Five Key Rules Of Improv For Radio And For Life

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Improv, like radio, like life, has a few basic rules.  Of course rules are meant to be broken, but to break them you have to know them inside and out. Below is what I believe to be the 5 Key Rules of Improv/Radio and Life. (Please note: Your life should be deeper than these following pearls of wisdom.  You know, ‘do unto others’ blah blah blah, ‘be the change you want to see’ yada yada yada.  Then again, if this blog changes your life then it was completely intentional and you’re welcome.  Namaste.)

Rule #1: Yes – and…
In the world of improv, this rule simply means to add on any suggestion you are given in an effort to further progress the narrative of the scene.  George: “Ugh, I am exhausted moving all of these trophies!”  Martha: “I know! I had no idea you they bronzed your opponent in Taiwanese fencing.”  By denying what your partner has offered, you immediately halt the action and forward momentum.  Maria: “What a week! I’m exhausted!”  Arnold: “You look it!  Plus, it’s only going to get worse once you find out about this baby I fathered 14 years ago and never told you about”.  See how easy? The glory of improv is that your reality is what you make of it.  In radio, it’s no different.  You don’t have to agree, but you have to be prepared to forward the narrative, which brings me to…

Rule #2: No Blocking
Never say no and never deny anyone’s reality.  (Note: This particular improv rule has been adopted and ruined by couples therapists the world over.  Don’t blame improv; just know those degrees they have on their walls can be ordered online like monogrammed towels or Jessica Simpson’s hair.) Answering someone’s suggestion or declaration of emotion with a big fat “no” or a denial is like putting up an instant brick wall.  There’s nowhere to go once that happens.  “Wow was Chocolat ever a great movie!”  “No, Rob. It really wasn’t and you may be gay.”  Rob just got outed and the break is over. You’ve got to support the person you’re playing with.  There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, but you’ve got to build on what’s already out there.  Rob likes Chocolat.  Now what?

Rule #3: Make the Other Guy Look Good
The best you can ever look onstage (on on-air or in life) is when you’re making the person beside you look even better.  Being a supportive player is just as important if not more-so than being the star.  You’re more engaged, you’re actively listening and it keeps things from being self-indulgent – which let’s face it, is boring as hell to anyone that isn’t doing the indulging. Keep focused on sharing the moments and accepting your partner’s offers and the rest will follow.

Rule #4: Be Real and The Funny Will Come
Watching or listening to someone trying to be funny is like watching the question portion of the Miss America Pagaent: it’s awkward, you don’t know where to look and you’re laughing at all the wrong times.  Same goes for finding the funny in a scene or on-air.  There’s no need to push it.  Maybe the idea of two mimes selling shoes in a leper colony seems like it will be a laugh riot, but if it becomes some sort of tragic ballet then so be it.  Don’t ham it up to get the laugh.  And on the air, if it’s not working, go to spots and let the funny go.  Trust that the other players will catch you and then stop trying to “push through”, lest you pull a Miss South Carolina 2007 (Google that if you don’t know the reference).

Rule #5: Have Fun
No, this rule doesn’t involve a great deal of original thought, but it’s still a Top 5 rule. Enjoy the scene when you’re in it. Play with one another (in a PG-way) and shake it up.


In improv, in radio, in life, these 5 rules used with the best of intentions should prove helpful in creating exciting, dynamic and engaging moments.  If this is not the case, I suggest seeking deeper meaning: Drop back and punt.

-written by guest blogger Leslie Kaz, Morning Co-Host The Bear, Ottawa/Second City Alum Check her out at

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