Improv parentingMarch 6, 2011
I was introduced to improvisational comedy (usually called “improv comedy” or just “improv”) in college. Williams had a group called Combo Za that was frequently hilarious. I can still remember highlights from various skits such as “The World’s Worst…,” which on one particular night was “The World’s Worst Architect.” John Fagan ’95: “Hey, I built this house — I can pee anywhere I want!” John again: “Hey, wait, this isn’t the floor plan; this is my kid’s D&D map….”
Combo Za made improv look easy at times, and so I joined them in an audience-participation session in the Baxter lounge. I thought of a line, jumped in, and delivered it. Uh-oh — now what? Maybe this wasn’t so easy after all.
Only later did I learn that there were rules for producing spontaneous humor, and that a knowledge of these rules made the challenge less daunting. Rule #1 is known as Yes, And. You immediately accept the premises introduced by your onstage partners, and — just as important — you elaborate upon them.
The “Yes, And” rule has been on my mind lately, not because I’m polishing my improv comedy skills, but because I’ve been playing with my son a lot. These sessions often start quite modestly, e.g., trains going around a track. But wait a minute — why is this one slowing down? After a few rounds of “Yes, And,” a full-blown fantasy is underway.
Sometimes it’s even quite funny.