on June 3, 2002
I bought this because I've done some long-form improv and i wanted to learn more about the form. The book stays pretty focused on the history of modern improvisation and its unique incarnation in Chicago. It explores lives of many famous teachers and teams. At certain points, it reads like a seventh grade history book. After you read this book, you can feel pretty sure you will be able to sweep any "Improv Names and Dates" category on Jeopardy.
I was more interested in its thoughts on long-form improvistaion in general which it did spend some time with. It highlighted some basic tips, some different structures (as opposed to the Harold which most long-formers are at least familiarly with, including La Ronde, Close Quarters, Deconstruction and others), differing long-form philosophies, and finally some predictions on the future of the form. I didn't find many "shortcuts" for the performer.
If you're looking for a "how to", I'd recommend Truth In Comedy (which this book makes frequent reference to). But if you're looking for the "why and where," this is an interesting book to pick up.
on July 6, 2003
Rob's book covers the history of Chicago improv rather well. The only other book that does it is "Whose Improv Is It Anyway?: Beyond Second City" by Amy Seham. Her book is more historical/sociological than this one. His book is rather brief, and it almost assumes that you've read other books on improv before you picked it up. It has brief descriptions of several different long form structures, which makes it and "Truth in Comedy" by Close, Halpern, and Johnson the only two books that discuss long form. While it does offer some good advice on performance, it should be a supplement to your library and not your only source of information.