Director Adam Mastroianni talks us through the process of improvisation as practised by the Oxford Imps since 2004

I know a magic word. Two, actually. They’re very simple words, too, some of the first ones we ever learn.

The first is “yes”; the second is “and”. Improv comedy, the art and alchemy of creating something funny out of nothing, is built entirely on those teensy tiny words working in tandem. “Yes, and” means that what one person creates everyone else will add another detail on top. String together enough yeses and ands, and, like a chef carrying a vat of hot soup across a greased floor, hilarity inevitably ensues.

True masters of “yes, and” look like psychics. They appear the moment a scene needs them, craft a witty line half a second after hearing the audience suggest it.

They make scenes burst out of the ether, characters rise from empty stages, and stories – untold fairy tales, Shakespearean comedies lost to time, even never-before-seen full-length show-stopping musicals –warp into being right before your eyes. They’re very simple words, too, some of the first ones we ever learn.

Nearly everyone who watches improv immediately swears it’s impossible. “How do you think so fast?” they ask. Any good improviser can tell you the answer: they think less. “Yes, and” does the work for you. That’s why anyone can improvise – in fact, unless you script all your interactions, you’ve been improvising all day.

People don’t believe us until they come to our workshops, where they go from staring awkwardly at the floor to doing real, funny scenes with each other in an hour and a half. We don’t teach anyone how to be funny, only how to agree. And like magic, that agreement allows the funniness to show itself. Unlike stand-up or sketch comedy, improvisers don’t ply their art by sitting in their underpants, a snifter of cheap whisky in one hand, staring at a blank page until jokes appear on it. Instead, we capture onstage the pure spontaneous joy of people having a laugh with each other.

The Oxford Imps are one of the oldest improv troupes in the country, and meet at the Wheatsheaf Pub every Monday of term time.

Their show Hyperdrive: Improv Meets Technology runs from February 11-13 at the Simpkins-Lee Theater. See the website