My husband gave me Tina Fey’s Bossypants for my birthday. Seriously behind the curve on this book, which was published in April and which both my sister and my friend P snagged within minutes of its release.
I should be rationing myself to like two pages per day, because the book has only 275 pages and I want the laughs to last longer than 2.5 days, but in classic addict-fashion (More Is Always Better) I’ve been steaming through it instead of doing other things I should be doing, such as grinding through every past-season episode of “Monk” on streaming Netflix with my kid (he likes “Monk”; also “Psych”; I’m OK with “Monk” because Adrian reminds me of me—I do crazy shit like straighten the pictures on the walls of other people’s houses—but “Psych” weirds me out ) or cleaning the toilets. Tina Fey’s payoff somehow provides more of an incentive.
Last night I read her rules for improv.
- Rule No. 1: Always agree and say yes to everything that happens.
- Rule No. 2: Add something to the conversation (say “yes, and”).
- Rule No. 3: Make statements. Instead of speaking in questions all the time (which makes your partner do all the work in improv—if you ask the questions, they have to come up with all the answers), be responsible and make statements. Be part of the solution.
- Rule No. 4: There are no mistakes. Only opportunities.
Rules No. 1 and 4 might save my life. (Along with her list of all the physical attributes a woman is now expected to possess, including “the abs of a lesbian gym owner” and “doll tits,” and her stories about the SNL writers who piss in cups) But the other two rules are good, too. Saying “yes, and” is important. It fosters conversation. It moves life along instead of allowing it to stay stuck. And making statements grows assertiveness.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?
If she were following her own advice, she’d make a statement and say That’s no frigging way to live. I’m familiar with that way of life. That way of life shuts down creativity and intuition and possibility and hope.
(Today’s experiment: Pick any one of these four qualities—creativity, intuition, possibility, hope—and you have today’s higher power.)
But saying “No, I can’t” right off the bat is the way I learned to live.
I’m unlearning it.
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