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Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out Paperback – March 3, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann Drama (March 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 032500630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0325006307
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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So far I've read Chalma Halpern's "Truth in Comedy", Viola Spolin's "Improvisation for the Theater", Keith Johnstone's "Impro", and now this book, and I would say this one has the most useful information as far as *becoming a better stage improviser" goes. What I mean is that it is full of tips, advice, and useful things to consider, and seems meant for someone who has already knows a little bit about the BASICS. Mick Napier asks the reader to rethink some of the "rules" that the basic improv teaching lays down, while adding some important insights of his own.

In this sense, I think that "Truth In Comedy" is the best INTRO to improv, for someone just starting out. Then, I'd recommend "Improvise: Scene From The Inside Out" as a necessary followup, and then Keith Johnstone's "Impro" as a whole new viewpoint and also a deeper insight into the philosophy of being in the moment. (By the way, I would avoid the Viola Spolin book - it's written in a strangely stilted, boring, hard-to-read style, and really contains no memorable information).

Particularly useful in Napier's book are the "Exercises To Do At Home", which is something I've been looking for - most other books have exercises which are meant to be practiced in a group setting.

I found the chapter on "Improvisation & the Second Law Of Thermodynamics" to be unnecessary though - it didn't really add anything and seemed to be sort of a weird tangent. Luckily, it's short.

Anyhow, after reading this book I really do feel as if I understand a lot more about what separates a "great" improviser from a merely "good" one. Now comes the hard part - PRACTICING & GETTING UP THERE AND DOING IT!!!

P.S. I was recommended this book by Dustin Sharpe, my Improv instructor at the Acting School of South Florida, and also a member of the awesome improv group Mod27. Thanks Dustin!
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Format: Paperback
Improv books tend to fall into three categories:
(1) New ideas poorly articulated (Improvisation for the Theatre for example - the bible of improv that is impossible to read cover to cover)
(2) Books that cover old ground in an easy to read way that is effective for someone trying to learn improv (Keith's second book, my own book: The Ultimate Improv Book [hopefully ;>])
(3) Books with 'improv' in the title that are more collections of games or (worse) exercise-teaching plans without any learning outcomes.
This book does not fall into any of those categories. I'm amazed it was published.
It's a book for people who already know improvisation. But Mick argues that the most accepted ways to teach improvisation are not only ineffective, they are COUNTER effective.
And he makes a great argument.
I had already started on the path he lays out (I've no longer teach 'blocking' off the top, instead concentrating on reducing fear and encouraging failure), but I have not gone nearly as far as he suggests (Not teaching blocking ever). It's a bold step and I am going to try it in the next class I teach.
In short, who should buy this book?
(1) If you are already an improviser. You've been trained (somewhere) and are looking for a challenging new way to look at your crafty
(2) You are an instructor who is looking for a new way to teach (not new games, but new principles)
Who should also buy this book:
(1) If you are buying your first improv book.
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Format: Paperback
Mick Napier has a unique perspective on improvising and a strong, smart, convincing and hilarious voice with which to explain it. In many ways his book is a response to Halpern's Truth in Comedy, which reads like a guidebook with interspersed tales of people who have reached celebrity through mastering its teachings, those lessons centering around the concept of "If everyone supports each other, everyone will look good." There's also a good deal of waxing poetic about Harold form and the spiritual experience of group mind that it creates.

This book is basically the opposite of that. First, Mick dismantles the rules, telling a convincing tale about their creation in which successful improvisers attempted to replicate their triumph by analyzing and avoiding their failings. It makes enough sense to make a reader regret ever giving mind to the "rules" of improv and lament the times it's gotten them thinking instead of just doing something, which is the first step, Napier says, of good improvising. And that's at the heart of his philosophy - support your scene mates, yes, but first do the selfish thing and take care of yourself. You will support them more with a strong choice than with being polite.

Because that's the realization that anyone makes when improvising. Eventually they'll have to make exceptions and do what feels selfish. So it's best to be honest with ourselves and learn right off the bat that that is what we should be working towards, not avoiding.

Also, this may seem tangential, but Napier never name-drops once. This is part of his personal philosophy, and while he may avoid it only to keep himself from getting a big head or distracting people from what is important, the meat of the book, I believe that it works on a much more important level.
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