No matter what introductory class a new improvisation or improv student happens to take, that class is likely to include the venerable “yes and” principle. A core fundamental concept of improv acting as a practice and an art form, “yes and” consists of two straightforward steps.
First, improvisers must say “yes” to any extemporaneous suggestion or proposal on stage. If one improviser says, “Hello, I’d like a table for one,” and another responds with “No” and gives a reason, the scene abruptly ends. However, if the response is “yes,” the performer can add an “and” that takes the scene to a new dramatic or comedic level. Even better, a good addition can take the scene in a shocking and entirely new direction.
Legendary improv teacher Keith Johnstone succinctly sums up the “yes and” principle’s value. When improvisers say “yes,” according to Johnstone, they go on adventures. Conversely, improvisers who say “no” merely cling to safety and often produce mediocre work.