Yes, And – Part II

By Randall | Improv Tips
21 Jan 2012

For part one, click here: Yes And, Part I

The second part of saying “Yes, and” is the “and.” There is a lot of meaning behind that little conjunction. If someone says, “I made you a sandwich,” it is not enough to respond “Thank you for the sandwich.” You are saying yes to their idea, but you are adding very little. When just saying “yes,” your partner’s ideas get accepted, but they are the only one doing any work. Instead, build on each idea and heighten each offer, and you will both be working together to build a scene greater than anything either of you could have done alone. Although the offer may seem bland, if you break down their line of dialogue, there is actually a lot to play with. Think about it one word at a time. I. Made. You. A. Sandwich. You could yes and any one of these words:

  • “I”: They made the sandwich themselves. “Thank you for filling in on Jeeves’ the day off.”
  • “Made”: The sandwich was prepared, not bought. “It’s nice just eating at home for a change. Lately, all of the takeout places have started tasting the same.”
  • “You”: This sandwich was created for someone special – you. “Oh…you usually just make one sandwich for yourself. But, this time, you made one for me too…it looks delicious.”
  • “A”: Exactly one sandwich was made. “Just ONE sandwich! What do I look like, a cheerleader???”
  • “Sandwich”: Out of all the food that could have been prepared, they made a sandwich. “Mmmm, chicken panini, with fresh basil and mozzarella. It smells tantalizingly good.”

Each of these lines create new questions that you can answer through the scene. Why, today, is your scene partner the one who prepared the sandwich? Why the change in routine, from eating out to staying in? Why is your partner being so thoughtful? Why is your partner trying to get you to eat less? Why are you so grateful for a chicken panini?

There are lots of possible answers to these questions that would be fun to explore in a scene. This could be your first meal back in civilization after being stranded on a desert island. You could be struggling financially. They could be concerned about your health. They could be a friend who has realized they have budding romantic feelings for you.

When saying “and”, the purpose of your response should be either to clarify, heighten, or add importance (raise the stakes).

-You can clarify by adding specific details, providing information to the audience about the who (relationship), what (purpose), or where (location) of the scene. For instance “Thanks Stan, you make the best Reubens of any deli this side of 42nd street” tells us that you are in a deli in a major city, maybe New York, and that you come often enough that you and Stan, maybe the proprietor, are on a first name basis.

-Heightening is taking an idea and making it bigger, going the extra step. So if someone made you a sandwich, you could heighten that by doing something for them that would require more effort than making a sandwich: “I baked you this lasagna.”

-Raising the stakes just means making whatever’s going on in the scene important. If it’s important to your character, it will become important to the audience. Why do we care about the sandwich? What does it say about your relationship? In the chicken panini example, this could also be an inmate’s choice for his final meal on death row. The person bringing the sandwich could be the warden, the wife that never stopped doubting his innocence, or the priest who watched him grow up and stray from the righteous path. It’s important because the relationship is meaningful and this is their last chance to interact together.

Part III coming soon

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  1. Adam says:

    I thought you were going to write about food!

  2. Jay says:

    For me the strongest “and”s are emotional responses…Yes, and it makes me feel______. Those types of ands are great for heightening and raising the stakes. It’s never about the sandwich. It’s always about the people.

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