5 Improv Comedy Quotes that Also Apply to Business

Depending on where people studied improv and who they’ve studied with, there are a number of phrases and quotes that are continuously reinforced. Lucky for you, the reader, we compiled 5 phrases that transcend all improv institutions. Even more lucky for you, the reader, we tied them to how they are related to the workplace. Enjoy!

“Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral”

When watching an improv comedy show, you may be amazed at how well the players on stage create a full story that seems (almost) flawless. That’s in part because of this phrase. If you try and bring a whole idea into a scene, a cathedral, you’re minimizing the amount of co-creation that is possible versus if you merely bring a nugget of an idea, a brick. Together, you and your partner should build the cathedral together, one brick at a time, through collaboration. Cathedrals, while may get a laugh, are known to quickly fall apart. In corporate America, there are times where an individual will come with their own perspective on how something should be done as if it’s the only way. This phrase can help in co-creating if the proper pre-text is given. For example, a meeting invite can describe this philosophy and how the team will be working together. Brick by brick.

“Don’t be defensive”

Okay, we all do this sometimes. Somebody says something and people choose to instantly take offense rather than stopping, truly listening, then responding in an appropriate manner.  Sometimes we go straight to being defensive.  For improvisers, it’s important to maintain a point-of-view while not taking something to heart to the point where it starts an argument.  Being stand-offish isn’t the easiest way to “Yes, And” each other. Our job is personal to us. It’s the very thing that pays for our livelihood, so we do take it too serious at times. It’s best to create a culture of listeners who listen to understand rather than listen to respond. The quick response isn’t always the best response.

“The fun is always on the other side of a Yes.” – Martin De Maat

In the world of improv, our golden saying is “Yes, And” – meaning to accept and build on the ideas of our scene partners.  Whether on the stage or in the workplace, if you choose to say “yes”, instead of no or but, the reward is waiting for you on the other side.

If this, then What?

One statement that rides on Yes, And’s coattails is “If this, then what?” which means “If this idea is true, then what else is true?” It keeps us in discovery mode and from getting stuck.  By asking ourselves this question, we’re able to expand on ideas in a methodical way. In an improv set, if it’s true that acorns are currency then what else is true in that world? Trees are banks? Wallets are burlap sacs? Similarly at work, if you’re in a brainstorm session and you’re riffing on a really good idea, if you feel that you’ve exhausted it for the time being, think about what else is related that you can discuss that’s similar to the original idea. If what we’re brainstorming is a good thing, then what else works that’s similar in nature?

“If we treat each other as if we are all geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that on stage.” – Del Close

At last is a quote from improv legend Del Close. Simply put, treat each other as the smartest person you know and together you both will be better at what you’re doing. Often in the workplace, we don’t get to choose the people we work with and at times we will have differences with some co-workers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t put on a positive viewpoint and treat their ideas as gifts.

Now, there are many improv quotes that work for the workplace, and life in general, but this is just a starting point. At The Improv Agency we utilize some of the top improv principles as a way to analyze and prescribe our client’s programs. Stay tuned for more improv fun and let us know how improv has helped your workplace!