Applying the rules of comedy

Posted on April 5, 2012

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Did you know that Tina Fey‘s first (and only) day job was at a nonprofit? True, according to her recent autobiography, Bossypants.

Having worked for nonprofits myself, I could identify with her experience working at the YMCA and so much more. She recounts growing up in the suburbs, starting her marriage and career — and does it all with hilarious honesty. The woman is brave enough to have a chapter entitled “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat” and share a school photo of herself sporting a ’70s shag haircut.

The book is laugh-out-loud funny. You wouldn’t expect any less from a graduate of Chicago’s improvisational comedy icon, The Second City. Even better, it shares good advice based on the rules of improv:

Rule #1 – Always agree and say YES.

“[It] reminds you to ‘respect what your partner has created’ and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.”

Rule #2 – Don’t just say yes, but say YES, AND

“[It] means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.”

Rule #3 – Make statements (a.k.a. Don’t ask so many questions.)

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles…No one wants to go to a doctor who says, ‘I’m going to be your surgeon?‘”

Rule #4 – There are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents.

“Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.”

These rules lay the foundation for great comedy. And because life is basically one long improvisation, they work well no matter where you apply them.

Bossypants is definitely worth a read. It’s funny, and gives many helpful tips along the way, such as these for women trying to make it in a male-dominated workplace:”No pigtails, no tubetops. Cry sparingly.”

Well said, Tina.

Posted in: Book review