Two players standing side by side please.
Yes And is the most famous exercise, belief structure, point of view and religion in improv comedy. This missive discusses the structure Yes And.
Yes And is an exercise that tunes the player’s listening, Accepting, Commitment and Expansion in response to an offer. There are two basic ways to work the exercise. The first is Yes And, the second is Yes … And.
In this version the first player makes a strong offer that that makes a statement and avoids a question. The other players response is Yes And expanding the offer just a little bit. For example, if one player says “I like your blue jacket” the other player could respond “Yes And I chose it because you like blue.” The next response could be “Yes And I like blue because your hair is blue.” This continues until some kind of sorting out happens.
The Yes And needs to connect to the offer given. This is where the strength of the other version Yes … And becomes apparent.
Yes … And
This take on Yes And is much more concrete. The ellipsis (..) is where the player repeats back what the offer was before adding the And. For example,
“I like your blue jacket” the other player could respond “Yes you like like my blue jacket And I wear it because you like blue.” The next response could be “Yes you like blue And your hair is blue like the sky.” This format of Yes And is similar to So I’ll in that it forces the player to repeat back the offer demonstrating, and training, listening.
The following observations apply to both versions of Yes And.
The leader needs to watch out for literal and figurative yes buts. Some players will literally say Yes But instead of Yes And redirecting the narrative along a course that they desire. This can arise from a need to control or a need to find a conflict. Yes And is a great opportunity to show the benefits of Yes And versus disagreement Yes But. The figurative Yes But is a bit harder to catch. It can be the result of not listening deep enough. For example,
“I like your blue jacket” the other player could respond “Yes And you are a fascist.”
Yes And can help players contribute to building the story on a series of offers instead of narrating a scene with their own ideas.
Special Note About Acceptance
A major concern with Yes And has arisen over the last few years and is worth exploring here. Yes And does not mean a player MUST do what has been offered. I have seen Yes And be used a tool to manipulate less experienced and vulnerable players. The example most common is “do this reprehensible act” and a player says yes and does the reprehensible act thinking they must always Yes And.
The acceptance of an offer means one accepts it as real, but does not have to approve with the offer. Yes And makes it harder to convey this aspect of an offer. No experienced leader creating a safe and supportive play environment would let this happen, however we must be aware of this potential issue with Yes And.
- Encourage the players to act out the Yes And scene as the narrative develops.