Tina Fey's 4 Rules of Improv
In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey discusses how the rules she learned at The Second City Improv School helped her succeed, both on stage, and off.
Many of us struggle daily with confidence and insecurities. Improvising can help you get you out of your own head and access deeper parts of yourself. In life, we are constantly editing ourselves and second-guessing our ideas in an attempt to be perfect.
Improvisation dares us to trust our instincts and appreciate others and what they bring to the table. Implement these four basic improvisation rules into your everyday life and you’re guaranteed to see a difference.
How does Tina Fey do it? She credits Improv – and follows the 4 rules below.
1. You Must Agree.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to get along, but it means you must agree on the given set of circumstances. For instance, if I say, “Wow, it’s great to be on the beach!” and you say, “We aren’t on the beach stupid, we are on the ski slope,” then the improv scene is dead. But if you say, “I can’t wait to get in the water, I hope it’s not too cold,” then we have a scene. We have agreed that this stage is now a sandy beach and we can keep moving forward.
I don’t recommend you agree with everyone in your life, but I challenge you to come from a place of “yes” and keep an open mind. Try to understand where others are coming from before discrediting them as “crazy” or “stupid.” “No” should be a last resort, and respect what others create.
2. “Yes” Isn’t Enough, You Must “Yes, and…”
Add to the discussion. In the example above, the second person did not just say, “Yes we’re at the beach,” she said, “I can’t wait to get in the water, I hope it’s not too cold.” This statement adds value to the scene. Now the audience knows it’s cold and that we plan to enjoy the ocean as opposed to looking for gold or taking a yoga class.
To me, this rule challenges you to contribute. Whether you are developing an ad campaign or deciding where to eat dinner, put your neck out there, give your thoughts and have a say. Two minds are always better than one.
3. Make Statements.
Have confidence. When you say something, mean it and stand behind it. How convincing would this proposal be in an improv scene: “I love you? I want you to marry me? I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you?” Let’s just say if he said that to me, he would not be putting a ring on it!
If you have something to say, don’t be apologetic, don’t be shy, don’t second-guess yourself, be confident.
Because at the end of the day….
4. There are no Mistakes!
Some of the best improvisation scenes come from miscommunications. Audiences love seeing actors fight their way out of a confusing, messy scene. For instance, if an actor is clearly on a baseball field holding a bat and chewing tobacco, and the other actor says, “Stop spitting on my new hardwood floors, and what’s that in your hand?” the audience is instantly hooked to see how the “baseball player” will justify his behaviour without breaking the scene.
Many times we beat ourselves up over “mistakes” that turn out better than expected. When you’re scared to take a chance, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Often times, you’ll find it’s not as bad as you thought, so push yourself in order to reach your full potential.
As you work toward achieving your goals and continued personal growth, consider the mindset that’s gotten you to where you are today. Incorporate these four principles into that mindset, and you will be one step close to taking it to the next level. Be like Tina Fey: daring, confident, and if all else fails, unafraid to laugh at yourself.