The Y’all Boner

Yall

NOTE: You may have found this page by Googling the word “boner” or “all boner.” Apparently, these phrases are popular enough to drive a significant amount of traffic to my humble little blog.

So to you, dear boner-hunter, I recognize this isn’t what you were looking for. (You were looking for pictures of boners! Presumably all the boners!) But please click around, read a bit. I’m a good writer, and I write about stuff you might like. If you need to move on and find the boners you seek, I understand. Thanks for stopping by, however accidentally.


 

In the middle of my improv show tonight — which was set in 1890s Russia — my character said, “I’ve worked harder than y’all have.”

Y’all.

Incongruous! Anachronistic! Very much out of time and place!!!

This was part of Nothing & Everything: Improvised Anton Chekhov Plays. And I assure you, the word “y’all” didn’t exist in the world of Anton Chekhov. Not even in translation.

My “y’all” stood out like a dick on a cake.

My scene-mates grinned. The audience laughed and laughed. I started to giggle, and so I turned my back to the crowd and pretended to be admiring the walls. It took 15-20 seconds before composure had been regained and the scene resumed.

And while I loathe myself for “y’all,” something else occurs to me…

A real boner moment like this — it’s part of the point of improv. Let’s see if I can explain my logic:

This show — Nothing & Everything —- has a pretty clear goal: Improvise a more-or-less full-length Anton Chekhov play. Ideally, our improvised play would be so damn Chekhovian that you wouldn’t be able to notice that it was made up on the spot. It’s an impossible goal to fully achieve, but we can — and have — gotten close.

But it’s not a scripted play, it’s improv. And what makes improv improv is that anything can happen. We’re not constrained by a script, which allows our humanity to leak through. The audience sees the human lurking behind the character. They see our surprise, our nervousness, our strain, our point of view, etc.

And in that moment, when the audience and the improviser are both delighting in how silly we humans are, improv is doing what it’s supposed to.

“Y’all” is a stark reminder of this. It wasn’t the “right” thing to say — as it was a cold slap to the audience, reminding them they weren’t in fact watching a scene from a 19th-century Russian playwright. It was undoubtedly a real class-A boner.

But! But it also gave an instant injection of pure delight to almost everyone in the theater, all at once. About 100 humans laughing because we all get it. We’re human. We do and say dumb things sometimes. Isn’t that a wonderful truth?

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