Improv perspectives on changing code

In the last improv class I took, we spent a lot of time focusing on four kinds of scenes that appear in improv with astonishing frequency:

  • Straight/absurd: A character has a strange perspective on the world, another points out the absurdities in what they’re saying and encourages them to say even more absurd things.
  • Peas in a pod: Two characters who are very similar in demeanor, perspective, or motivation interact with each other.
  • Alternate reality: Two characters inhabit a world notably different from ours; maybe gravity is no longer a thing or it’s entirely normal to wear ketchup as formal wear.
  • Real: Two players interact with each other mostly as themselves, bringing their own personalities and perspectives to the scene.

I noticed that, when faced with a puzzle to solve, such as code to write, these kinds of perspectives often pop up too:

  • Peas in a pod: take some code that already exists in an app, clone it somewhere else and make it do something slightly different. Extract the boilerplate and ship it.
  • Real: the code around the functionality I need to change, improve, or add to is already just fine (I probably wrote it or have an awesome team); I just code like I code.
  • Straight/absurd: the code I’m working on has good parts and bad parts; if at all possible I make my changes in the good parts or figure out how to make a new good part for my changes to live in.
  • Alternate reality: the code I’m working with is utterly bizarre and strange; I have to make lots of tactical decisions about how to make progress while bringing some level of sanity to it.

See also: Novels, Yes And Improv Comedy.

By Adam Keys

Telling a joke. Typing.