This video is of comedienne/writer/producer/brilliantina Tina Fey’s hour-long interview with Google’s awkward, SO not-quite-getting-it Eric Schmidt about her book Bossypants. The best bits for us are 4 1/2 minutes right up front, starting at about 3:30 when Fey talks about her rules for improv, and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels rules for hiring/collaborating. Although Fey is talking about comedy improv, we think her principles apply just fine to everyday life. As she says “improv [has] changed my professional life and my worldview.” Ours too. The rules in the video are a bit different than the ones in the book, and worth watching.

Here’s a condensed from Bossypants version of Fey’s Rules we found on Thinktopia:

Rule 1. The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Saying “no” grinds invention, innovation (and improv) to a screeching halt. Obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with what everyone says. But saying YES reminds you to respect what your partner has created and to start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

Rule 2. The second rule of improve is to not only say YES, say YES, AND. In improv, you agree and then add something of your own. If your partner starts with, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say “Yeah…” the skit has stalled. But if you respond with, “What did you expect? We’re in hell!” things keep moving forward.

Rule 3. The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. Don’t respond with questions. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Speaking Valley Girl (ending every statement with a “?”) does not work, either. Instead of saying, “Where are we?” make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” This may be a terrible start, but it leads us to the best rule:

Rule 4. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES only OPPORTUNITIES. The next big laugh is just around the corner, as well as beautiful happy accidents. Many of the world’s great discoveries have been an accident. Bad glue created sticky notes (Post-It® Notes). A bad test for a medicine for hypertension created the right medicine for erectile dysfunction (Viagra®). (Insert joke here.)

…Later on in the interview she answered the tweeted question, What is your one word of advice for twenty somethings?:

“Trust your gut creatively and in any kind of workplace situation….”

You can download Tina Fey reading the audiobook version of Bossypants for free through, if you sign up for a 14-day free trial.

Video link here.

via Open Culture

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8 replies on “tina fey’s 4 1/2 rules (in 4 1/2 minutes)

  1. Sally, Your observation today about Lehrer’s damning brainstorming brought back a project I did in high school. We were 17 and wanted to change the way classes were taught so we could be studying the same era in all of our courses.

    Our teachers turned it into a learning experience by helping us research how a curriculum is changed.

    In the course of the research we found a definition of teaching. It was pretty sketchy, but helping an idea blossom in another’s brain is a throw of the dice. It was, “Teaching is creating a situation where an experience might happen that could lead to learning.”

    What you said about how you see creatively comes about is the same thing. Another word for what you described is “learning.” Tina Fey has nailed it down to the fine points, but Jonathan has missed the mark (and the point) entirely.

    Thanks again for making my day better (and more creative), Lynne

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