Skill of Humor Part 2: Explore and Heighten


Last week, we talked about the first principle of being funnier: sharing your point of view. This week we’re talking about step two: exploring and heightening that point of view.

Improv teaches us how to do that. Improvisers at UCB, Second City, and ComedySportz accept and build, explore and heighten, and find the interesting thing and say “If this is true, what else is true?”

In short, improvisers say: YES AND. A few notes about about Yes And vs our typical thinking of Yes But:

  1. Yes And is the fundamental mindset of improvisation. Yes But is our default mode of thinking.
  2. Yes And simply means looking at the current situation and building from it. Yes But is looking at what’s wrong with the current situation.
  3. Yes And is Growth Mindset. Yes But is Fixed Mindset.
  4. Yes And & Yes But are both valuable; it’s important to understand when each is needed.
  5. Yes And is typically more positive, easier, and more fun.

By thinking in a Yes And mindset, you can take the kernel of an idea and build it into an entire story. Take Eddie Izzard’s bit on the Death Star Cafeteria (caution: NSFW language). It follows a kind of logic:

  1. If, in Star Wars, the Death Star exists…
  2. And if people live on the Death Star…
  3. It must be true that there is a cafeteria on the Death Star…
  4. So it could also be true that Darth Vader has visited that cafeteria.

And from that comes a hilarious five minute bit about Darth Vader visiting the cafeteria on the Death Star.

For practice, try taking some answers from last week’s question and applying, “If this is true, what else is true?” Or, for another example of “If this is true, what else is true?” check out my bit on the quantification of love.

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