It’s All About ‘Yes’: What Improv Comedy Can Teach Us About the Annunciation

It’s All About ‘Yes’: What Improv Comedy Can Teach Us About the Annunciation March 25, 2019

My friend Father Dmytro Dnistrian in Canada sent this to me. It’s a fascinating take on the feast we celebrate today, from Nicole Roccas:  

My husband and I recently finished the first level of improv comedy courses at The Second City Toronto training centre (where John Candy got his start, nbd). A 7-week course, it was perhaps the most terrifying, fun, and challenging things we have ever done together.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on all the things it taught me, not only about comedy and stage fright but also life and faith…

The first class, our teacher had us all sit in the circle–there were at least 15 of us. She started things off with the first line of a story, “Once upon the time there was a green alien.”

Each of us was asked to keep the story going, but we had to begin each sentence with the words “No, but…”

The story quickly devolved into a jumbled mess of non-sequiturs that went a little like this:

Once upon a time, there was a green alien.

No, but he wasn’t a green alien.

No, but he was an alien, he just wasn’t green.

No, but he was green.

By the time we all took a turn, we had barely moved on from the great green/alien dispute. We still didn’t know said alien’s name or really anything interesting about it.

Our teacher told us to remember this exercise. Constantly saying “No” shuts things down. It cuts off the story, cuts off other people, and makes it virtually impossible to build on anything together.

As she explains, what the class learned was the importance of saying “Yes” — or, more significantly, saying “Yes, and…” to continue the scene.

She concludes:

As the Feast of the Annunciation approaches, I can’t help but think about that monumental event in improv terms. The scene itself was more unexpected than any comedy sketch I’ve ever witnessed–hard to imagine anything more out of left field than a celestial messenger announcing you will bear the Son of God in your (virginal!) womb.

Mary could have responded by walking away, leaving the proverbial stage. She could have rolled her eyes, pretended not to hear the angel, or gone on with her spinning (which is what Christian tradition holds she was doing the moment Gabriel approached her).

But in true yes and fashion, Mary accepts and builds on the pronouncement by offering her willingness to participate in the plan, crazy though it may have sounded:  “Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’” (Lk 1:38, NRSV).

It was perhaps the biggest yes and moment in all of history.

Read it all. 

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