News Archives | Monkey Business Institute

How to apply the principles of improv to life’s difficulties

 

What is “Yes, And…”

Anybody who knows anything about the art form of improvisational theater has likely heard of the term “Yes, And”.  It’s a two-part process. “Yes” means whatever is happening in the current moment—whatever idea has been presented, game rule has been laid down, or storyline started—is heard and viewed as valid (or on the table, or ready to be explored, or has the floor or however else you want to describe it).  “And” means that now that we’ve accepted the current situation as valid, we pledge to build upon it—whatever platform has been set up—we’re agreeing to collaboratively engage.

Whether or not an improviser or improv group consciously follows the concept of Yes, And when performing, they are doing it anyway.  They need to agree that whoever started the scene or game has laid down the first building block of what’s to come. Then they need to commit to collaboratively building upon that first block.  Without Yes, And, collaborative improv cannot function. It becomes something else. It is a creative expression of disconnected individuals instead of an artistic group mind.

One of the main tenets of my career as creative director of an improv troupe is to spread the good word of Yes, And.  I model it on stage. I teach it in classes and corporate workshops. I speak about it in keynote speeches and in my daily life. So, I’m proud to say that many people are reaping the benefits of Yes, And, either consciously or unconsciously after working with us in person or seeing Monkey Business Institute perform.

They see that Yes, And can be entertaining and humorous, that it can be useful in their own improv performance or other collaborative endeavors, or that it can improv(e!) the energy and dynamics of their groups and their relationships.

But there’s a much deeper way Yes, And can be applied:  We can use it as a core concept to guide our lives.

 

COVID-19 is an unavoidable reality right now. 

 It doesn’t matter where you are on the planet.  It is either already profoundly affecting your work and personal life or it will be soon.  And everywhere there is fear. Of our health. Of our financial situations. Of the effect on our relationships.  As any change does to humans, it’s putting a strain on our mental health.

I propose we all embrace “Yes, And” to help us through this traumatic and unprecedented time.  Yes, And is not just an artsy-fartsy, fairy tale concept. When truly and deeply embodied, it can change lives.  I’ve seen it happen. I believe it’ll help guide us and get us through to the other side in better shape than we went in.

How can we Yes, And COVID-19? 

Applying the concept at this deeply fundamental level means saying Yes, And to the situation life has presented to you.  In other words,  you are accepting that however the pandemic has changed your life, you will accept that as the point you’re starting at and upon which you’ll build together.  Are you working from home or out of a job completely? Start your reality there. Are you or a loved one sick with the virus? Start there. Are you depressed and lonely because you can barely leave your home and can’t visit your friends?  That’s your base reality.

Accepting these changes happening in your life as real and true can be a very powerful thing.  Because you have no control over any of these things, accepting they are happening is a powerful stress reliever.  The other approaches of avoidance, denial, or fighting against it are going to cause a lot of anxiety and hold you back from improving your lot.

Once you accept the situation you’re in, you’re ready to AND it.  Now you can say, “This is my reality” or “These are my current limitations”, and then start to build off of that.  What can you do with these scenarios to build a new positive, productive life for the next weeks and months?

Here are some situations I’ve found myself currently in and how I’m Yes, Anding them.

  • YES, all the normal functions of my business (which heavily relies on direct proximity to other people) are shut down.  AND, there are unprecedented amounts of time to use personally and to ask my troupe to give me. Let’s use technology to stay connected and to try out all those ideas that have remained on the backburner for years.  So far, we’ve tried our first livestreamed show and are working on ways to entertain, teach, and train over the internet.
  • YES, I am stuck at home except for short walks or to do essential tasks.  AND, I am finally getting to those perma-procrastinated home projects (I’M ORGANIZING THE BASEMENT AFTER 11 YEARS!).  I am playing lots of games and catching up on shows I’ve wanted to watch. I finally have more time with my wife and are becoming closer with her than ever.
  • YES, I can’t go socialize with friends and family and am worried about their health.  AND, I am making way more phone calls, sending way more texts, and videoconferencing with them to stay connected and send my love.  I think it’s even helping me get over my phone anxiety. I am also upping my online group gaming by learning and using new platforms for that.

All in all, using Yes, And through this time has helped me see what positives exist in this troubled time.  And it’s helping me remember what’s important: building strong relationships with those I love and being easier on myself than I almost always had been.

 

Feeling a little squirrely during social distancing? Let us entertain you! Donate below, and we’ll send you a link to our first-ever live streamed improv show on Saturday, April 4 @ 8pm CST!

Monkey Business Institute closures in response to the COVID-19 situation

As the situation around the Coronavirus (COVID-19) evolves rapidly, the response from Monkey Business Institute has changed to address growing public health concerns. The health and well-being of our performers, audiences, staff and community is of the highest priority, and we have made the difficult decision to suspend all our public programming for the next several weeks.

Effective March 18, all performances and classes will be suspended until at least April 6, 2020. This includes classes, Mirth Madness events, and Mr. Dave’s Gift benefit show at The Brink Lounge on May 7. Moreover, all regular shows at the Glass Nickel will be cancelled through at least May 7. We will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions about events beyond April 6 accordingly.

We are currently in the process of developing alternative formats for presenting our shows and class materials, through online streaming offerings and live video events. Stay tuned for these exciting new ways to experience our award-winning improv, and help support us in these uncertain times by subscribing to or virtually attending some of these offerings. UPDATED: Join us for our first ever livestreamed show!

Because we rely on our performances and classes to keep our business running, Monkey Business Institute will be significantly affected by this closure. Due to the financial impact on our business and operations, we welcome our audiences to continue to support us in the following ways:

  1. Merch. Visit our online store to purchase t-shirts, water bottles, mugs, tote bags, and the like.
  2. Gift cards. Purchase gift cards for future shows for yourselves or friends and family.
  3. Streaming shows and classes. Watch for our new streaming offerings and subscribe when they become available. We are developing alternative formats for presenting our shows and class materials, through online streaming offerings and live video events. Got a corona-approved idea that you’d like to see us do? Share your idea with us at info@monkeybusinessinstitute.com
  4. If you have purchased tickets to an upcoming show, please consider one of the following options in lieu of a refund:
    • We can exchange your ticket for a future performance at no cost
    • We can convert your ticket purchase into a donation
    • You can gift the Monkey Business experience to a friend (or yourself!) by converting your ticket into a gift certificate for future use

We recognize that this is a difficult time for everyone, and in particular for precarious workers – artists, freelancers, service workers, who all make up a part of our community. While limiting gatherings and physical interactions is encouraged at the moment, there are still ways to check in with and support friends and loved ones.

Stay safe, and take care of each other.

Monkey Business Institute

House Blend Shakes It Up
Tuesdays & Wednesdays this March

Here at Monkey Business Institute, the month of March brings a special form of House Blend with an energy all its own—it’s called Mirth Madness! It’s a knockout-style competition that pits two of your favorite House Blend teams against each other with the winning side moving on to the next round based on audience voting. The team that goes undefeated will be the undisputed Mirth Madness champion!

Here’s how it works

Two of your favorite teams square off in head-to-head improv comedy battle. Each team has 35 minutes to put on the best doggone improv performance humanly possible. At the end of the show, audience members score each performance. The team with the highest score wins, and a winner is chosen. The winning team comes back next week to defend their title.

Get your bracket sheet and join in

Bracket sheets will be available at any of the Mirth Madness shows—grab your own to fill out and make your predictions on which House Blend team will leave the rest behind and rise to glory! Shows will run Tuesdays and Wednesdays the first half of March, and Tuesdays the second half of March. Check Show Calendar for details, including all performance dates and times.

 

Matchups: First Round

 

Tues, March 3, 7pm

TEAM 1: Firing Banks

(Dave Brunner, Stewart Hayes, John Roth)

TEAM 2: Joe Palumbo’s Jumbo Gumbo

(Brandon Hartman, Peggy Hurley, William Koebke, Andrew Rynning)

 

Wed, March 4, 7pm

TEAM 1: Proppa Culpa

(Paul Berberich, Daniel Gerdes, Jenna Grossman Spiers, Shauna Jungdahl, Dan Steger)

TEAM 2: Ladies of the House

(Erica Hagen, Laura Hewitt, Heather Renken, Paula Sherman)

 

Tues, March 10, 7pm

TEAM 1: Grapefruit Bubly

(Alex Devaux, Ryan Kushner, Eli Wilz, Olivia Witt)

TEAM 2: The Mistake

(Shivam Patel, Michelle Scarpachie, Ben Wiggins)

 

Wed, March 11, 7pm

TEAM 1: Silent Tension

(Nina Davis, Sophie McHugh, Joe Molloy)

TEAM 2: Koala Raconteurs

(Sean Bossinger, Jake Gotz, Carl Messer, Kurt Nichols, Jonathan Ross)

 

 

The voting for Isthmus’ MadFaves 2019 reader poll is currently underway. Vote for Monkey Business Institute in the Favorite Performance Group category and help us land this coveted title. Click this link and cast your vote for MBI today!

And while you’re at it, consider casting a ballot for MBI cast members and friends of the troupe who’ve been nominated as well. Who are these people/entities? What a fantastic question! These are the folks we humbly submit for your voting consideration:

Also, don’t forget to spread the word that MBI needs all the votes we can get in order to win. Tell your friends. Mention it in passing to fellow travelers. Share on all the social platforms. You know what to do, so let’s make this happen, folks! Most importantly, make sure you get your vote in before the polls close on July 31st.

On behalf of everyone here at Monkey Business Institute: Thanks!

For more info on the MadFaves 2019 reader poll, head to isthmus.com/madfaves.

The second and final round of voting for Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison 2019 reader poll is currently underway. Vote for Monkey Business Institute in the Best Comedy Group category and help us land this coveted title. Click this link and cast your vote for MBI today!

And while you’re at it, consider casting a ballot for MBI cast members and friends of the troupe who’ve been nominated as well. Who are these people/entities? What a fantastic question! These are the folks we humbly submit for your voting consideration:

  • Local Actor: Al Hart
  • Local Band or Singer – Cover Band: VO5 (Andrew Rohn)
  • Columnist/Print Journalist – Dylan Brogan
  • Cup of Tea – Common Ground (site of our new, exciting Thursday show!)
  • New Restaurant – Common Ground (see above)
  • Pizza – Glass Nickel Pizza Co. (our regular stomping grounds)
  • Takeout – Glass Nickel Pizza Co.

Also, don’t forget to spread the word that MBI needs all the votes we can get in order to win. Tell your friends. Mention it in passing to fellow travelers. Share on all the social platforms. You know what to do, so let’s make this happen, folks! Most importantly, make sure you get your vote in before the polls close on October 31st.

On behalf of everyone here at Monkey Business Institute: Thanks!

For more info on the Best of Madison 2019 reader poll, head to madisonmagazine.com/bom.

MBI Meets Up With Future MBAs

Business is our middle name. Literally. So, naturally, MBI felt right at home during a recent playshop held for incoming MBAs at UW-Madison’s School of Business. Sheila Robertson, Professional Fun-haver and MBI cast member, conducted the playshop, which was held at Grainger Hall on August 21st. Thanks to everyone who joined us – we had a great time and can’t wait to be back next year!

To learn more about playshops, click here! Share the benefits of improv with your team – contact us today to set up a playshop!

House Blend – Monkey Business Institute’s brand new weekly show – makes its stage debut on September 4th at 7pm. Brewed fresh each Tuesday, House Blend is a well-balanced, exceptionally smooth improv comedy show featuring the talents of both up-and-coming performers and MBI’s seasoned professional cast members.

Get your tickets for the first ever House Blend show and be sure to visit our Events Calendar to find future House Blend performances.

Learn the Secrets of the Improv Mindset

What if everyone in your workplace communicated more clearly? That would be pretty sweet. But how do you get to that point? How do you teach people to listen to each other more attentively?

Enter Brad Knight, founder and creative director of Monkey Business Institute and a 26-year veteran of the improv scene and experienced keynote speaker. The skills improv comedians are taught to use onstage to delight audiences translate offstage as well, and Brad is skilled at teaching you how to leverage the power of improv to help your organization communicate.

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s easier than ever to hire Brad to deliver a keynote address to your business group or organization.

  1. Shoot us a line – Tell us a little bit about yourself so that we can understand what you’re looking for from having Brad speak to your group.
  2. Iron out the details – Let’s have a quick chat about dates, locations, how many people will be attending, any special topics or areas that Brad should cover during his delivery – we’re totally cool with shaping the message to fit the needs and context of your event.
  3. It’s a deal! Once all the details are sorted out, let’s get it in writing and sign on the line which is dotted (figuratively, as least).
  4. Brad shows up! Brad slays, your audience wins the day.
  5. The wind shifts, Brad steps outside, opens his umbrella and is whisked away, soaring high above an Edwardian-era English cityscape.

Why settle for boring when you can hire Brad Knight instead! As you can see, it’s easy to do and, most importantly, your audience will never forget Brad’s engaging, entertaining delivery. Learn more here or email Brad at brad@monkeybusinessinstitute.com to get started!

Behold! Sheila Robertson, Professional Fun Haver

Bringing Improv To the People

Sheila Robertson has been performing improv, making things up, and – in general – winging it professionally since the early 1990s. She fell in love with improv comedy at 14 years old after seeing ComedySportz perform in Madison, inspiring an urge to become an improv comedian herself. Sheila began honing the craft of ‘Yes, and…’ by performing, DJing, and MCing hundreds of shows all over country, including Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. At one point she was performing four shows a week. These days, she can be seen doing shows, teaching improv, conducting Playshops, and making up songs and musical comedy with Monkey Business Institute’s The Music Department. Sheila is also a founding member of the all female improv show Yes Ma’am and loves being a professional Fun Haver.

Improv training has influenced my life from a young age. I’ve been able to use the improvisational theme of ‘Yes, and…’ in relationships, business, adventures, and life. It allows me to create quick connections, be present and engaged in the moment, think big, take risks, think creatively, and be open to possibilities that I can’t imagine on my own. – Sheila

Through the years with Monkey Business Institute, Sheila has taught countless Playshops to small groups, large groups, small non-profits, large corporations, school-aged kids, grown ups, and even a bunch of rowdy librarians. “Teaching the basic concept of improv to beginners is one of my favorite things. I absolutely believe that if people adapt their life to include just a little bit of the concepts used by improvisers to put on a fun show, the world will be a better place.”

Outside the comedy world, Sheila is an accomplished sales professional, becoming a top salesperson in several different markets, from small local businesses to large national franchises. She credits her success to improv comedy, in particular the way it forces performers to be attentive listeners, as well as being open to the ideas your scene partner throws your way.

Sheila is ready with the perfect ice breaker for any meeting and hosts a Friday at 4pm Dance Party at her work.

Improving Communication With Improv Comedy

A Custom Playshop By Sheila Robertson

Sheila Robertson (who? Get hip on Sheila now!) recently developed and conducted a custom Playshop as part of the 10th Annual UW-Madison Women & Leadership Symposium. Along with her co-presenter, Jacy Whitehead, Sheila demonstrated the ways in which the same skills utilized by improv comedians can be used to benefit one’s personal and professional life.

The UW-Madison Women & Leadership Symposium was fantastic! My favorite part of the day was looking around at the large group sessions and seeing 550+ powerful female leaders in one place. The energy in the room was palpable with a high frequency of greatness. Everyone I encountered was kind, interesting, clever, smart and open. I feel very lucky to have participated in the day. – Sheila

A big thanks to Jacy Whitehead, UW-Madison’s Learning and Talent Development department, and to all who attended this event.

Interested in learning more about our Playshops? Our website has lots of information – click here to head to our Playshop page. Still have questions? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us via email at info@monkeybusinessinstitute.com and let us know how MBI can teach valuable, lifelong skills to your team.

Monkey Business Institute Wants Your Vote

Choose MBI As Your 2018 Mad Fave

Voting has begun for the 2018 edition of The Isthmus’ Mad Faves. Winning this would mean a lot to us, so y’know… click this link and enter Monkey Business Institute in the Favorite Performance Group category. And when you’re done doing that, consider telling a friend to do the same. That would be pretty swell.

Please note that this year’s voting method is different from previous ones in that there is only one round of voting. That means we really need everyone to spread the word to friends, family, historic enemies, strategic allies, random strangers, specific strangers, interlopers, hanger-ons, ne’er-do-wells, ne’er-do-bads, or anyone else you may have contact with. Thanks in advance! You’re the best. (No, you are.)

Heart,

The Collective Consciousness of Monkey Business Institute

P.S. Go Vote! (Please)