Truth In Comedy: The Manual For Improvisation Paperback – May 5 1994
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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.
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 ChryslerSee all Product Description
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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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Pretty good. A few terms are used without being defined so a newbie might need to go in search of definitions. Otherwise, a new improviser will learn a lot of the basics. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Carrie Hunter
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
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. Read morePublished on March 10 2004
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 31 2004
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 morePublished on Dec 21 2003
This book has one major gaff. It tries to squeeeeeeze in the improv basics, while it teaches the advanced "Harold". Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2003
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 morePublished on July 10 2003
This book provides a good overview of the skills needed to perform improv commedy, but you can't learn improv this way. Read morePublished on May 29 2003
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 morePublished on Nov. 26 2002 by Sean D. Francis
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