Yes: A word used to express affirmation or to mark the addition of something, emphasizing and amplifying a previous statement.
No: A negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal.
That we need physical exercise is an accepted fact. Everyone knows you should join a gym. Lift weights. Go for a run. But the brain needs a workout, too. Especially the right brain. Think of improvisation as mental calisthenics. If you get tired of dinner conversations centered around passing the butter, try playing an improv game. The mother of them all is Always Say Yes!
The rules are simple. Ask someone a question. It's more fun if you act your emotions. For example, if you are asking if the person crashed your car, do so sternly. Act delighted if you’re asking if the person polished all twenty pairs of your shoes. All answers, even if the question is incriminating, must begin with “Yes.”
There are two ways to play this game. "Yes and…" adds information. "Yes, but…" also adds information, but often takes the form of an excuse. Either answer should include specific detail that connects to and builds upon the reality. (Avoid generic responses like: “Yes, but I wanted to.”) Stanford Graduate School of Business (Yes, improv is included in their curriculum!) prefers teaching "Yes, and" because it promotes contribution and forward motion. However, as a game, I find "Yes, but" equally creative. (And we can all use practice in coming up with brilliant excuses, right?)
Examples From My Imaginative Students to Inspire You.
When you have mastered the game, try adding characters. Address the person by a character name. The “Yes, and...” reply should connect to the character. Here's some family-friendly characters to get you started: Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, Easter Bunny, Spy, Pirate, Beauty Queen, Giant, Mermaid.
More Inspiration From my Students
By saying yes, we accept the reality created by our partners. By connecting to characters and adding new details, we begin the collaborative process. “No” is the easiest word to say, but denial stops the action. So have fun saying “Yes!”
PS: If I haven't yet convinced you of the value of improv, please read this great article by Ai Vuong:
And now some street art...
Street Art in Montreal