The #1 Rule of Improv Comedy and How it Works Wonders For Your Writing

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Improv is kind of like the jazz of comedy. It’s completely made up on the spot, and because of this, you’ll never see the same improv scene twice.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules.

Just like jazz, you need to know the rules so you can bend them to your will.

In Improv, the cardinal rule is “Yes, and.”

Sounds so simple, yet so powerful.

“Yes” means that you agree on whatever your partner is saying. They could make up the most absurd statement, like,

“Man, I wish I hadn’t eaten all those dragons…”

and you have to agree on its reality. In this two-person scene that’s happening on stage in that very moment, dragons are very real, and she ate way too much of them.

AND…

Because we’ve agreed that this reality is true (dragons are real and somehow a delicacy you can order too much of), it is now my turn to add to this reality and make it even more real (as absurd as it may be).

Yes, you ate way too many of these dragons. And, I’m glad we got such a good table at this dragon restaurant. We’ve been on the waiting list for months and I was beginning to worry we’ve never get to try it before they went extinct.”

To help you think faster on your feet, there are three categories you can lean on to make your “Yes, and” scene easier.

  • Details
  • Emotions
  • Consequences

Whenever somebody starts a scene, you can decide whether you want to add details, show emotion or describe the consequences of what’s happening.

In the example above, I added all three because this is a blog post and writing gives me more time to think than spontaneously reacting to statements on stage:

  • Details: We’re at a restaurant
  • Emotions: I’m worried about getting a table
  • Consequences: Dragons are going extinct, and this restaurant has a limited supply (“so we better eat up!”)

Although an improv scene looks chaotic and spontaneous, it’s actually founded on some solid structure and rules to keep the game going.

Use Yes, And to Improve Your Writing

Keeping this rule in mind while you’re writing can skyrocket your writing speed.

Throw your editing hat out of the room and put your Improv hat on.

Start with a sentence and then just agree on its reality and continue building on it.

Even if everything you do feels like garbage, it does not matter. You’re training yourself to be present and in the moment, without consciously self-editing yourself the entire time.

Email Writing Exercise

Time goes by slower than you think, especially if you’re allowing yourself to slow down and think.

So, here’s an exercise I want you to do:

  • Set a Timer: Tell Alexa to set a timer for five minutes (or use your phone or some other antiquated technology like an old-timey stopwatch).
  • Write With Yes, And in Mind: Then just start with your first sentence. Agree on it and build on it.
  • Don’t Think, Improvise: Then just keep building, as bad as it feels, as absurd as it may become. It’ll all be over in five minutes.

Prompts to Get Started

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to write emails about, here are some topics to start with:

  • Tell a story about how you solved a problem for a previous customer
  • Answer a question people ask you all the time
  • Find the most bizarre thing you think is weird in your industry
  • Write an inspiring letter to yourself
  • Be confrontational and argumentative. Challenge your market’s long-held beliefs
  • If your favorite movie character had the same problem as your customer, how would you help them?

Those are six prompts. If you do all six in five minutes each, you’ll have plenty of material to email your list after only 30 minutes!

Then you walk away from it for a while, and when you’re back, pick up your editor hat and finish them off.

Your Turn for 30 Minutes

Now you know what to do to start writing emails, and you don’t even need the confidence to do it. You just have to agree and continue. Then you edit later.

Words on the page, as bad as they look, are much better than ideas in your head.

Tick, tock. Thirty minutes is all you need.

P.S.

I can almost guarantee that some of you will think, “oh, not right now. I don’t have 30 minutes. I don’t have time blablabla [insert lame excuse here].”

If that’s you, get in touch here. Convince me that you don’t have 30 minutes to spend on the cheapest and most cost-effective way to grow your business.

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