Timothy Olyphant in Justified
Timothy Olyphant in Justified (from buddytv.com)

I thought of justify for today’s word not because of the TV series “Justified” (though I do like the show), but because it’s a term that comes up often in improv.

I think justification often implies some action that needs to be justified. In other words, there seems to be an element of guilt, wrongdoing or at least some action outside the norm that requires a reason for it being acceptable. 

In improv, justify is used more in the sense of adjusting to make sense of things. For example, one game we used to play where two people enter a scene, each with their first line predetermined. The game is to somehow justify the two disconnected lines.

Player 1: “Purple is my favorite color.”

Player 2: “I want a divorce.”

Player 1: “What!? We don’t have to paint the living room purple.”

Silly, I know, but the principle comes into play a lot in improv. What I like about it is that it’s about saying “Yes” to whatever comes and cooperating with your partner to make it work. One of the joys of improv is having two (or more) people pulling offers from wherever such things come and seeing what can be made from them.

One aspect of justifying that may not be obvious is radical acceptance. In improv, we adopt an attitude that every offer is valid, even if the offer seems completely random and unjustifiable. Of course, sometimes our attempt to justify fails, but if we tried sincerely and good-naturedly, chances are we had fun in the process of creating a complete mess of a scene.

In a way, justifying is about tapping into our creativity to solve a problem. I can almost hear Tim Gunn saying, “Make it work.”


J is also for Juxtaposition and Joy. I rarely, if ever, relate to or have anything to do with joy, but I came across these two, very different takes on the word, and thought I’d juxtapose them (sort of). Just because.

Can you guess which one I identify with more?

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J is for Justify
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4 thoughts on “J is for Justify

  • 04-11-2012 at 7:07 pm

    Just checking out your ABCs and am enjoying your train of thought. I’m more of an East Coast jamband fan than West Coast, but can appreciate a little String Cheese. Loved the improv example!

    • 04-11-2012 at 8:35 pm

      Thank you!

      I don’t know if I’ve really listened to any other jam bands. String Cheese can get a little country-ish for my tastes, but I really enjoy some of their jams. Any recommendations?

        • 04-12-2012 at 11:38 am

          Thanks for the tip! I’ll check them out.


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