The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live? The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah...” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.
To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers.
In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.”
MAKE STATEMENTS also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice.
Instead of saying “Where are we?” make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.
*Improv will not reduce belly fat
--From Bossypants by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books; 2011)
Explore the role dubbing plays at Netflix, with interesting nuggets from the dubbing and subtitling team at Netflix themselves!
Seventeen's Leah Campano asks Rosalie Chiang questions about the VO industry, her career and more!
Elley Ray Hennessy shares her wisdom regarding voicing animated characters.
Aaron sits down with Lori Alan to discuss a voice actor's role in animation and up coming class, Talk to the Booth Lady.
Video games have become a sophisticated and immensely popular form of entertainment and recreation, and the voice acting involved keeps evolving.
Five ways to mitigate the negative consequences that come along with time change.
In anticipation of her upcoming class on American Accents, Aaron sits down with renowned dialect coach of stage and screen, Lynne Soffer, for a brief interview.
Get out of your own way and own your year in VO by applying this advice.
Aaron meets with Walt Gray IV to discuss the why voice actors should know how to audition through self-tapes.
Aaron asks Gavin a few questions about Commercial VO and his new class at Voice One.
Join us on September 8 and meet Cliff!
'Twelve Minutes' required much more time in the booth
Voice actor Kayleigh McKee discusses her experience in voiceover and progress in representation
Blizzard's Casting Director Wants You to Bring Truth to the Fantastic Worlds of Video Games
Join us this Thursday (8/5) for a *FREE* Webinar!
Meet and perform for some of the best in the industry!
Much has changed in Voice Over in the past few decades.
Tackling the issue of representation in the audiobooks industry comes with a number of unique concerns
Come meet our next guest talent agent!
What makes acting in animation believable and bookable?
Anjali shares realistic advice from what she has learned over the course of her amazing career.
Award season always brings up the question about recognition of voice acting by the Academy