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Insightful, But Cynical
on May 25, 2004
This book has an "Annoyance Theatre" feel to it-it's fresh and insightful, and seductively anti-establishment. The author serves up a cynical new spin on old improv technique, and even slams improv's "old guard" in the process.
If you're a sassy, cynical improviser who knows everything (which includes every improviser on earth) you'll be hypnotized by the book's "bleeding edge" tone.
But the rebellious "us vs. them" tenor of Napier's book is so sexy, so enticing, that you may miss the irony: Napier slams the improv establishment, (but he *is* the establishment, having formed his own theatre, and having lead Second City to a rebirth.) Napier thwarts the concept of formal technique and methodology, (but then proceeds to lay down his *own*.) Napier dismisses old improv rules as observation-turned-dogma, (but then serves up several pages of his *own* observations.) Sure, the advice is great, but why does he still talk like Sparticus leading a slave rebellion? He's already king. The enemy is imaginary.
IMPROVISATION does fall short as a complete reference. It ends up being more like a book of "best practices for seasoned improvisers." New improvisers will end up feeling like they just got kicked in the junk.
I wish this book shared his real anti-establishment vision:
x What's the next wave for this art form?
x What is improv's future impact on the theatre, TV and other scripted media?
x Is there any way to unite the improv theatre community, rather than divide it into "us vs. them?"