Rules Suck

Another really cool post from ImprovMantra about how we use the “rules” of improv. It’s a tricky business choosing how to train and nurture these ideas and whether to lay them down as rules, guidelines or a toolbox of techniques. Like many things in life I think it’s worth getting them learned bone deep so we can choose when to use them, and when not to. After all choosing not to use a tool can be as effective and is as much a use of that tool as slavishly relying on it.
For example, we in MissImp relentless drilled the principle of ‘Yes And’ for quite a while. And the results have been splendid – we’re now in a position where the concept of agreement is intuitive and we can adapt and use it creatively to accept the truth or idea behind an offer without our characters also having to go along with it. The improviser should agree, but the character doesn’t have to.
It can be difficult to climb down from ‘rule’ to ‘tool’ without just breaking all the rules and trashing scenes. That’s what play time is for, to figure out when these tools can be applied most effectively. Unfortunately in improv, there might not be much time in a scene to think it through and we can end up relying on those ingrained rules instead of rifling through the toolbox. Experimentation is wonderful, but remember that the person you’re playing with is human too and may have no idea what you’re up to.

Rules Suck – ImprovMantra


I took my first improv class more than twenty years ago. I was taught the “rules” the same way you probably were. The “rules” were drilled into me and I followed them for years. The “rules” were what made improv work. When a scene or show wasn’t going well, I looked to the “rules.” When I felt stuck in my development as an improviser I looked at the “rules.” For the first 10 years of my teaching I taught the “rules,” used games to drill them, used notes to enforce them, and side coached help my students hone them.

I had been fooled.

Not intentionally, God knows, but fooled nonetheless. Improv as a craft is still young, and when I first started down this wonderful and crazy road I learned how to improvise from those who had learned from the sources. In other words I learned from second generation improvisers (First…

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