on August 4, 2003
This is a theatre by theatre, person by person account of long form improv productions in Chicago. We're talking date by date, address by address, show by show, location by location, director by director, actor by actor, ticket price by ticket price, lease by lease!
There are an ENORMOUS number of personal pronouns in this thing. I mean, every page has seven or eight names of actors or directors associated with a particular theatre or show. I kept reading it, thinking, "Who? Who? WHO? I guess the name doesn't matter, it's the gist of the thing... Who? Who? Who? Where? A basement theatre? An angry landlord? Who? Where?"
To me, the murky throughline is what's important: the growth of the improv community, the innovations, the development of the art form.
I think this book would have benefitted readers if it had *synthesized* the changes in the art form over time, rather than miring itself in the "description of the crack in the wall" detail. I mean, hasn't videotape been invented yet?
When a chapter featurs an interview, or some kind of summary or encapsulation, it's wonderful. It overcomes its inferiority complex about Chicago theatre for a brief insightful moment, abandoning its chip-on-the-shoulder need for name-dropping minutiae.
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.
on October 12, 2002
This is a very well written history of Chicago Improv. Having just jmped into the improv waters a few years ago it was pretty interesting to leanr about the origin and growth of what we perform today.
True it can be a little bewildering to keep track of all the names and places, especially if you live outsode of Chicago. However the creation and growth of the form make for a nice read.
A great book for people new to long form who want more history than Del Close & Charna Halpern.
Now if I could only get my copy back from Erik with a K.
on May 13, 2004
...and Rob Kozlowski does a great job of showing how improv spread outside of these two venerable institutions during the late 80's throughout the 90's. Granted, it's an easier read for people who either live in Chicago or are familiar with the Chicago scene, but I have heard several improvisors who've recently moved here reference this book as a great guide to help them figure out where they want to study and where they want to perform.