Students often ask me, “if I’m always saying YES in improv, how do we have any conflict or things that make our scenes interesting?”

To demonstrate that YES AND is about accepting the situation, and saying yes to moving it forward, but that our character doesn’t have to like it, I created this visualization exercise:

Imagine you have a bowl in your hands. It’s a very special bowl. It’s your favorite. Get a good picture in your head of your beautiful bowl. What color is it? What is it made of? How does it feel in your hands? Does it have any decorations? Where did you get it? Why is it so special to you?

(At this point I sometimes ask participant to describe their bowls if they would like to)

Now I’m going to do something really mean. I am putting a handful of worms into your beautiful bowl, and I want you to YES AND eating those worms! In this part of the scene I want you to make a discovery that somehow the worms actually taste great. Go.

(Ask participants to share what their worms taste like: fruity? Chocolatey? crunchy?)

…And scene

Now we are going to do a different scene. Rewind to where I put those worms in your beautiful bowl, and you are going to YES AND eating them, but this time they do NOT taste good. In fact they are really gross. Have some fun pretending to eat worms, and making disgusting faces and sounds. Look around and enjoy each others disgusting faces and humorous improv as they pretend to eat yucky worms!

…And scene

Which scene was funnier or more interesting? Can we find humor in playing a negative emotion like disgust? You just showed that you can be brave enough to YES AND something in improv that you would say no to in real life. Practicing this in improv helps us build up our resilience because sometimes life puts worms in our beautiful bowls!