The art of improvisational comedy

Ben Rosenfeld provides a list of five basic improv techniques and an important one is the “Yes, and …” where you follow up on whatever the other person says, that you never ignore it and pursue your own line of thought. You have to go with the flow and that requires a great deal of quick-wittedness.

Whatever your scene partner suggests, you should go along with it and try to add onto what is already being built. If she starts the scene by saying “Hey Randy, those crops sure are growing slow” a good response would take the information you just learned and add on to it by saying something like “Yes and they’re going to take away our farm any day now, honey.” This establishes where you are (on a farm), the situation (farm foreclosure is imminent) and the relationship between the two of you (married). A worse way to respond would be to say something like “Who the hell is Randy? I’m Scott the destroyer. The crops are taking so long to grow because we’re in a parking lot.” Your scene partner doesn’t have a lot to work with when you give such a response.

More advanced improv actors will also use the “no and” technique, where they deny some part of their partner’s statements but keep the scene moving forward.

Jon Stewart visited Stephen Colbert’s show and while Stewart’s background is in stand-up comedy, Colbert’s is in improvisation and what I found interesting to watch is how well these two old friends improvise. They set the stage to talk about the Trump presidency and must have planned a few of the items but I suspect that much of the rest was improvised.

Meanwhile Budweiser has released one of its Super Bowl commercials that supposedly tells the story of one of its immigrant founders but observers are wondering if it is also meant as a political statement about immigration though the company denies it.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    One of Stewart’s greatest gifts was being a straight man for his guests. It was nice to see Colbert return the favor.

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