Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond
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Customer Reviews

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on February 27, 2013
A great book for beginning and advanced improvisors that explains exactly what the mechanics are of the authors' interpretation of the Keith Johnstone school of improvisation, and for that it deserves 5 stars. But the authors deeply misunderstand and arrogantly dismiss the entire Chicago/Del Close school of improv, under the guise of Keith and Del being equally valid methods.

At the beginning they explain that there are differences and that they'll give fair treatment to both, but then proceed for several hundred pages to denigrate the Chicago school for reasons that are invalid, and which shows they have limited understanding of what they're talking about. It's as if those parts were added late in the book's development when someone noticed that "ultimate" really only meant "half ultimate".

An example of bias can be found in the short interviews at the end where of all the wise words of Keith Johnstone (who they label "The Innovator") they could have used, they instead focus on Keith saying that Del's work doesn't particularly fit with his views on improvisation (my paraphrasing). It doesn't help that they then included an interview with the mildly dismissive Charna Halpern (who they by comparison label simply "The Keeper of the Harold"), with questions based on misunderstandings of Del's teachings.

To their credit they do try to explain some Chicago techniques, but there's a lot of misunderstandings. At one point they talk abut "game" being a core Harold concept, taking it from the book "Truth in Comedy", thus confusing the UCB which focusses on game as the core of a scene, and iO and other Chicago schools which consider it just another tool in your kitbag. Another misunderstanding is Chicago's "heightening", which they think is the same as the "absurdity curve",

The book should be renamed to "The Impro Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising the Keith Johnstone way", so that anyone in the U.S. or learning the Chicago style, doesn't buy it thinking that it refers directly to them. There will be nuggets for the Chicago improvisor, but warning should be given that many of the techniques don't apply very well to Chicago style play.
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on March 9, 2009
Like the best improvised performances, this book is clear, fast paced, and, above all, imaginative. It is equaly adept at introducing and riffing on improv fundamentals to the reader, making it great for your first book on improv or your millionth. And it is even great if your interests in theater are not specifically troupe-based improv. When directing a show, I introduced some of the principles and exercises this book elaborates into the rehearsal process and was amazed at how much funnier the humorous bits became and how much more the dramatic parts resonated. This book is not a mere "how to make others laugh handbook" it truly is an improvisational handbook in the greatest sense - it's about the theatrical imagination and performance spontaneity. No matter what type of theater you are working in, reading this book and introducing its principles will make your characters richer and your situations and scenarios more fully realized. A must have.
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on June 18, 2009
I bought this book to help improve my son's skills in his theatre classes. His favorite part of theatre is improv class, but he needs work on his give and take skills.

As I read the book, I realized that this book spells out a lot of the skills needed to improve social skills for people on the AUTISM spectrum. The listening skills, give-and-take, and team playing required in improv would work well with teaching social skills to those who don't have these abilities -- and the beauty is that when one is successful, you get immediate positive feedback (laughter) which motivates you to try harder.

I really think that improv classes could go a long way to teach older higher-functioning children on the autism spectrum how to be funny -- thereby helping them with social skills.

Parents of children on the autism spectrum -- really consider purchasing this book, and possibly setting up improv classes, in order to help your teenage child understand humor. It could go a long way to helping them adapt to their high school experience, and help their peers see them favorably so that they can improve their friendships.
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on July 25, 2008
FIVE Stars (though this site wont let me click the last star.) This book is brilliant, hugely informative, immensely clarifying and thus inspirational. Written by two of the most exciting, experienced teachers and performers of improv. The book is a necessity for students and teachers of this addictive art form. Also provides much-appreciated historical context, and practical tools to help one apply the skills and precepts that makes good improv great art. I found this book especially refreshing in that it offers what I think is the first comprehensive, global perspective on improv - they've seen and done so much in the UK, Canada, Chicago, NY, Australia, and have hosted so many international teams. Along with Napier's Improvise, this book is a must-have for those serious about being good and getting better -- a great, practical, entertaining read for anyone -- from those with experience to those just starting to wonder if they might want to get up there and finally join in.
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on December 3, 2009
I am a huge fan of Keith Johnstone's Impro for Storytellers. This book felt like a continuation and so much more. Having read over a dozen books on improv, I would say this is one of the best I have come across. Tom Salinsky has been there and done that and it shows in his spot-on comments. I've been performing in a troop for 2 years and I couldn't agree more with his list of games that "should never be played". I haven't finished the book yet (it's a hefty volume), but the advice and reflections I've read so far already make it worth far more than the purchase price.
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on February 26, 2013
I am a huge believer in Amazon reviews and have written several. So... I want to be careful and not sound like a crank! I own several improv books and am an experienced improv performer. As such, there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and I'm constantly learning more.

That said, I can't recommend this book. The authors are egotistical in style and freely criticize others' works, including, of all things, M. Night Shyamalan! Huh?!? I find the reading to be very negative - kinda in opposition to the whole "yes and..." vibe.

So, if you get something out of this book, great! I just can't bring myself to read it all the way thru.
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on May 1, 2009
I have bought (and read) quite a few impro books over the years, and tend to find most of them interesting, occasionally inspiring, and generally quite poorly written. They also tend to consist of one or two real insights surrounded by repetitious or uninteresting dross (at least the bad ones tend to).

In contrast, the Improv Handbook is well written, concise and really useful. Their activities are well described and valuable as training tools, their interviews with various improvisers are readable and engaging, and they do have some interesting insights into impro as a business.

All in all, it is the one impro book that I tend to refer to the most. It contains a lot of really practical information that should prove useful to improvisers and impro teachers.
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on July 7, 2008
This is the long-awaited 'how-to' guide by my two colleagues at the Spontaneity Shop - the fruit of long experience teaching, directing and performing.

Fascinating sections on narrative (usually neglected by Impro manuals with the honourable exception of Keith Johnstone) and on diagnosing and curing performer's tendencies and difficulties. This book manages to be practical and readable - especially useful for teachers everywhere.
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on April 27, 2013
I'm a professional improv performer that recently started teaching 100-level improvisation classes, but my program doesn't have a specific curriculum and it's been years upon years since I took a formal class. Another teacher I trust recommended this book, and I found it invaluable for its deep insights into the teaching process. Not just a suggested syllabus, but the expected insights when teaching these tools and how to roll with the punches. Even after many many years in improv, there are exercises in here that I wouldn't have thought of.

That said, the game references aren't comprehensive, and they aren't indexed by the skills they emphasize. It helps to have more background knowledge of deeper theory even if you're not exposing too much of that, so I'd recommend a companion book like Truth in Comedy, Spolin's work, or Impro. I don't think this book is quite enough to teach yourself improv without some additional context. In particular I found the syllabus lacking in a few areas around stagecraft and onstage focus, concepts my students needed earlier guidance in that I ended up cobbling together from other sources. But the storytelling, character and environment elements are pretty well covered.

It's also fun to read; the honest insights are surprising at times and there are little Australian anachronisms that are fun to catch. The authors' honest takes on some of the "standard" games are refreshing - some games are difficult without much actual educational payoff, and it's good to see someone acknowledging that.

A great reference for the beginning instructor!
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on June 22, 2009
I have been improvising for quite a few years yet have found many of the "must read" books on improv to be dry and impenetrable. Many of them seem to have very little relevance to the modern improvisor.

"The Improv Handbook" definitely does not fit into the above category and is chock-a-block full of useful tidbits for beginners and for seasoned performers. It is a book on improv I keep referring to in many situations. Well written and enjoyable it was definitely worth my time and money.
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