Wednesday, April 12, 2017

“New Choice!”

Ken Levine, who knows a bit about coming up with new ideas (having worked on MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, BECKER, DHARMA & GREG ... ) is a big fan of improv classes as a training ground for writers.
There was another great exercise for comedy writers in Andy Goldberg’s improv class recently. This one was called “New Choice!” Two people would do a scene and periodically someone would say something and Andy would interrupt with “New Choice!” The performer then had to devise an alternate line. If Andy wasn’t satisfied he’d again bark “New Choice!” Sometimes it would take two or three lines before the scene was allowed to proceed.


Me and Fred are in a Costco.

Fred: What are you here to buy?
Me: Cheerios.
Andy: New choice!
Me: 300 rolls of toilet paper.
Andy: New choice!
Me: A case of Trojans and a dozen oysters.

Later in the scene:

Fred: I don’t have cash. Do you take American Express?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take the Diner’s Club card?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take second-party Group-ons?

You get the idea.

There's an analogous skill that's essential for anyone who teaches mathematics to the non-mathematical: when students don't get something, you should be able to come up with an alternate explanation that uses completely different words and examples.

With all due respect to the demands of rigor and correct terminology, if you can't find different ways of explaining a problem or mathematical concept, you either lack fundamental communication skills or you don't understand what you're talking about.

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