Yes, Improv Improves Your Radio Show
by Amy Hale
“Why are you going to the radio station at 4:30 in the morning? Don’t you guys just get on there and improvise?”
Chances are you’ve heard this at least once in your career. I’d also bet that as you are rolling out of bed on Thursday morning, contemplating if you can sleep just five minutes longer, you’ve asked yourself this question, as well.
As someone who is both a radio personality and an improvisor, I am strongly suggesting you don’t roll over and go back to bed. You need to get up and get at it. You can’t just improvise good personality radio, but you can use improv to make your radio show better.
Improv and radio go hand-in- hand. Look no further than the basic rules of improv and you’ll see that the rules are practically screaming to be hijacked for radio.
For instance, you’ve probably heard of the improv rule, “Yes, and”. Most people think they understand this rule, but few actually do. If the goal for your show is engaging conversation, the improv rule “Yes, and” is the perfect place to start.
Understand Yes And
“Yes, and” in improv is tricky. Often people think it’s simply saying “yes” to your scene partner. If it were only that easy. Imagine simply saying “yes” to everything your co-host says and creating radio magic!
Instead, “Yes and” is a process. This three-step process expects you to acknowledge, accept and add to the conversation. It sounds easy in theory.
When I teach improv, the very first game we play is based on the rule “Yes, and”. The game is simple. Start with a statement. Your partner responds and acknowledges the statement you made, then adds to the storyline. Sounds easy, right? There is one more thing. You must start every statement with, “yes, and”.
Sara: Jan, I asked for that report over an hour ago.
Jan: Yes, and I planned on sending it, but I can’t find my laptop.
Sara: Yes, and I can imagine it’s hard to find your laptop on that disaster you call a desk.
Jan: Yes, and I know my desk is a wreck, but when you send me emails marked “URGENT: RESPOND NOW” every ten minutes, it’s kind of hard to find time to clean it.
Let’s break this down: Each line of dialogue acknowledges the previous statement by saying “yes”. If after the first line of dialogue Jan would have said,” You didn’t ask for a report,” the conversation would have hit a dead end resulting in a he-said-she-said argument. Instead, they added something to the conversation. The additional information keeps the scene moving and makes the conversation interesting.
Now imagine the scene went like this instead:
Sara: Jan, I asked for that report over an hour ago.
Jan: I’ll get on it.
Sure, the initial statement was acknowledged, but there was nothing added. It’s boring. It’s not fun to watch and I guarantee it won’t be fun to listen to.
How “Yes And” Improv Improves Your Radio Show
This happens all too often in radio. The host will ask a yes-or-no question and get a yes-or-no answer. While you should not ask a Yes/No question, with improv, even a yes-or-no question will have layers because, not only will you answer the question, you would add to the conversation.
Imagine every time you open the mic your co-host is responding to the conversation and adding to it. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this conversation can go. And that results in a show that’s well planned, yet spontaneous.
I often tell people my show is “alive”. I allow it to become what we collaboratively create using the power of “yes, and” every time we crack the mic.
Apply Yes And Off The Air
And why stop there? Imagine using the “Yes, and” rule both on the air and off the air. How? In my company we have regular planning meetings. These are true brainstorming meetings. There are no bad suggestions and everyone has a voice.
Some of our best work comes when we are brainstorming together with a common goal in mind. It comes when we are acknowledging what others have to say, accepting the idea no matter how farfetched it is, and then adding to the idea to make it bigger and better.
It takes just a simple retort or quick comeback. This concept of “yes and” is where bigger, better ideas are born. Then they evolve. Great ideas are a process.
I am reminded of a quote from the author Eric Thomas. He said,
Fall in love with the process and the results will come.
Improv, like radio, is not “just talking”. It is a process, and if you do learn to love it, the results are bound to come.
Author: Amy Hale
Amy Hale’s life changed when her college theater professor told her she needed to move to Chicago and study improv. She did just that but ended up in Madison, WI after a job transfer. She started studying improv and found her “lobster”, live performance. (She married her other lobster, Tony.)
Amy eventually moved to Hot Springs, AR and started Hale Entertainment. She started writing live shows, commercials and plays for local businesses like Oaklawn Casino, Central Theater and Magic Springs Water & Theme Park. She acts and writes plays, sketches, commercials and films. Amy joined the crew at KLAZ in 2013. Amy currently hosts “Amy & Friends in the Morning on KLAZ”…but only because she can’t convince her boss to call it “One KLAZ-y Morning with Amy”.
When off the air, Amy teaches local acting and improv classes with her brother, Luke, who also fills in on KLAZ’s Morning Show. She is incredibly active in her community and soaks up all the awesome Hot Springs has to offer. While Amy’s childhood dream was to be on Saturday Night Live, she thinks she may have hit the jackpot as she is living her best life writing and performing live radio.