Yes, and…


If you ever took an improv class, you know that your first rule is to live by “Yes, and…”

Person 1: “I’m the president.”

Person 2: “And Twitter is down for maintenance. How do I keep you from nuking North Korea in your boredom!?”

Initiate, agree, escalate. It’s a basic formula you memorize. In theory, it works. Instead of shutting down the ideas of others, we’re encouraged to build on them and create a scene. It’s a great rule to a great art form for a bunch of great dudes looking to play and blow off steam from the workday.

But it’s dangerous to teach it the way I learned it.

My first improv teacher in Chicago taught us to never say no when it comes to “Yes, and…” My first improv teacher in Chicago also lost all of his jobs due to his long history of sexual harassment and abusive, manipulative behavior.

We were never told that we could say no. Improv is an art form that may have been born from a mother, but was spread by her son. And since then, it has been a straight white man’s paradise. The rules are created by these men without consideration for the survival of woman, POC and LGBTQIA.

Because of “yes, and..” I have: been sold on stage as a sex worker to the highest bidder (who bid 10 cents), was physically thrown across a room, had my body grabbed in almost every place imaginable, been kissed because LOL the shock was hilarious, roofied in a scene and dry humped in a full out gang rape scene.

It took a massive wave of rape, sexual harassment and assault for teachers to start using declaimers that “Yes, and…” is allowed to be broken if you feel unsafe. And about a year after that wave, the disclaimers have been forgotten. Or at least I haven’t heard them in a long time. We went from forcing everyone to say yes, to walking on eggshells, and are now in some weird phase where the liberty of saying no is fading away again.

“Yes, and…” empowers straight white men to do whatever they want. It teaches them that their aggressions aren’t going to be met with reluctance. It’s incredibly dangerous for anyone but straight white men.

Yet it’s still being taught the same way I learned it.

I know that like #notallmen, #notallimprovteachers teach it the same way they used it. But a hell of a lot of them do.

I had a teacher who told us that he’s going to flip a shit if he sees one more feminist rant when a man calls her a bitch onstage. That women need to stop being so defensive. He was the same teacher who also confessed that he gave us all nicknames like “hot one, off limits (boyfriend)” and “bitchy looking one”. Oh, and he still teaches.

We need to teach people to say “No” onstage just as much as we teach “Yes, And…” To teach consideration and escalation instead. If I was taught consideration and escalation, I would probably have taken the scene where I was being sold and owned it instead.

“You’re a two cent whore. Anyone willing to bid higher for her?!”

Consider, consider, consider

“Mr. Reilly, comments like that are exactly why management brought you to this workplace harassment class.”

Now I have the power and he feels like shit.

It shouldn’t be up to us to have to react to lines like that, but by teaching us that “yes, and…” isn’t always the answer, at least we’re walking around with a coat of armor. By teaching the entire class to consider and react, you’re letting Creepy Classmate #3 know that his ideas won’t in fact always be supported.

We learn that we have to learn the rules in order to break them, but when the rules are created by a bunch of white college dudes, they need to be revised. This is why I’m no longer accepting “Yes, and…” as the universal rule to improv. Universal rules are never made for the benefit of the minority. While “yes, and…” may be freeing to the average improv bro, it’s dangerous to me. It hurt me way more than it ever helped free my mind.

I’m not here to stroke the egos of improv bros anymore.

Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

“Go live the life you want to live, lady. Seriously.”


My favorite musical only lasted a few months on Broadway… and I found it by chance.

The summer before I went to college, my mom told me that seeing the opening night of a new show on Broadway was on her bucket list. A few weeks later, I was walking in Times Square on Tony Awards weekend when I saw that a new show called [title of show] was coming to Lyceum Theatre. Not knowing (or caring) what it was about, I bought tickets to opening night.

[title of show], in a nutshell, follows four people as they create a musical. The unique, and incredible, part of being the audience on opening night is that you are watching the musical happen in real time. You’re able to see their dreams & hard work (what the entire musical was about) unfold right there and then. I’ll never forget being at the stage door when they walked out and realized that all these people were there for them.

I remember sitting in the audience and falling in love with Susan Blackwell. She was incredibly funny, fearless and unapologetic. She was the first character in a Broadway show that I looked at and thought, “Oh, I could play her.” Most females characters in musicals were beautiful powerhouses who sang ballads effortlessly. I could appreciate and wish that I could play their roles… but the truth was that I was always the funny person who had a decent voice…  but I wasn’t about to tackle a Babs song. Susan was arguably the funniest person in the cast… watching her gave me all the confidence I needed in my last few weeks on the East Coast before leaving for Chicago to pursue comedy.

I wrote Susan after the show. I told her all about how much she inspired be and my concerns on being a female in comedy. I thought it’d be outstanding if she just read it. Not only did she read it, but she wrote this note back:




Thank you so much for your glorious letter. WOW! Im blown away!!!!

Listen to me when I say this to you: I know there are a lot of funny dudes–some of them are nice, some of them are destructive douchebags. I know that I can stand toe to toe with any of them. Apparently, so can you. Gender or appearance have nothing to do with it. Don’t put that on yourself, and don’t let anyone put that on you.

Go live the life you want to live, lady. Seriously.

Your email rocked me. Let us agree that we rocked each other.

Til next we meet… Sb

Here I am six years later… and I’ve been thinking about Susan’s advice, and this show in general, a lot lately. As I’m on the verge of writing my first sketch show with my friend, and trying to muster up the courage to do so, I can’t help but think about [tos]. It terrifies me to think of putting my own material out there. It’s easy when I’m performing someone else’s work… but my own? So many things run through my head – Will people think it’s funny? Do I really have enough time to do this? How do I even write a two person show? What if no one comes? What if it’s not good enough?

At some point, you have to tell yourself to shut the hell up. The only person standing between you and what you want to do is your own self doubt. Write what you think is entertaining… what you’re passionate about… and it’ll come through. The end result doesn’t matter. So what if no one cares about something you put your all into? Writing the show in itself is enough of an accomplishment. Anything else is a bonus.

Six years ago, I was weeks away from moving to Chicago and I was terrified. Susan was the first person to make me feel like I could do really do this. “Go live the life you want to live, lady. Seriously.”

The other night, I performed in my 25th improv show. Today, I’m in the process of writing my very first show. I’m pretty sure that I’m living the life I wanted to live. 


Geeking out over Susan before moving to Chicago. When I told her that I was scared of how I’d fit into the comedy world, she told me that if anyone gave me any trouble, I could tell them to suck her dick. 

The pressure to write.


I have an annoying little habit. I write down everything. And I mean everything. I don’t leave the house without two notebooks – one 8×11 that I use for content, material and writing notes and a 3×5 that I use for inspiration, advice, tidbits about life from my teachers and performance notes. It comes in handy.

Every Saturday I have to turn in a sketch. We’re given a style and the task of completing it by next week’s class. Homework. Easy right? Well, usually it is. This week is really hard.

Last week I turned in a sketch that I thought was too easy. I essentially took my life and just heightened it… made fun of it. An office sketch with an intern who was inspired (and played by) a very close friend of mine who is immensely talented. I thought it was silly and cute… but too easy… too overdone. Imagine my surprise when it went over really well. I mean, it was something I didn’t even work hard at. I just wrote as myself, for myself. I didn’t think about the social connotation or life questions. I just did it.

So now I’m sitting here, trying to get myself to write, and I have this pressure that I’m putting on myself to really hit it out of the park. Now I have something to live up to. Now there’s the expectation for me to write something else relatable yet unique. Before, I would just go for it and not really care if people liked it. Now, I’m sitting here trying to study myself and figure out how the hell I did it the first time.

So what do I do now? Well, I turned to my notebook. I flipped back to when I first came up with the premise… I looked for any kind of hint as to where to begin. Instead, I found a quote I wrote down from my teacher after she saw my sketch last week. She goes around and gives everyone feedback… how to improve, what went right, what didn’t hit. Last week she got to me and kind of stared at me for a bit.

“Annie Taylor. I almost said ‘You’re perfect, never change.’ But it’s my duty to give you something to work on… so let’s talk about your title…”

Nothing will ever be perfect. Even when you get it all right, someone will always have a way to make it better. So why put the pressure on yourself to make something perfect? All you can do is put out something that you believe in… that you think is really good… and hope that others like it too. I need to stop looking at what I did right in the past and focus on what other things I can do in the future. If perfect can’t happen anyways, why am I so scared that I won’t be perfect?

I found another great quote from a previous teacher when I was breezing through my notes. He said, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. It just doesn’t exist. You can look at anything in the room and get inspiration. Just start writing. So, no… I don’t believe in writer’s block. But I do believe in lazy writers.”

Don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t be a lazy writer. Just write what you’d want to watch.