Monday, April 15, 2013

The Single Most Important Rule of Improv... and in Life

I just had an epiphany. I was watching Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Craig Fergurson (Julia's show "Veep" has it's season premiere this Sunday night).

They were going back and forth and Craig through something funny out there and I was curious how she would repond and she responded positively and they went back and forth and it worked and had no need to be planned because of the rules of improv. It's like a common language all comedians and really, actors should know about. Now I'm not an actor, or a comedian but I am a writer and I try to learn all these things. You never know when it might come in handy, right?

So it got me to thinking about what was happening in front of me and why she responded positively, with humor and had her own come back. improv. They both understood improv. In inprov, if you respond negatively, you can kill what could be a very funny bit, dead in the water. If you don't give the concept thrown at you room to breathe, you are wasting a beat, even if it's in some way, offensive, distasteful, or itself, negative.

The part about her responding positively gave me a strange feeling of pleasure. What was that? Where did it come from? And then I realized. Past relationships. It is so cathartic and enjoyable to see (for me especially, a woman) to take a comment and reply in a way that was both entertaining and useful to the repartee, that it stopped me and made me and wonder, why?

From there it was a short trip back to my own failed marriage. But also, other failed relationships when I thought about it, and I'll bet, others have had the same experience at the end of a relationship when things are going downhill. But this doesn't only happen at the ends. It can also happen at the middle, or even during the beginnings, if you don't watch out for it and nip it in the bud.

I've said before that it would be nice to have a relationship like in sitcoms where the wife never seems to get angry at the silly goofs of the male in the relationship and my friends have responded that those are "Sitcom Wives" or girlfriends. And that in real life, THEY DON'T EXIST. Perhaps, sadly. But what is special about those women? Patience, I always thought, and a sense of humor. Of not letting the little things get to them. But life does take it's toll the 100th time someone leaves their socks on the bedroom floor to bring up one stereotype from relationships. So we especially don't need to add to those things in our verbal interactions with one another. Do we?

So. Improv.

The first rule of improv is stated in various ways, to say "yes and...." (David Alger's), to always agree (Tina Fey), but to basically always respond in a positive fashion to anther's comments and then add something to that.

This also works well in relationships.

When I think back to my previous marriage, the one thing that frequently seemed to be missing was this element in our relationship. I unknowingly followed this rule of improv, and she didn't. In fact she rejected my approach to things by saying that I always have to turn everything into a joke. This was true to a point but then it really wasn't true, as obviously some things are just serious in life.

But not everything. Which was a trap I would argue, that she fell into. Everything seemed to have the utmost seriousness to it for her. Life was all about drama. Yes, she was a Drama Queen. Addicted to drama. In fact an older women who knew her since childhood and cared for her, once told me that, "If there isn't drama in her life, she'll create some."

"Many people who have studied improv have noted that the guiding principles of improv are useful not just on stage but in everyday life.[8] For example, Stephen Colbert in a commencement address said:

"Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say "yes." And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say "yes" back." [from Wikipedia]

So, consider all this in your own life and relationships. Add a little improv to the mix and find someone, or enlighten your someone, about this.

Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv…And the Workplace

Rule #1 — Agree
The Lesson: Respect What Your Partner has Created

Rule #2 — Not Only Say Yes… Say Yes And
The Lesson: Contribute Something

Rule #3 — Make Statements
Lesson: Don’t Ask Questions All the Time

Rule #4 — There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities
Lesson: Stay Positive, Learn to Adapt

In business [as in life and relationships], it pays to have the qualities of an improvisationist. Respect. Create. Contribute. Adapt.

from Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv… And Your Career from Women 2.0

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