“Yes, and…”, Marc Martel, and Queen

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The first rule of improvisational comedy, as I understand it, is as simple as it is profound. The rule is summed up in two modest words—three letters each–that together form a key that can open a door between heaven and earth. The words?

“Yes, and . . .”

Here is the basic gist paraphrased from wikipedia:

In order for an improvised scene to work, the performers involved must work together responsively in a process of co-creation. It begins when the first performer makes what’s called an offer, throwing out a word or phrase that defines some element of the reality of the scene. It is the responsibility of the next performer then to accept the offer that their fellow performer makes; to not do so is known as blocking, negation, or denial, which usually prevents the scene from developing.

Having accepted the offer of the first performer, the next performer then adds to it, building on what was offered, contributing to the scene while being shaped by it. And thus he or she makes a new offer to the next performer, who repeats the cycle. This is a process improvisers refer to as “yes, and…”–I say yes to what you offer me, and I add my part to it–and it is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every offer accepted (yes) and every contribution to the offer (and) helps the improvisers to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene. Next time you watch reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway watch for it.

I’ve been thinking about “yes, and…” lately and the way this simple idea can invite the Kingdom of God into my daily life. In any given moment am I blocking or negating God’s offer and thus preventing the scene, or the ways that heaven breaks into my world, from developing? Or do I humbly accept what comes my way as an invitation to add my part and thus progress the action—his work in and through my life.

By the time you read this we will have wrapped up the Called To Love Fall tour (but don’t worry if you missed it, we’re taking it out again in the spring) featuring Downhere, Aaron Shust, and yours truly.

All of us are on the same label—Centricity Music—and released new albums within a week of each other, so it seemed like a good idea for us to take our new songs on the road together. When the tour began, Aaron’s song “My Hope Is In You” was already climbing the charts to become the #1 song in the nation (and still holding as I write this) and my own dark horse in the race, “Remind Me Who I Am,” was just beginning to find its stride.

And then something remarkable happened. After years of being told how much he sounded like Queen’s Freddie Mercury, fate caught up with Downhere’s Marc Martel.

Earlier this year Roger Taylor of Queen decided to put together a special tribute band to celebrate their music for a summer tour called the Queen Extravaganza and announced they were taking auditions on YouTube. So at the urging of all of his friends, and after much consideration, Marc threw his hat in the ring and uploaded his rendition of “Somebody To Love.” What followed was more than anyone—even Queen—could have predicted. Marc’s audition went viral with four million views in only a few weeks. With the internet buzzing, Marc became an international media phenomenon, even landing a spot on The Ellen Degeneres show during the first week of our tour. Queen fans felt like they got Freddie back.

And it’s true – Marc’s vocal and even physical resemblance to Freddie Mercury is uncanny. In fact, I have an MP3 of Marc doing his version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that you can hardly distinguish from the original (and as good as his Mercury is, you should hear his Michael Jackson, George Michael, and even Bono). Marc is easily the best singer I know, whether he’s singing rock, pop, or even opera (check out this video of Marc singing “Nessun Dorma”). Whether or not the kind of music he sings is your cup of tea, it’s hard to deny that the boy can sing.

Even Queen’s Roger Taylor mentioned him in an interview, strongly suggesting that he’s a shoe in for the Queen Extravaganza tour–which is exciting! And kind of surreal. And even a little disconcerting. It raises a lot of questions: What does all this mean?  If Marc wins