We’re back to my favourite week of the year! This week I’ll talk about the philosophy Will Hines centred his classes around during his week in London back in September.

Looking at everything you do in improv with the Voice of Reason/Unusual Person dichotomy in mind is super useful and makes everything easier! If you’re not familiar with the Voice of Reason/Unusual Person, think about the Straight Man/Crazy Man concepts – these are just more inclusive ways of describing the same concept, because updating ourselves is important and every little thing we can do to increase inclusiveness, even in what concerns language is how we evolve!

Analysing comedy is a dicey subject. – Will Hines

All you need in a scene is a good base reality! That doesn’t mean you need to stay super grounded in your choices – you can be way high, in an alien spaceship in outer space, you just have to think what the situation you’ve just created is akin to in real life. The only time a scene will sound weird and flee from your control is when you fail to map the seemingly unreal scenario to a reality you know in your life and which the audience will be able to relate to. It’s perfectly imaginable to have an alien spaceship in outer space mapped as a work environment where most people have had experiences in and can easily relate to.

There will always be someone in a scene making an unusual choice, that person will be the unusual person and the role of the voice of reason is never to talk the unusual person out of their unusual behaviour, but to ask all the questions that unusual behaviour is prompting in the audience’s minds and generate justifications for that behaviour, while entertaining the unusual person enough, allowing the scene to keep on going.

In the middle of the scene, don’t think too much. Just be the character! – Will Hines

The justifications we are looking for can be based on sensible or dumb grounding. More often than not we’ll go for the sensible grounding, i.e., the reasons that are a good, sensible justification for someone to act a certain way in real life. However, having a dumb reason for a certain behaviour may make it a lot more fun to play it. Always look into philosophy, history or stakes to find your justification and reasons to keep on having a certain unusual behaviour.

Have fun with accepting what is given to you and don’t worry about the future of the scene – Will Hines

Three simple things to take home and hugely improve your scenework that I took from Will’s classes: 1)Start a scene by tonally agreeing with the scene initiator – you don’t need to make big choices to start with and should accept the offers your scene partner is giving you, including the tone in which they start the scene with; 2)Playing with an emotion rather than with a behaviour will make the progress of your show, as you pick up the character later in other beats a lot simpler, as it’s much easier to remember how you were feeling than what you were doing or saying; 3) When you heighten a certain behaviour or emotion, there’s no need to make it bigger and bigger and end up in heaven talking to god – you’ll find it a lot easier to heighten, by increasing the specificity of a certain emotion or behaviour. Less going through the Filofax of ideas, i.e., less thinking and more playing the character you’ve created and their emotions truthfully.

If you want to listen to a grounded reality taking place in an alien spaceship in outer space, why not have a listen to Mission to Zyxx – an improvised sci-fi sitcom?

If you want to join me in learning the philosophies of experienced improvisers, check out C3?’s guest teacher’s workshops on our website.

Written by Mariana Feijó