Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

What I Learned from “Bossypants” and Why Everyone Should Read It

I am a huge fan of Tina Fey. My goal in life is to essentially be her and live her life, just without the high profile celebrity status and the TV stardom. She’s funny, she’s great at her craft, and she’s as real as they come, and that’s all I really want in my life and career. 

tinafey_bossypants

When I heard that Tina had written a book, (and yes, we’re on a first name basis regardless of the fact that I don’t exist in her world) I had to get my hands on it. I ordered it on Amazon, and started reading it as soon as I took it out of the box. I read it in two days, and at one point was asked to come read indoors as my household thought my laughter would disrupt the neighbors.

To me, it’s her perfect blend of genuine and silly that makes her so funny. I was a member of my high school’s improv troupe, and it was there that I learned what makes people laugh the most. Sure, a little outrageous humor goes a long way too, but when something strikes an audience as genuine, the laughter is more full and, well, genuine. 

To this day, I am very grateful for my years in the improve troupe. I surely wasn’t the funniest or the best dramatically, but by learning the intricate details of improv I became a more confident young adult. Needless to say, Bossypants highlights some of these improv gems.

There are incredibly valuable skills in improv that can apply to any career involving creativity and/or collaboration.

 

Here are 3 rules of improvisation that are key to the success of any scene:

1. Say yes. If two people are starting a scene and it goes like this:

Person 1: Oh my gosh, is that a blimp in the sky??

Person 2: No…that’s just a big cloud.

…then you have a really poor, and awkward scene. It can’t go anywhere! However, if it goes like this:

Person 1: Oh my gosh, is that a blimp in the sky??

Person 2: YES…and I don’t want to frighten you…but your dog is on it but I can’t tell you why right now…

…then you have agreed that there is in fact a blimp in the sky, and that Person 2 knows it’s deal. Tina Fey explains it perfectly:

Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement 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. As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of what is that to live?

-Tina Fey, Bossypants

2. Say “Yes, and…” If the conversation goes something like this:

Person 1: I can’t believe Taylor Swift is coming to my birthday party!

Person 2: I know, right!?

…then that also brings them to an awkward halt. But if Person 2 had their game on, the conversation could go like:

Person 1: I can’t believe Taylor Swift is coming to my birthday party!

Person 2: I know, especially when we already invited Kanye West…now what are we going to do??

…then there is suddenly a plot and they need to figure out what on earth they are going to do with Taylor and Kanye in the same room. Tina translates this step as not being afraid to contribute. It is each party’s responsibility to contribute!

3. Make statements. Asking questions all the time puts a lot of pressure on the other party. Tina puts it best saying:

Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.

The best part of all these rules? There are no mistakes. I love this. You just can’t be wrong! Sure, maybe you could be a little absurd, but it just can’t be wrong! Tina Fey summarizes:

In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful accidents.

There is so much we can all learn from a little improv lesson. We live and work in a world where collaboration is becoming a great force in various advancements, especially in Music Education. We work together to advocate, we collaborate on projects, we perform together, and now we are having global discussions and exchanging ideas. An improvised scene with one actor could be minimally effective, but it’s guaranteed movement with more than one. We cannot be heard advocating for our programs alone. We cannot continue to develop and advance our profession without exchanging knowledge and ideas. Basically, we cannot work alone.

Working with others, and knowing how to be worked with are two important lessons for any professional. Nobody wants to work with the close-minded, or the “debbie downer.” Embrace the knowledge and contributions of your colleagues! Sure, not everyone is going to contribute gold to every project or conversation, but it can certainly be a stepping stone to where you need to go.

And lastly, improvisation encourages creativity. It doesn’t REQUIRE it, though! I love a creative process, and improv is quite an interesting one. In the acting sense, your scene begins and ends in a span of 5-10 minutes. Seeing what you start with and where you end up is always an entertaining ride, but you always get instant results of your creativity! It worked. It didn’t. It was hilarious. It was embarrassing. The crowd wants more. The crowd got up and left. Good or bad, you know exactly where you stand and what needs to happen next! Though our situations may not provide “instant” results, they will absolutely provide accurate results. The fundraiser you planned for your program wasn’t as much of a hit as you wanted it to be. What next? Your school decided to keep your program because of your team of advocates. What next?

Think about the rules of improvisation the next time you are tackling a new project. It may work to your advantage!

And if you love to laugh, read Bossypants. It is hilariously ridiculous.

About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

Subscribe!

Feature Box

Sign up to receive my monthly educator’s newsletter!

2 Replies

Leave a Reply