” you played.


Fail. Fail wonderfully. Aim. To. Fail.

Written 5 years, 3 months ago.
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