Improv Rules That Extend Beyond (“Don’t Think Twice”)

If you ask Mike Birbiglia [of Don’t Think Twice], the principles of improv apply everywhere: “It changed the way I thought about everything,” says the writer, director and actor. “[It] helps in parenting and being a good husband and being a good friend…any collaborative job.” Bob Mondello, NPR

Bob Mondello, NPR, states about Mike Birbiglia‘s new film Don’t Think Twice, deemed “a celebration of improv”:

At the beginning of the film, the cast lays out the form’s three rules:

First: Say yes, meaning buy into whatever reality your partner presents you with.

Second: Remember that it’s all about the group, not about you.

And finally: Don’t think. Get out of your head. Live in the moment.

All good advice — onstage, or in life, or, as it happens, in movies, where, for a snappy 92 minutes, Don’t Think Twice manages to convince you it’s following those rules to the letter.

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com, agrees that “Improv is a great model for society.”

…What would it be like if we all listened to one another like that? What would it be like if we accepted one another’s contributions with generosity and openness? What if we approached every interaction not with ‘No, but … ‘ but with ‘Yes, and … ‘. Birbiglia’s beautiful, sneakily profound film shows a world where ‘Yes, and … ‘ is the default.

And other reviewers are echoing such sentiments.

Unrelated to Don’t Think Twice, Kim Quindlen (Thought Catalog) had previously written about “15 popular improv ‘rules’ that anyone can apply to lead a happier, more exciting, and more fulfilling life.” Naturally, the above three are in there along with the other 12. For more details, click on the link.

1. Play for the group, not for yourself.

2. Stay in the moment.

3. But still keep the future in the back of your mind.

4. All mistakes are gifts.

5. Follow the fear. One of my favorite teachers continually drilled into our heads that if you’re afraid of doing something, it usually means you should go after it…

6. Stop planning the next thing you’re going to say, and just listen to the person in front of you.

7. “Yes, and.”

8. Being truthful will get you much further than being the funniest or smartest person in the room.

9. Never hesitate to step outside the box.

10. Your choices should always be conscious.

11. The most interesting characters are the ones who are weird, quirky, and specific about what they want.

12. Play smart….People prefer something smart, clever, and unforced. Real life works the same way.

13. Sometimes it’s okay to lean on others.

14. The best moments are unscripted.

15. You often have the most success when you are outside of your comfort zone.

Someone who also advocates improv rules for better living is Robert Taibbi, LCSW (Psychology Today), who is a social worker who’s also performed improv. The five rules he puts forth, excerpted from the PT post:

Rule #1: Yes and.

Rule #2. Act / React. The core belief here is that everyone on stage should be always working to contribute to the scene…

Rule #3. You can look good if you make your partner look good. One famous adage in improv is that everyone is a supporting actor.

Rule #4. Be truthful, be vulnerable.

Rule #5. There are no mistakes…The attitude behind all this is that everyone is doing the best they can, that most things that seem to go wrong can be fixed, and that the rewards of spontaneity and risk-taking outweigh those of staying safe and put.

Want to see the trailer for Don’t Think Twice?

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