Jim Carrey’s comedy Yes Man follows a vital rule of improvisational theater: Never deny your fellow actor. Instead, you should be willing and able to accept the ideas the character conveys. Then, you should add to the scene.
This improv principle is known as “Yes And.” Here’s how it works:
At the beginning of the scene, Character #1 will begin by establishing setting and plot.
Character #1: What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!Following the “Yes And” method, Character #2 will accept the premise and add onto the situation.
Character #2: Yep and the boss said we don’t get no water until this fence is mended.Now, the scene could continue on indefinitely with the actors simply agreeing with one another. However, it’s best to develop conflict as well. Even though the performers constantly affirm each response doesn’t mean they can’t argue. For example:
Character #1: Yes and ain’t he the meanest cuss we’ve ever worked for?
Character #2: Yep and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for San Francisco.
Character #2: Yep and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for San Francisco.After working on “Yes And” exercises, actors ultimately learn how to do scenes in which they embrace the ideas and concepts offered by fellow performers. You don’t actually need to say the words “Yes And” for the system to work. Simply affirm what the character is saying and allow it to build the scene.
Character #1: Yes and you’d be broke twenty minutes after stepping off the stage coach.
Character #2: Yeah and I supposed you think you could do better?!
Character #1: Yes! And after I made my fortune panning for gold I come back and buy this sorry ranch and you’d be working for me!!!
If you deny your fellow performer, here’s what happens:
Character #1: What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!Then the scene is dead in the water before it even had a chance!
Character #2: No it’s not. And we’re not ranch hands either.