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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

To Question or Not To Question
That is the Question. Isn't it?

Questions Are Bad in improv, Right?

Yes. I mean no. I mean, what’s the question? By that, I mean it depends. What’s the question? I spend a great deal of time encouraging improvisers to avoid questions. Why do I do that? - It’s a sure way to get some specific information from your scene partner into the scene, isn't it? That is true. The problem is, too many times the scene partner doesn’t do that – offer specific information. Three things can happen when you ask a question: 1. You might get a specific answer. 2. You might get a nothing answer, where no new information is revealed – a neutral or passive answer. 3. You might get a question as the response. With your question you have a greater than 60% chance that no new or specific information will be revealed. In actuality, choice number one is not in my experience played one third of the time as it should, so statistically there is more than 60% chance no new information will be revealed.

If, however, you avoid a question and make a statement, which reveals new information, there is 100% chance that new information will have been revealed. That’s a much better ratio. It guarantees that the scene will move forward from that moment rather decreasing that chance to 20% or 30%.
My point is, why ask a question that requires (or hopes) that new or specific information will be revealed when you can be the one to reveal new or specific information?

The one exception in my mind is if the question in part reveals new or specific information. As an example – "What are you doing?" Is an open ended question that leaves the scene stalled from progression until the scene partner fills in the blank and makes a specific choice. “What are you doing with that can of dog food?” – has offered some specificity to the scene and now allows the scene partner to fill in more information. This in my opinion is the ideal because it relies on and benefits from both participants while building and discovering and revealing the information that will help this scene move forward.