Improv Rule No. 1: Yes, And

A year ago I attended a few weekends of improv training. 

I convinced my friend Jake to sign up too. Safety in numbers.

On day one our instructor Josh introduced us to Rule No. 1 in improv: “Yes, And.”

The “Yes, And” rule states that participants have only one job: keep feeding the story. And since the fastest way to shut down a story is to say “No,” you gotta do the opposite: say “Yes” to everything. The “And” is there because after you’ve accepted the story as-is, you now have to add to it. 

Here’s an example:

My friend Jake says, “I totaled my car last night.”

My response could be: “Yes, and now you can get that Mercedes you’ve been thinking about!”

The story suddenly got more interesting.

After our first class, Josh gave us worksheets in a little folder to take home. Inside was Rule No. 1, spelled out:

By saying yes, we accept the reality created by our partners and begin the collaborative process from the start of a scene. The collaborative process—or group mind—helps make us giants, animals, villains, saints and more importantly put us in situations that we would normally avoid.

Saying “Yes” more often will put us in places we would otherwise avoid. And it’s those fringes where life gets exciting. 

The most interesting people default to yes.

Someone jokes with Elon Musk about flamethrowers, and Elon’s response is, “Yes, and let’s actually sell those!”

The Virgin Express CFO decides to resign and move to Australia for the family. Richard Branson says, “Yes, and you can start Virgin Australia down there.”

Default to Yes.

And.