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Ariana Grande's new song asks "Yes, And?"

Improv has a funny role in society. It is both revered and feared. It is loved and, at times, loathed. It’s almost inconceivably brilliant when it’s played well and it’s nails on a chalkboard when it’s done poorly. In its highest form, on shows like Saturday Night Live, which is scripted but often uses improvisation to develop sketches and punch up classic moments live on air, or Whose Line is it Anyway? improvisation often looks like a magical trick. The feeling is awe. How did they come up with that on the spot? The answer is “Yes, And”. 

 

The foundation of improvisation are those two little words: yes, and. Yes is the acceptance (not necessarily agreement) of the offer. And is what is added to the offer, demonstrating acceptance and collaboration. For example, “Hey mom, I’m hungry”. “Yes, and I made you your favorite: dog hair sandwich.” “Oh boy, Collie flavor!” And on it goes. It sounds so simple. It’s an infinitely powerful cauldron from which to make brilliance or barf - and sometimes both at once. A growing body of research points to the ability to use it to lower stress and anxiety, increase confidence and creativity, and improve communication skills, regardless of age, background, or culture. Yes, improv is universally applicable And it doesn’t cost a thing! 


Ariana Grande has a new song called “Yes, And”. As Clay Drinko, PhD of Psychology Today points out, Ariana has a background in improv and is almost certainly hiding multiple easter eggs to the form she played. In the self-empowerment 80’s homage video, she calls out critics and levels the playing field: “Your energy is yours and mine is mine”. It is the coexistence of this tension that underlines the brilliance and power of improvisation. Things that seemingly don’t fit or demand a resolution of write or wrong can instead be resolved with “yes, and”. Yours is yours and mine is mine and we coexist. By accepting that, we can start to respond to how we can collaborate. Fine line here: Yes does not mean tacit agreement - it means acceptance and acknowledgment. And shows the acceptance and gives the receiver the power to add on to the yes. This co-creativity is the power move. Instead of fighting in a zero sum game or tearing down “others” to prove worth, “yes, and” says let’s play and discover together. In music terms, here are a few examples of Yes, Ands:


Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias “To all the girls I’ve loved before”

Run DMC and Aerosmith: “Walk this way”

Public Enemy and Anthrax: “Bring the Noise”

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: “The Lady is a Tramp”

Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus: “Old Town Road”


Here’s the trick: you can understand “yes, and”, but that doesn’t make it easy to apply. It’s scary accepting an uncomfortable offer and stepping into the unknown. So most people don’t. They say, “yes, but” - modifying the offer or flat out no, perhaps even crapping on the offer or the person who offered it. Actively and practically using “yes, and” takes practice. Just like staring at that twenty five pound dumbbell with the full knowledge that lifting it will give you a bicep - you  won’t get the bicep until you make the lift. In order to get the benefit from “Yes, And”, you have to practice it as an exercise. 


Join us at our Jam for Joys to learn to flex your improv muscles on Tuesdays at 10a and Thursdays at 4p - all times pacific. 


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