Prompt Jar: Rules of Improv

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bossypantsI’ve been a fan of improv theater since my son joined his high school troupe a few years ago. Around that same time, I listened to Tina Fey’s book titled Bossypants where she outlined her rules of improvisation. Those rules are the muse for these prompts. Read the preceding excerpts from Bossypants before writing the prompts.

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and “SAY YES.” When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact, a Christmas gun. Now obviously, in real lifeyou’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place.

Can you think of a time you said YES to an invitation or idea to do something? A work project? Or maybe a blind date? Or even improvising by using a different ingredient in your favorite recipe? Write about that time and the outcome of saying YES.

On the flip side, saying YES all the time can leave you depleted. Write about the importance of practicing balance and when it’s good to stick to the plan.

How does this Rule of Agreement and play out in your life?  Write about the people you know that use this rule.

The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying, “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution.

Write about someone you know that offers solutions and someone you know that asks many questions.

Write about a time you made a statement to someone and witnessed your words having a positive effect on the recipient.

THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field. In improv, there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident.

Write about a time you had a “happy accident” or discovered something great because you didn’t follow a plan.

Kay’s method of journal writing has guidelines but no solid rules. This means there are no mistakes in keeping a journal, just opportunities. Write about specific opportunities your journal provides to you.


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