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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Fine Art of "Grodining"

Grodining
Definition: To flat out deny someone by saying "no," offering little or no explanation or alternative
Etymology: I don't know what etymology exactly means, only that it has nothing to do with bugs. So I will say that this term comes from a bit part by Charles Grodin in the Mike Meyers movie, "So I Married and Axe Murderer" (an underpreciated and quite funny movie, by the way) You can see the clip below.

Origin: Years ago, me and my crazy improv friends were watching "So I Married an Axe Murderer." This scene struck a chord with us because a) it's funny as all get out and b) it exemplifies a key improv rule.

That rule (and step number 3 in the step-by-step process to improvising with anything) is to say "yes, and," instead of "yes, but." Basically, say "yes," not "no."

In this scene, Grodin is laying some serious "yes, but" smack down. Funny for us because it's in a scripted comedy, but an awful way to improvise and a terrible way to communicate with the people around you.

In improv comedy, saying "yes, but" is referred to as "blocking." After we saw this scene, we started referring to blocking as "Grodining." Now you can too!

You can surely relate to being Grodined. And you know it feels awful and gets you pissed, so you know it's a bad thing to do. The thing is, are you sure that you yourself don't Grodin others? Pay attention and notice if and when you do.

What's the alternative to Grodining? Good question, and one I get a lot when talking about the concept of "yes, and." The alteranative to Grodining is not to say "yes" to everything, because sometimes you really don't agree or it's just not practical. There are three ways to stay out of the "Grodin Zone." Here they are, from most to least effective:

1)Say "Yes" or "Yes, and"
Simple enough. Sometimes you Grodin because you are afraid, or uncertain, or just feeling negative. In these cases suck it up, say "yes," and reap the rewards.

2) Be creative, and find a third alternative
Someone wants you to say "yes." You want to say "no." Who says there are only two answers? For some reason we humans are binary creatures. We like things as black or white, yes or no, on or off. Use a little creativity and find a solution that makes both people happy. With practice, it's not that hard.

3) Offer an alternative
Sometimes you have to say "no." Maybe you really don't like the idea, or maybe it's just crazy or impractical. The way to avoid deflating someone's spirit with a hardcore Grodin here is to offer an alternative with your "no." "Hey, can we go see the new Star Trek movie tonight?" Instead of, "no," try, "no, but we cen go see it two days from now." Simple but powerful.

Astute readers will have notices that this started with a "no, but." "No, but" is similar to "yes, and."

IMPORTANT NOTE #1: "No, but" does not equal "yes, and!" "Yes, and" is much, much more powerful in every way. Saying no is your last resort. When you do have to say no, make it a "no but."

IMPORTANT NOTE #2 This is for you improv comedians who will misinterpret this. Don't use "no, but" as an improviser. That's bad improv!

From now on, pay attention to when you catch yourself Grodining. When you do, try saying "yes" instead, or offer an alternative, or, when you must, at least say, "no, but." The people around you will appreciate it.

And you just may he helping stop an Axe Murderer.

Grodin in So I Married An Axe Murderer:


Bonus!
To see some true comedy, you must watch Charles Grodin hit on Miss Piggy from the Great Muppet Caper. Too good!

1 comment:

Kirstin said...

Charles Grodin rocks. And there is another CG scene - this time from Midnight Run - that also helps to exemplify your "yes and" point as well as your point about giving people a reason and they will comply. Here's the scene:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyoDs02Gtk0

-K