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Truth In Comedy: The Manual For Improvisation [Paperback]

Charna Halpern , Del Close , Kim "Howard" Johnson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 5 1994

Truth In Comedy is a Meriwether Publishing publication.


Frequently Bought Together

Truth In Comedy: The Manual For Improvisation + Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out + The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond
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Product Description

From Amazon

Who would have ever thought that learning the finer points of improvisation could be such fun? The "Harold," an innovative improvisational tool, helped Saturday Night Live's Mike Myers and Chris Farley, George Wendt (Norm on "Cheers") and many other actors on the road to TV and film stardom. Now it is described fully in this new book for the benefit of other would-be actors and comics. The "Harold" is a form of competitive improv involving six or seven players. They take a theme suggestion from the audience and free-associate on the theme, creating a series of rapid-fire one-liners that build into totally unpredictable skits with hilarious results. The teams compete with scoring based on applause. The "Harold" is a fun way to "loosen up" and learn to think quickly, build continuity, develop characterizations and sharpen humor.

From Booklist

The brain wave of three improv gurus, this book is a complete guide to improvisation for both novice and professional actors and comics. An outgrowth of the successful curriculum initiated by two of the authors at the ImprovOlympic, it describes improvisational tools and techniques, from the "Pattern Game" and "The Hot Spot" to the innovative and sophisticated "Harold." Far from an ordinary how-to handbook, this clearly composed authority on comedic improvisation stresses intuitive thinking, listening skills, continuity, characterization, and, most important, teamwork. Numerous testimonials from reputed actors strengthen the text's credibility, already secured by the expertise of its authorship. Sample scenes and games take hilarious twists while illustrating the inevitability of connections and the importance of justification among team members. The authors' primary focus is the achievement of the group mind, and the book's chapter construction necessarily culminates with that creative misnomer known as the Harold. The manual is flexibly designed to allow for easy performance in both acting classes and professional settings and will prove a valuable reference source to actors and directors alike. Kathleen Chrysler

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too much WANK! March 21 2002
By Reba
Format:Paperback
I found this book a waste of time. It was a real chore to get through as the authors spend half of the book blowing sunshine up Del Close's _______( fill in for yourself). The HAROLD is a form of improvisation for the self - centered. As I was reading its description I could ask myself only TWO questions: As a performer -why would I want to alienate my audience with my own self-indulgence? As an audience member - why would I want to watch something like this?. The authors discuss this improv form as though it is some sort of mystical, exclussive cult activity. No thanks. Keith Johnstone's IMPRO and IMPRO FOR STORY TELLERS are the only way to go if you are interested in improvisation that your audience will remember long after they've left the theatre. If you are more interested in the inner workings of your own mind - stay home and do a Harold with your friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars You know Who?? March 10 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I think this book is a complete waste of time and merely serves as a lure to get people to take classes at the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. It is incoherent and all it suffices to do is drop names the entire time. Wow, so famous people studied at IO then we all should. A complete ego stroke for owner Charna Halpern, but nothing new is taught here. Do yourself a favor, save the money on the book and actually go take classes. This is paperback trash.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If who you know makes you funny... Jan. 31 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
the author of this book is a laugh riot. I had a hard time getting past the name dropping and self congradulatory, over the top story telling. The information that comes later in the book is pretty good, having studied with some of the people Ms. Halpern refers to as if she gave them birth. You are never, however, going to learn the "Harold" from a book. Go take a class and get out on stage. Stage time is everything.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy for Die-Hards Looking to Progress July 23 2002
Format:Paperback
...
This book is primarily dedicated to "The Harold," the standard of long-form improv. It's a difficult form to master, but one that can impress, entertain, and even touch both audience and actors profoundly on stage. There is a shortage of quick, easy games in this book. Even those that are detailed exist to help build on the Harold. This book is really meant for those who are ready to graduate to the next level of improv.
Many people don't like the Harold, but all long-form comedy improv, at some level, uses some variant of the Harold. If this isn't what you want, spend your time and money finding out more about Paul Sills' Story Theater (which is, of course, not covered in this book). Be warned, though, Story Theater often isn't funny, and appeals more to art afficianadoes than "WLiiA" fans, and isn't as renumerative.
Most of the book is given over to an explanation, not of performance standards or guidelines, but of the philosophy underlying improv in general, and the Harold in particular. If that's not what you want, go get another book. The standards in this book, moreover, are really intended for larger groups. The four-player format of "WLiiA" would be unable to keep up with a full Harold. Be sure you have enough actors ready to do the next big thing before you sink your money into this book.
This isn't a beginner's text for amateurs, it's for those who have a committment to creating improvisational art. If that's you, this is your book. If not, you're in a bad way spending money on this puppy. Know yourself and your team before you invest your earnings on this slim volume.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A focused, helpful improv manual Nov. 8 2001
Format:Paperback
So frankly, most acting books, or books that try to tell you how to "do" art make me want to hit myself over the head, repeatedly. The first half of this book is no different.
It spends a lot of time initially setting ideas up, and talking about what a great guy Del Close was (which he was, but still, it gets to be a bit much). But it all starts to pay off in the second half, when we get into the specifics of the Harold.
Harold is a form of improv unlike any that I've ever seen and participated in, and not to be glib, but it takes improv to the level of art. This book clearly sets out exactly how to perform the Harold: what the idea behind it was; how to interact with your teammates on stage; and how to put together the final product. It's no substitute for actually getting up and doing it, but it's not meant to be.
The book is straightforward, easy to read, and pretty short. Its style is that of an elaborated outline, which makes it simple to follow, as well as to check back for relevant parts when you need them in rehearsal or class.
Truth in Comedy is of course a must have for anyone taking or thinking about taking improv classes. For everyone else, it's a quick read that might make you think differently about improv as an art form. Also, it's pretty funny. Yeah, that too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great tool for improv and acting Nov. 21 1999
Format:Paperback
Truth in Comedy starts off with a rather immodest amount of name dropping and self congratulating, but after those first few chapters, things take off.
The book is intended to be a rough guide to teaching and performing "Harold," the signature improvisation form of the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. While the text focuses heavily on the structure of the form, it also holds page after page of advice and tools for any improviser or actor. The lessons in agreement, trust (in yourself and others), and teamwork can be used in any improv form (shortform or longform). And it definitely can teach us actors a thing or two about performing a scripted show.
One of my few complaints about the book is it lacks concreteness. The author alludes to the phenomenon of group mind, the beauty of connections, and the wonder of "finding Harold." Despite giving examples, the reader is left with a "you had to be there" feeling, which, unfortunately, I don't think there's a way around. Harold is very much a "you had to be there" experience for both audience and performer. It's difficult to capture in words and in print the joy of seeing a spontaneous occurrence that takes both the performer and audience by complete surprise. I've found myself frequently recounting shows I've seen to uninterested or confused expressions, while the night before I was doubled over in laughter.
So, to sum it all up, if you're interested in learning Harold (especially if you're a student at the Improv Olympic) or picking up some very useful improv tools, give this book a gander. And if you have an old copy lying around, take another look. It's rare that I open this without finding something to inspire me or pull me out of an improv rut.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Truth in improv
the anecdotes and examples of comedy are pretty hokey, but as a guide for understanding improv, this book is fantastic.
Published on Nov. 12 2010 by windomearle
5.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start and stop
This is THE book. If you'll only listen to its ideas about support and listening, this is the only text instruction you'll ever need. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Chemical Engineering 403; Prereqs - none;
This book has one major gaff. It tries to squeeeeeeze in the improv basics, while it teaches the advanced "Harold". Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...
If you think "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is funny, and that's the kind of comedy you want to do, then this might help. I personally don't care for that. Read more
Published on July 10 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, but you can't learn improv this way
This book provides a good overview of the skills needed to perform improv commedy, but you can't learn improv this way. Read more
Published on May 29 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, and . . .
To be honest, I don't know why I wanted this book. I had been spending a lot of time at ImprovOlympic and was even thinking about taking classes there, but I feared my wit wasn't... Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2002 by Sean D. Francis
4.0 out of 5 stars great for beginners
I found this book to be very easy reading. I enjoyed it very much. When looking for basic information, easily understood
for a beginner, this book is wonderful. Read more
Published on May 8 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Elementary my dear Harold
The best.
(Well, ok Keith Johnstone's works are outstanding as well).
Interesting that a book that is 'basic'
(translation: free of pretentious doubletalk)... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2002 by the wizard of uz
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous book
This book goes into the group mind ideas related to improv... you know how you can transcend your seperated mind and experience a larger awareness... Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2001 by F. C. Boyd
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