“Yes, and….” How Improv Comedy can Disarm Conflict and Reduce Polarization

Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today (PT), and twice a month we share her blog posts here. Enjoy!

My husband and I have been practicing improvisational comedy for more than a decade. When we began taking classes, I didn’t anticipate that the fundamentals of improv would be so relevant to addressing real-life conflicts, let alone for developing skills as a solution.

The first rule of improv is to adhere to the concept of “yes, and….”

When an improviser comes on stage and turns to an actor and says something like, “Hey Dad, I’d like to borrow the car,” that actor agrees to agree with the premise. “He” implicitly says “yes” to being Dad. It doesn’t matter if “he” is actually not male or way too young to be a father to someone old enough to drive a car.

It’s not enough to just say, “yes,” however. “He” needs to add to the scene to move it forward, perhaps by saying something like, “And I’ll be sure to give you the keys in five years when you turn sixteen.”

There are all sorts of places the improviser can go with this additional information about being a precocious 11-year-old…

psychology today