I moved to Los Angeles when I was 21 with a BFA in Acting and very little entertainment industry or business experience.
I went to an open audition for an improvised character within the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. At this point, most of my training was around scripted material. But when it came to improv (unscripted theatre), I had very little experience, besides a workshop here or there. What I did know, was that you were supposed to say, “Yes, and”. This means you always listen to and accept your partner’s idea and then add onto it, so that the two of you can effectively create something together without the security of a script.
As I was watching another pair of actors go before me, one of the actors threw their partner under the bus, in order to make themselves look clever and funny. One of the other actors sitting in the audience called out, “Make each other look good!” It made a lot of sense. If we strive to make one another look good in the scene, instead of only looking out for ourselves, then we both look brilliant!
Before I knew it, it was my turn. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I’m a rule follower and went in with the goal of following those two simple rules; say “Yes, and” and “make each other look good.” My partner started the scene (thank goodness!) and I simply agreed with her idea and helped to move the scene forward by adding my own ideas to further support and develop the initial premise. We looked out for each other, and found ways to set the one another up for a laugh. At the end, we had created something together that we would not have created on our own.
A few days later, I got the call that I was hired!
Putting my focus on supporting my partner had not only reduced the pressure that I tend to put on myself, it showed that I could listen, collaborate well and set aside my own ego for the good of the company.
When you’re in a stressful or unexpected situation yourself, possibly feeling out of your element or that you’ve been given more than you can handle, try following these rules yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised at the effect that simply saying “Yes, and” and striving to “make each other look good” can have.
Here are three tips to get you started:
- When an unexpected situation arises, start with “Yes”. Instead of reasoning why something won’t work, first give it some space and consideration, explore how it could work.
- Actively listen to your co-workers and clients. Instead of thinking about what you're going to say, be present with them. After all, you can’t say “Yes” and add on to, or effectively respond to something you didn’t hear.
- Turn your silo into a spider web. Actively look for ways to reach out and support your teammates to make them look amazing.
Break a leg!