Yes, And

The Skinny ImprovThe more I get to know the guys from The Skinny Improv here in downtown Springfield, the more I keep hearing the phrase “Yes, And.” Tyler Snodgrass first mentioned it to me at Rob Hunt‘s birthday party, while explaining some principles of improvisational comedy. Then I heard Jeff Jenkins, the founder of The Skinny, talking it up. And when my co-worker Gary Seevers started taking improv classes, he jumped on the Yes And bandwagon as well.

But ever since the first conversation with Tyler, I knew that there was more to “Yes, And” than comedy. There’s nothing inherently funny about the phrase or the technique. That’s because it’s not fuel for humor, it’s fuel for teamwork. It takes the energy created by one person, and multiplies it around the group.

I’m feeling the need to back up and explain the concept. As a group of comedians endeavors to create an improvised sketch, they have to feed off of one another. The last thing you want is a bunch of disjointed one-liners. Rather, you want a scene; a story. And you can’t build a story with a certain flow of events. Consequently, your contribution has to flow directly (or at least indirectly) from the lines that were just spoken. And the best tool for learning to think this way is “Yes, And”.

It doesn’t matter if you think everyone else on the stage is an idiot. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the direction the scene is going. If you try to mutinize it, the scene will fail no matter how funny or clever you are. Instead, you have to think “Yes, And” and hope you can steer people in a hilarious direction.

Personally, I can’t get the idea out of my mind. It’s occurred to me how often my interactions with people are begin with either “No, instead…” or “Yes, but…” Either I’m trying to negate and replace their statement, or I’m paying lip service before improving or correcting it.

Naturally, some statements need correcting. But I’ve got to learn to pick my battles better, because many times I’m correcting things that I don’t even think are wrong; I just see more angles that I’d like to explore. And that’s a problem. Too many “Yes, but”s, and you start to look like a hypocrite who simply patronizes people instead of listening to, and affirming them. And far too often, that is exactly what I am.

How much better would the Body of Christ function if we thought this way? If we recognize that we’ve got a scene to play out, and we’re all on a stage trying to create something that will connect with the audience, then maybe we’ll stop trying to grab the spotlight and remember that it only works when we work together. And that honestly affirming a lame idea (or at least the originator of it) is always more effective than replacing it with a great one.

So that’s my goal. To think like a YesAnder. Which means now is the perfect time to comment on my blog, to give me some practice affirming your opinion, whatever it happens to be.

Please don’t make me regret this.

About rwiksell

I am a former church-planting pastor, currently active as a wedding minister, and the leader of a spiritual discussion group at a local bar called Scotch & Soda. By day, I am the graphic designer and production manager for a historic print shop called Traders Printing, located in downtown Springfield, Missouri. My wife Christina and I have been married for 9 years now, and we live in a turn-of-the-century bungalow on the north side of Springfield with our dog Abbi, and our cat Charlie.
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4 Responses to Yes, And

  1. Gary Seevers says:

    That is an amazing philosophy and I hope that everyone reading this tries to apply it!

  2. Tyler says:

    This is great! You know, I’ve never thought about “yesanding” in normal conversation, but after reading this and reflecting a little bit, I think I almost instinctually do it these days. I can recall a conversation yesterday in which I yesanded something I didn’t agree with, in order to find some common ground.

  3. Tyler says:

    Also, where did you find that picture? That is a cast from quite a while ago! Not that there’s anything wrong with that :) We probably don’t have many newer pictures.

  4. rwiksell says:

    I figured that photo had some age to it. But it came up in the first few results in a Google image search.

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