Tuesday, February 23, 2010

“Yes-anding” should be a basic requirement for participation in theThursday meeting on health reform

A key part of improvisation is something called “yes-anding.” Here is how the comedian Stephen Colbert explains it:

“When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, "yes-and." In this case, "yes-and" is a verb. To "yes-and." I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what's going to happen, maybe with someone you've never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you're doctors--you're doctors. And then, you add to that: We're doctors and we're trapped in an ice cave. That's the "-and." And then hopefully they "yes-and" you back.

You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other's lead, neither of you are really in control. It's more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.”

“Yes-anding” should be one of the ground rules for Obama’s meeting with Democrats and Republicans on health reform this Thursday. He should say to eveyone in attendance. You are not allowed to bring just your “No’s.” If you want to participate, you must “yes-and” your fellow participants.

You can read Colbert’s entire speech about “yes-anding” here: http://deptorg.knox.edu/newsarchive/news_events/2006/x12547.html

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