It is Classic Andy Month on The Phoenix Remix and we are not just giving you group interviews we are also giving you a proper introduction to each member of the troupe! Today we talk to member James Haskin to find out all about his world of improv.
Hello James, how long have you been improvising?
Just under four years.
How did you get into improv?
I read a description of improv on a comedy writer’s blog and thought it sounded like a fun and creative evening class. I signed up for a Hoopla beginners course before I had seen it performed live and with no intention of ever doing it in front of an audience. A few months later I nervously took to the stage (with a class that included future members of Classic Andy) and haven’t looked back since.
What is your favourite style of improv and why?
I love improv that is slow, connected and quietly surreal, which I get to do a lot of as part of James and I, but a lot of the magic of improv is not knowing what to expect and seeing what happens when different personalities interact, which I definitely get a lot of with Classic Andy.
Who are your top 5 favourite improvisers and why?
Five members of Classic Andy. I refuse to specify which ones.
What is your favourite warm up game?
I’m not a big fan of warm up games, but I do think it’s important to use that pre-show time to connect with the people you’re going to be performing with. What that actually consists of is probably different for each group of people.
Favourite short form game?
It’s probably an obvious one, but the combination of spontaneous nonsense and commitment to keeping the scene going in New Choice always makes me laugh.
What are the three top tips anyone has ever taught you in improv?
Some of the best advice that I have been given is the stuff that’s specifically what I needed to hear at that moment, but that probably wouldn’t make good general advice. Something that really stuck with me was Steve Roe telling me in a workshop that I didn’t need to worry about listening, because I was doing that anyway. That would probably be bad advice for most people, but at that point it was exactly what I needed to hear. Katy Schutte getting me to interrupt other people felt like a fun breakthrough too, but is probably not something that should be taught in beginners classes.
Some good general advice is just to say what you feel in the moment. I remember Maria Peters reminding me of that a few times early on and at some point I not only internalised that voice, but it became pretty central to the way I make things up.
In no more than 5 words, what advice would you give them?
Make all of the mistakes.
What are some of your favourite new acts you have come across this year and why?
I love how Dreamweaver Quartet play with weird ideas in a way that’s really accessible and engaging. Plus music. That’s a fun combination.
Also, the Hoopla short form and narrative teams (GÄMEZ and The Descendants) are both filled with great people and I look forward to seeing how they continue to develop.
How would you describe your personal sort of improv?
I hope that it’s about empathy. The most important thing to me is being in a space with someone and trying to connect. Everything else I can work on as I go. That doesn’t sound very funny though.
Describe each Classic Andy member in one word
I’ve gone with emojis. Hopefully that’s allowed and technically possible.