Yes, and….

Genelle King Heim
3 min readJan 13, 2024

I’m not really sure how I ended up there, but one Saturday morning I found myself at the local theater for the 10am improv class with CLIFFORD HENDERSON AND DIXIE COX.

These two are local legends and they are masters of the art.

The thing about doing improv is that you will belly laugh.

And you will also look unbelievably foolish: throwing imaginary balls to each other, doing the “mirror exercise”, responding to cues like “you’re a cowboy in a spaceship.”

To do improv, you have to go with the flow.

You have to be willing to laugh at yourself.

So many of the things that are thrown at us in life are just as ridiculous as an improv skit.

We look around, searching for some meaning or some reasonable explanation as to why whatever is happening is happening.

And so often there isn’t one.

So often life is the “theater of the absurd”.

So often what comes at us is as ridiculous as an improv prompt like “You’re a French maid at the Alamo.”

Every scene in improv begins with acceptance — “Yes, I hear you, I see your idea.”

Then comes the magic — “and…, let’s build on it.”

This philosophy fosters an environment of collaboration and creativity, where every idea is a seed that can grow into something unexpected and wonderful.

In life, “Yes, and…” allows us to embrace the offerings of others, to be adaptable and open.

t’s about building upon the ideas presented to us, not shutting them down.

It’s acceptance and a metaphorical shrug.

In improv, mistakes are not just tolerated; they are celebrated.

They often lead to the best bits.

As our classes progressed, we got better at it.

We were becoming more adaptable, more willing to take risks, and more willing to be ridiculous.

We learned to pivot when scenes took unexpected turns, much like how we must navigate the unpredictable nature of life.

I found these skills seeping into my “regular” life, and it was fabulous.

Here are some tenets of improv you can play with:

  • “Yes, and…”: This is a foundational rule of improv. It involves accepting what another performer has presented (“Yes”) and then adding to it (“And”). It allows you to accept whatever is thrown at you, in improv or in life. Rather than rejecting it, you build on it. For more on embracing this idea in everyday life, see “THE SURRENDER EXPERIMENT” by Michael Singer.
  • Active Listening: You have no idea what is coming next, so you have to be fully engaged and actively listening. Otherwise, you won’t have any idea where to take the scene when it’s your line.
  • Status Dynamics: Understanding and playing with status relationships between characters can create interesting dynamics. Characters can HAVE HIGH OR LOW STATUS, and these roles can shift, adding depth to the interaction. Changing how you show up can change the nature of the interaction.
  • Raising the Stakes: Incorporating elements of risk or high stakes can make a scene more engaging and compelling. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical danger; emotional and relational stakes can be just as powerful.
  • Starting First, Thinking Later: Jumping into a scene or an idea without overthinking can lead to spontaneous and creative outcomes. The mind often catches up and fills in the gaps once the action has begun.

To do improv well, to do life well, you have to believe that something amazing can unfold at any moment.

Clifford and Dixie taught us that laughter is a byproduct of letting go, of embracing the unknown, and of being vulnerable.

So whenever something ridiculous is thrown at you, say yes and build upon it.

Let the unfolding happen.

It’s much more fun that way.

When you’re ready:

1) I highly recommend the same 2-hour course ($150) I used to get started posting on LinkedIn (affiliate link): THE LINKEDIN OPERATING SYSTEM

2) Let’s chat about how I can help: GHEIM@GRAYSONHAYDEN.COM

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Genelle King Heim

Strategy and Storytelling, Human Nature and Communications. Playing the long game. https://www.graysonhayden.com/newsletter