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The Power of "Yes, And..."

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

Improv is about “yes, and”. Yes accepts the reality. And is the power to do what we will with that truth.

Dr. Kelly Papesh of the Lou Ruvo Center for brain Health shared a Michael J. Fox quote at a Las Vegas event recently that was a great example of Yes, And: “I often say now I don't have any choice whether or not I have Parkinson's, but surrounding that non-choice is a million other choices that I can make.”

No one has a choice about having Parkinson’s - that’s the YES. The million other choices you can make regarding what you’ll do with the PD are the AND. The trick is, you don’t get the powerof AND, until you accept and embrace the YES.

So why do it? What’s in it for you if you have Parkinson’s or are a care partner for someone who does? Here are a few reasons: “Improv cultivates focus, improves communications, reduces stress and promotes feelings of acceptance, compassion, and well-being. Unconditional acceptance, with the aim of increasing personal awareness and interpersonal attentiveness." (According to the landmark study of the effect of improvisation on Parkinson’s done by Northwestern University).

ComedySportz is a particularly good fit for improvisation for improving Parkinson’s because we play it as a sport. That means you don’t have to be a stand up or even believe you’re funny. You just show up, share, listen and play well with others. ComedySportz excels at team building. We believe we’re better together. As someone who’s worked in and with the PD community for almost 20 years, I know the Parkinson’s community could benefit from better teamwork.

“You want to go fast, go alone. You want to go far, go alone.” - African Proverb

While improv is not about jokes - this is a common misperception as people think we do stand up - we do play in the same realm: discovery and laughter.

Why does laughter matter? It relieves stress and boosts the immune system. And guys, it’s a proven fact that ladies love a man with a big…sense of humor. Science.

Joke break: Patient: Doc, I’ve got a problem with the stairs in my house. Doc: What’s the problem? Patient: They keep bringing me down…

One of the games we play at ComedySportz is 185. It’s called a “jump out game”, requiring the improviser to jump into the known format of a joke with the unknown suggestion from an audience member. The known goes like this: 185 (something) walk into a bar. The bartender says, sorry we’re closed. 185 (somethings say) [punch line]. Let’s say the suggestion, based on the likely audience reading this, is Parkinson’s. 185 people with Parkinson’s walk into a bar. Bartender says, sorry we’re closed. 185 people with Parkinson’s say, You want us to give this place a shakedown?

Boom goes the dynamite.

Jokes satisfy sort of like roller coasters - they have us looking or perceiving one thing, then suddenly shifting to another. Again, while we don’t do standup, we play games that use the format of jokes for fun and because they do exercise our brains in association building. You can learn this skill, just like any other, with practice - which we call play (it’s more fun). We do it together because we plan to go a long way together, and we hope you’ll join us.

— written by Robert Cochrane

Contact Robert at:

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