Archive for July 8th, 2013

Finding unexpected connections between comedic improvising and fiction writing

July 8, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 8, 2013

This summer, I signed up for Improv 101, a class in improvisational comedy offered by DSI Comedy Theater in Carrboro, N.C. I had a lot of different reasons for doing so. Among them: I wanted to try something different; I wanted to do something funny; I wanted to explore my sense of humor; I wanted to meet new people; I wanted to get better at speaking off the cuff; I wanted to give a spark to my creative side.

Comedy, especially improvisational comedy, is a creative activity, of course. But something that surprised me was just how much the techniques our teacher, Brandon Holmes, taught us have in common with what I might have learned in a fiction writing class.

The fundamental tenet of improvisational comedy is “Yes, and —” which characterizes the improvisational comedian’s ideal response. For instance, if one character, or actor, or comedian, were to say, “You owe me five bucks for the bet you lost to me last week,” an excellent response might be “Yes, and I also promised to clean out your grandmother’s basement,” or “Yes, and I also owe my bookie $5,000 because of that big bet I put on Winnipeg to win the Super Bowl.”

The point of “Yes, and —” is to keep a scene flowing and developing. A lot of the humor in improvisational comedy comes not from specific jokes made by the performers but from the additional details and twists that appear when “Yes, and —” adds layers to the scene.  Read the rest of this entry »

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