Sunday, July 3, 2011

Next stop, Whose Line

As promised, Part II of the Tina Fey Bossypants discussion. It would've been done sooner, but I kept only remembering to do it while I was away from the computer in question--yet another flaw to the jewel that is Kindle.

At any rate, at one point in the book (exact page number unknown), Tina Fey discusses some principles of partner-based improv comedy:
1) Agree and say yes. Whatever your partner creates, respect what they've created. Keep an open mind, and see where the situation goes.
2) Say "yes, and." That is, don't stop with just agreement. Build on whatever's been presented, and make your own contribution.
3)Make Statements. This one's a little more clear in its negative form: don't just ask questions. Asking questions puts pressure on the other party to do all the leg work, whereas making statements means you're willing to do your part as well.

Partner: You just turned into a chicken!
Me: No I didn't.

This would violate #1; if you refuse to play, the game's over.

Partner: You just turned into a chicken!
Me: I did do that. Why did I do that?

This violates #2 and #3; I've accepted the proposition, but I haven't done anything with it.

Partner: You just turned into a chicken!
Me: My God! This is terrible! I need to find a way to change back! (Visibly clench buttocks) Right after I make lunch.

Okay, there's still no guarantee that it'll be good comedy.

With no offense meant to Tina Fey, these are hardly revolutionary principles within the improv circuit--I don't think you can count anything as innovative when Michael Scott has used it for an episode of the Office. But they're known because they work. But what really struck me while reading them is that, with a little bit of prodding, they could translate nicely into other fields of discourse. First date conversation, for example. You don't want to go overboard with the questions, or the date will feel it's an interrogation. You want to be positive, which encompasses the intent behind "say yes." And you want to make your own contributions rather than just parrot your date--in other words, say "yes, and."

These are principles not just for improv comedy, then, but for facilitating conversation in general. It can be applied to dates, business meetings, and social situations. It could even be applied to blog posts. Hear that, silent readers? IT COULD EVEN BE APPLIED TO BLOG POSTS. Maybe somebody'd like to do some yes saying of their own, hmmmm?

Later Days.

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