I’ve been reading The Codeless Code, a collection of software koans named after The Gateless Gate with lovely illustrations and commentaries and poems which are very fun to read – I’ve also been reading the Collection of Stone and Sand, a collection of Zen koans.  Here is a well-known koan, redecorated to be about improv.

(The Codeless Code has a section dedicated to cultural appropriation and authenticity, but I’d prefer it if you read the following as me attempting to follow a form, much as I might try to write a sonnet.  Nee-Nee is my name for my first clown.)


The student Kǒu went to the master Nee-Nee.  “How should I initiate a scene about economic inequality, where my partner must understand that they should play low status to me, and in conflict, and it must be in a village setting so I can use the rest of my ideas for the scene?” she asked.

Nee-Nee picked up a heavy basket and groaned at its weight.  She said, with satisfaction, “Thirty pounds of flax.”

The improv student speaks, eager

To show how clever they are;

The improv teacher shares their wisdom.

The clever student becomes dumb.