Here’s an exercise Cameron uses that’s great for “yes, and”-ing.
Photo © Kevin Thom
If you listen to Comedy Bang! Bang!, you know the Andy Daly characters get really fleshed-out, in part because Paul F. Tompkins, Jason Mantzoukas and Scott Aukerman ask leading questions.
You can do the same in scenes. When you ask leading questions, your scene partner now has to accept that reality and build out from there.
It’s like the press conference game. You’re basically endowing the character, and you just keep endowing them. For example:
Player #1: So, John, you wrote a book called Starting when you started drinking. I noticed the last chapters are just random type. Do you really feel like this has helped your life?
Then the person has to respond. It forces them to realise that those are true things now, because the other person said them. So it’s “yes-ing” and it’s “and-ing.” It’s forcing you to go, “Yes, this is fucking real, so just accept it.”
When Player #1 says, “Oh and there’s a whole chapter on how to start embezzling,” that feels like the wrong path, and you’d have to explain why, in your book, it’s a valuable thing to start doing.
Where it gets fun is, it’s really about surprising the other person. So like, “I notice you wear a live raccoon as a hat. Does that help with writing, or are you also into fashion?” And then they can be like, OK, I wear a live raccoon, how do I explain that? Or, “I see you’re not wearing pants.”
What you want is for them to almost laugh the word “Yep,” and then follow up with “Here’s why, and here’s how that happened…”
Player #1: Today’s your birthday.
Player #2: Yes, I share a birthday with…
Player #1: Tom Selleck?
Player #2: Yes. The man and the moustache.
Player #1: For your birthday gift, on twitter you said that you wanted people to send you their used Kleenex. For eating. Was that a joke, or do you actually eat tissues?
Player #2: I do. I feel like the fibre market is expanding…
Player #1: Why do they need to be used?
Player #2: Well, people are germophobes now. Everyone’s carrying around their little bottle of Purell, and it’s actually leading to a very unhealthy and more dangerous society. We need to get more germs into our bodies in order to be healthier.
To get started, you might endow someone’s character, but then as they “yes, and” it, they’re going to say things that in turn you can feast on.
So if you say you’re into Paleo, I’ll think, to what extreme are you like a caveman? You know what, I’ll test this out by saying, “I notice you slaughtered the neighbours’ dog and ate it, and you also drag your wife around by the hair.” I’m not making you say those things; you said you were big on the Paleo thing, now let’s really go 100% on it.
Try it at your next rehearsal.