Downright Upright


59: Will Hines
Stephen Perlstein


Will Hines is on the show! You know him from The Smokes, Your F’ed up Family, The Stepfathers, Play by Play, and the bitter rival podcast to my own, Long Form Conversations. Today will and I talk about… a lot. I was having trouble focusing on one thing. Will is a wealth of information, and I know we didn’t even come close to covering all of his wisdom. But, maybe I’ll convince him to come back in a year, and we’ll do better the second time. Rate. Subscribe. Comment. Share. Enjoy. Oh! I didn’t record an outro. Well, Happy Improvising, Be excellent to each other, Golden Age of Improv. 

New improv obsession!

Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions, and prejudices. To listen there must be an inner quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be listening in alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals; we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.


Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Book of Life (via probablysean)

Posted this on my personal tumblr, but it seemed relevant here. I started taking Miles Stroth’s workshop again, which is getting more and more philosophical as it evolves, and he said something similar: “Thinking is noise.” All that thinking is me trying to push the scene into some direction. What’s actually required is a state of readiness; “Put yourself in a state of reaction,” as Miles said on day one. Don’t think at all; rely on your reaction; do the first thing that occurs to you. Listen and react. First, listen.

"When you’re thinking, you’re not listening." Maybe Miles and Jiddu should trade notes.

Jul 2

Best Of This Blog, Revised


I revised the “best of” page for this blog:

Here are some posts in this blog that got more attention than the others and some that I just like, presented in roughly reverse order of publication:

Jul 1

UCB Class Email Alerts


I made email alerts for UCB classes in both NYC and LA. They’ve helped thousands of students get into classes, and they can help you.


“Don’t try to sneak in through the window. Just come boldly onto stage, like come right through the door with your choice. Kill the judge in your head and just take action.”  - Mick Napier


“Don’t try to sneak in through the window. Just come boldly onto stage, like come right through the door with your choice. Kill the judge in your head and just take action.”  - Mick Napier

May 8

Just a quick shout out to ImprovTeams and ImprovCoaches.


The improv community in NYC is pretty amazing. I don’t just mean that people are awesome and exciting work is happening on stages (or whatever is available) all over the city 7 days a week. I mean it is, well, large. And gets larger every month (even counting in those that feel…

Los Angeles: One-time improv workshop from an old school instructor

Hey guys! MSW’s offering a one-time, 3-hour improv workshop this Saturday. The instructor is David Avcollie who has taught improv for 40 (!) years. That alone is usually enough to make me throw down some cash for a one-time workshop, but I like that it says the class “makes improv fun, easy and will demonstrate how you can enter a scene with absolutely nothing, and still have the ability to connect with your scene partner and have a strong impact on your audience.” I’ve been doing a lot of premise-stuff lately, so this sounds good to me. I’ll be there.

From the website’s class description:

Have you performed in an improv show and found yourself not having fun? Have you found yourself thinking a little too hard? David Avcollie has seen your shows, and now he’d like to help.

Join David in a one-time only, 3-hour improv and acting workshop that is designed to help players within the moment get out of their head and into their body. David has all of the tools to make your improv fun, easy and will demonstrate how you can enter a scene with absolutely nothing, and still have the ability to connect with your scene partner and have a strong impact on your audience.

David is old school, and even pre-dates “old man” Miles Stroth. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, improvisers and performers of any skill level will benefit from the wealth of information David has.

David is the former head of Voice and Speech and Acting at The Theatre School At DePaul University and co-founder of Chicago Playworks. He has been teaching, directing and coaching for over 40 years. Former students include: John C Reilly, George Wendt, Judy Greer, Zach Helm, Rachel McAdams, Jeremy Sisto, among many others.

Will Hines & Miles Stroth! The Reddit WTF Show! Phi Beta Negro! @ Wednesday Night Riot! | Facebook

Hey LA peeps! Will Hines (UCB’s F’d Up Family, writer of nonsense about improv) is doing twoprov with Miles Stroth tonight at Wednesday Night Riot. Plus we have Phi Beta Negro, High Concept, and The Reddit WTF Show. And it’s FREE (we accept donations of course). Should be fun!

Great improv is one of my favorite things to watch when I need inspiration. When you’re stuck, the creative process feels impossible and unfun. Improv is the entire creative process, from beginning to end, from inspiration to writing to performance, unfolding at its easiest and most fun. Improv reminds you that it’s fun to create things.

Post-Mortem: The Reddit WTF Show 4/9/14

I’ve always wanted to write something like this and last night’s show was so fun and eye-opening, that I thought this would be a good time to go back and try to dissect what went right, why, and see if I can replicate those things going forward while maybe dropping some of the stuff that didn’t help me. Maybe this will be fun?


Matt Besser has always talked about the importance of mindsets going into the show, and he’s completely right about that. When you’re improvising, you’re completely on instinct (ideally anyway) and you can really color those instincts with the right mindset.

I’ve been in a rut for awhile and not having a lot of fun, so I was a little anxious going in. I ended up sending a long rambly message to my good friend Char, who gave me the most amazing advice: It is through joy good things come. It’s not “If I have a good show, I will be happy”; it’s “IF I’M HAPPY, then I’ll have a good show.” (btw, Jesus Christ, Char. Changing my life and my improv in one fell swoop)

So. Point #1 was to bring joy with me to the stage.

Simultaneously, in preparation, I went to UCB’s Search History show the other night, and it was really great. They do an opening where they interview an audience member about the search history on their phone. There’s some interview stuff, some riffing—-pretty similar to what we do at Reddit (we look up weird stuff on reddit/r/wtf and take a suggestion from the audience for stuff search for). Nicole Byer had this REALLY great, simple initiation. In the opening, it came up that someone’s boss didn’t like to throw out food and he’d get mad if you did. So Nicole Byer just steps out, gets into the lower part of her voice, and goes, “Where the fuck are my beans?” That’s it! The opening suggested a character and she simply embodied that character. From there, her scene partner just straighted her and they were off.

So point #2: sometimes the easiest way to pull premise is to simply embody a character implied by the opening.

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