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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise from a cynic
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...
Published on April 27, 2004 by Edward J Nevraumont

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Overall it is a good book. It gives some interesting insight to strenghten your improv but it doesn't cover all styles of improvisation such as storytelling or long form improv. I am a bit confused, I wonder who he wrote the book for. Beginners? or advanced?
If it is for the first, then the book lacks explanations on basics, if it is for adavanced, some of its...
Published 16 months ago by patrice


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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise from a cynic, April 27, 2004
By 
Edward J Nevraumont (Philadelphia, PA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (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. Buy this book, but also pick up one of the standards - know what you are not learning - if only so you can discuss it with other improvisers (I know Mick would not suggest this, but we don't agree on everything)
(2) If you are set in your ways and figure you know the right way to do improv - buy this book and see if you can open your mind a little. I would be interested to hear counter arguments to Mick's ideas.
I am calling all my improv friends and telling them to buy this book. It's the first book with something new to say in a long time.
Congratulations Mick. I wish you had written this book earlier.
Edward J Nevraumont
Co-author: The Ultimate Improv Book
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on improvisation, a must read!, June 19, 2006
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, unique, irreverent, funny and incredibly smart, September 24, 2008
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (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. Reading so many stories of those that have gone on to celebrity level success as improvisers can make a reader think that it's a definite thing, that they, too, can get famous with improv. Not that they can't, but it can make this fame the focus rather than taking it slow and steady, and it can be very disappointing when experience inevitably disproves the idea that success will come immediately. That can be one's goal, but constant name-dropping has a tendency to distort one's desires into greed and disillusionment.

Back to the book at hand. Now, nothing is perfect; you might, however not exactly notice this one's imperfections. I'll explain. Napier's voice is an incredibly fun one to read. He is irreverent and witty, giving the text the feeling that he wrote it with the "Do whatever and don't ask why" philosophy in mind. In other words, saying what needs to be said is more important than avoiding sounding goofy or silly if it serves the text. And by the time you reach the "common problems" or "advanced improvisation" chapters, you will be too caught up in his humor and wisdom to notice that he's basically doing what he initially impugned - explaining how to improvise by saying what not to do. True, he begins with the disclaimer that he's really not saying what not to do, but pointing out things that can weaken a scene. And, in Napier's defense, he does explain that, for the most part, they are bad things to do because they avoid improvisation itself - preconceiving ideas, for example. Also, reading these things after we are told just to do anything and take care of yourself and so forth really feels like you're building on the basics, which go against the "rules". But, in the end, he is doing what he said not to in telling us, basically, what not to do. But would we have a problem with this advice if we didn't believe in Napier's wisdom enough for them to jar us? No. And, in my opinion, every aspect of these seemingly contradictory segments make complete sense and, indeed, work.

That being said, going to an improv workshop directly after reading this, I did feel myself getting up in my head because I was so afraid of reverting to the rules that Napier warns against that I froze up. Does that mean I never should have read the rules to begin with, or does it mean that following Napier's advice can get one in their head as much as anything else? I couldn't tell you, but it's certainly something to consider.

Finally, there is one segment of this book that I really feel sets it apart, and that's the second to last section, his Exercises to Do at Home. So many times I've wanted to practice but had no one with whom to do it; well, no longer. This is an incredibly valuable portion, one that makes complete sense to have yet that no one seems to have come up with and produced. This stuff is worth the price of the book alone.

Even if you don't think you'll jive with Napier's philosophy, I strongly recommend his book to anyone wishing to advance in improv. It may be jarring to see your prior training via Truth in Comedy, etc. be basically excoriated, but it's a good kind of jarring, and one that everyone should have so as to be completely honest with themselves about it. And he writes in such an enjoyable, captivating, humorous, wise way that Improvise might be one of the best, smartest and most entertaining books I've ever read, improv-based or otherwise.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for the serious performer, April 9, 2004
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
This is an awesome new addition to the list of improvisation books currently out there. Mick covers new ground with new ideas and new ways to look at traditional improv thought ie Truth in Comedy. It cleared up so much that I found foggy about my formal training and provided me with so much to move forward with. This book is a must for anyone with a desire for quality work. Well done Mick. My thanks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way Into Improvisation, June 14, 2010
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
Mick Napier claims to not lay out any rules. Not strictly true, but the point holds: thinking about what to do and what not to do won't help you advance a scene. Napier's new rules and explanations should help anyone who's done some improvising, and knows the feeling of a scene never taking off. If you don't know that feeling, I'm not sure that this book will connect.

I found 'Improvise' much more helpful than 'Truth in Comedy' for actual scene work and, as everyone notes, less preachy and self-congratulatory. That's not to say that 'Truth' isn't worth your time, just that if I had to pick only one it's this one.

Also, Napier includes exercises that one person can do on their own, which I found very helpful. These are mainly oriented toward developing mental muscles that allow you to make bigger, quicker leaps in thought, and get comfortable with first thoughts and going with your gut. So, good exercises for just being a human.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful book for improvisors, June 8, 2007
This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book very much. Rather than force you to learn what NOT to do in improv (The Rules) he explains why he thinks the rules came to be and why they are not necessarily important. He focuses more on what works and what doesn't. To do good improv you need to be out of your head, rather than in your head filtering through rules and determining what your correct response should be. Use your total brain power reacting and creating! He then presents concepts that can be used to advance scenes to a higher level. Best of all he has numerous things to practice at home, by yourself, to help you become a better improvisor. I read this and Truth in Comedy at the same time. They are both very good but I liked this one better for where I am in improv right now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book for a student of Improv, November 15, 2010
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
I thought that Mick Napier did an amazing job in giving tools for a performer to use and wrote it in a very informative manner. I'd highly recommend this to anyone interested in Improv but don't make it your first book and don't read before you master the art of yes, anding... because he basically tells you to think differently, which only works if you have the basics down first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent For Group Use, January 10, 2010
This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
At its core, Improvise is a book about Improvisation, written by improvisers and meant to be read by improvisers. While there are many valuable aspects to this book, by far the most valuable is the writing style. Napier writes from behind years of experience and thought and clearly demonstrates his knowledge without out flaunting his credentials and famous alumnus of his classes and school. This book is meant to be used in rehearsals. Bring it with you to your troupe's practices and read pages out loud to the group. Try the exercises and allow Mike to vicariously direct your group, since many of the examples he touches upon in the book often happen in rehearsal. This is not the book to be read alone and in ones head, leave that for TRUTH IN COMEDY. This is the active form of TRUTH IN COMEDY. An excellent book for ensembles looking to work out specific kinks and knots that arise so frequently in improvisation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly the "Improv Bible", June 16, 2009
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This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
I've been needing to add improv skills to my acting resume for a while now, and had several books on my wish list. Then I got the chance to take a class, which recommended this book. Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out is quite possibly the only improv book I'll ever need!
It is easy to read, explains "The Rules" clearly and also explains why _not_ to follow them (or at least get them out of your head), and I was able to put the suggestions to work in class straight away. The examples of good and bad improv scenes for each situation/suggestion make it clear that the death of improv is being in your head too much.
I think even actors who go from the outside in for their characterizations will be able to follow and use this book, and I also believe that people with no acting or improv experience whatsoever will be able to skip the "bad" area of the improv meter and spend less time in the "dork" area before hitting the "great"!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for improv basics and improv classes., August 16, 2007
This review is from: Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out (Paperback)
This is probably one of the better books out their for beginning improvisers and for improv teachers to use as a resource or textbook for college level or high school level improv classes. Having worked and done workshops with members of the Annoyance Theatre, I will say that they are the leaders in improvisational study and experimentation today. Highly recommend for pros as a reminder of the basics and for beginners to learn how to make their improvisation techniques in either long form or short form sharper.
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Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out
Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier (Paperback - March 3, 2004)
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