Nathan Minns

What does “Yes, And…” In Improv Really Mean?

We’ve all heard of “Yes, And…” as it relates to improv, but what does it really mean?

Yes, we’ve all heard of “Yes, And…” as it relates to improv, but what does it really mean?

This article will be purely about improv. To apply this principle to our everyday lives, we’ve previously published an article on using this principle to help ideation in teams. We’ll have future posts applying this principle to our everyday lives too. 

What “Yes, And…” Isn’t In Improv

Applying the “Yes, And…” principle doesn’t mean that your character will fully agree with everything that your scene partner’s character says. Your character is allowed to disagree! It may even make the scene more interesting to disagree.

Example

If someone starts a scene with “Hey Dad, do you want to play baseball?” It is an acceptable choice to make your character say “No, dad, I won’t want to play baseball.”

What “Yes, And…” Is In Improv

Applying the “Yes, And…” principle means that as improvisers, as people, we’ll agree to build something great together. It means that as improvisers, we agree to respect what create together.

Example

If someone starts a scene with “Hey Dad, do you want to play baseball?”, you will likely be “Yes, And-ing…” by agreeing, as improvisers, that you are now your scene partner’s dad. 

Although your character may disagree with your scene partner’s character by saying “No son, I told you we would only play if you got an A in math”, you, as an improviser, are agreeing with the other improviser on the basics of what is happening in the scene. 

An Example of Bad Improv & Bad “Yes, And-ing”

Player 1: “Hey Dad! Look at this baseball bat I found! I want to play!”

Player 2: “I’d love to play, but that’s not a baseball bat, that’s a snake! AHHH!”

Player 2’s character agreed to play baseball, but Player 2 the improviser failed to “Yes And…” his fellow improviser.

An Overly Simple Example of Good Improv & Good “Yes, And-ing”

Player 1: “Hey Dad! Look at this baseball bat I found! I want to play!”

Player 2: “Yes! Let’s play son. I’ve been practicing since you beat me so badly last time!”

Player 2 is supporting Player 1 by agreeing that Player 1 is his dad. He’s also “Yes, And-ing…” by adding the information that the two characters previously played baseball, and the son beat the dad to the scene.

Work Together as Improvisers

Work together! As improvisers, we’re constantly thinking about how an idea could work. By continually supporting each other, as a team, we win and create amazing scenes. 

To apply this principle to ideation, check out this post.

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts where we’ll apply this principle to other aspects of our work and lives!

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