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Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Meriwether Pub; 1 edition (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566080037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566080033
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who would have ever thought that learning the finer points of improvisation could be such fun? The "Harold," an innovative improvisational tool, helped Saturday Night Live's Mike Myers and Chris Farley, George Wendt (Norm on "Cheers") and many other actors on the road to TV and film stardom. Now it is described fully in this new book for the benefit of other would-be actors and comics. The "Harold" is a form of competitive improv involving six or seven players. They take a theme suggestion from the audience and free-associate on the theme, creating a series of rapid-fire one-liners that build into totally unpredictable skits with hilarious results. The teams compete with scoring based on applause. The "Harold" is a fun way to "loosen up" and learn to think quickly, build continuity, develop characterizations and sharpen humor.

From Booklist

The brain wave of three improv gurus, this book is a complete guide to improvisation for both novice and professional actors and comics. An outgrowth of the successful curriculum initiated by two of the authors at the ImprovOlympic, it describes improvisational tools and techniques, from the "Pattern Game" and "The Hot Spot" to the innovative and sophisticated "Harold." Far from an ordinary how-to handbook, this clearly composed authority on comedic improvisation stresses intuitive thinking, listening skills, continuity, characterization, and, most important, teamwork. Numerous testimonials from reputed actors strengthen the text's credibility, already secured by the expertise of its authorship. Sample scenes and games take hilarious twists while illustrating the inevitability of connections and the importance of justification among team members. The authors' primary focus is the achievement of the group mind, and the book's chapter construction necessarily culminates with that creative misnomer known as the Harold. The manual is flexibly designed to allow for easy performance in both acting classes and professional settings and will prove a valuable reference source to actors and directors alike. Kathleen Chrysler

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Customer Reviews

I feel like many books like this have lots of fluff and after, you're like "yea! I read a book!"
GJoy
The downside to this book, is that it is very boring and presented in a technical way like you are reading a boring college textbook.
James Morgan
Even if you're not a "long-form" improviser, this book is a must read for anyone actively working in an improv group.
Amazon User

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sean D. Francis on November 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
To be honest, I don't know why I wanted this book. I had been spending a lot of time at ImprovOlympic and was even thinking about taking classes there, but I feared my wit wasn't up to snuff. Maybe I thought the book was a surrogate method of learning.
What I discovered is the book was a wonderful manual not only to 'how to improvise' but 'how to brainstorm', 'how to work in groups', and 'how to lead.' Little things like, never deny the reality being created and always add something, the 'Yes, and...' of the book, could be applied to many crisis management situations. Never debate what has been stated, always move forward.
Where is the comedy? That was something I was amazed to learn from this book. Don't worry about it. Sometimes people won't laugh, what is important is what is being created right there at that moment on the stage with the other actors.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Zalben on November 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
So frankly, most acting books, or books that try to tell you how to "do" art make me want to hit myself over the head, repeatedly. The first half of this book is no different.
It spends a lot of time initially setting ideas up, and talking about what a great guy Del Close was (which he was, but still, it gets to be a bit much). But it all starts to pay off in the second half, when we get into the specifics of the Harold.
Harold is a form of improv unlike any that I've ever seen and participated in, and not to be glib, but it takes improv to the level of art. This book clearly sets out exactly how to perform the Harold: what the idea behind it was; how to interact with your teammates on stage; and how to put together the final product. It's no substitute for actually getting up and doing it, but it's not meant to be.
The book is straightforward, easy to read, and pretty short. Its style is that of an elaborated outline, which makes it simple to follow, as well as to check back for relevant parts when you need them in rehearsal or class.
Truth in Comedy is of course a must have for anyone taking or thinking about taking improv classes. For everyone else, it's a quick read that might make you think differently about improv as an art form. Also, it's pretty funny. Yeah, that too.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lee Mueller on January 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a great primer for anyone interested in improv. I had been in a few sketch/improv groups and the general rule was to always go for the cheap laugh. As far as "rules" we really didn't have any or knew that any existed. After finding and reading Charna's book, our little minds were blown.

There were rules after all, such as "never deny" your fellow actor, no matter what subject or direction they throw at you. Sticking to the 'truth' is much funnier than going for the cheap laugh. Using the "Harold" made you grow in leaps and bounds in terms of your own creative thinking as well as learning how your fellow performers tended to think.

We were all so blown away by this book that we invited Charna to town to conduct a seminar for us, which she graciously agreed to do. I highly recommend this book, not only for anyone interested in improv, but basic acting as well. That's the truth.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...
This book is primarily dedicated to "The Harold," the standard of long-form improv. It's a difficult form to master, but one that can impress, entertain, and even touch both audience and actors profoundly on stage. There is a shortage of quick, easy games in this book. Even those that are detailed exist to help build on the Harold. This book is really meant for those who are ready to graduate to the next level of improv.
Many people don't like the Harold, but all long-form comedy improv, at some level, uses some variant of the Harold. If this isn't what you want, spend your time and money finding out more about Paul Sills' Story Theater (which is, of course, not covered in this book). Be warned, though, Story Theater often isn't funny, and appeals more to art afficianadoes than "WLiiA" fans, and isn't as renumerative.
Most of the book is given over to an explanation, not of performance standards or guidelines, but of the philosophy underlying improv in general, and the Harold in particular. If that's not what you want, go get another book. The standards in this book, moreover, are really intended for larger groups. The four-player format of "WLiiA" would be unable to keep up with a full Harold. Be sure you have enough actors ready to do the next big thing before you sink your money into this book.
This isn't a beginner's text for amateurs, it's for those who have a committment to creating improvisational art. If that's you, this is your book. If not, you're in a bad way spending money on this puppy. Know yourself and your team before you invest your earnings on this slim volume.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Coup D'Amazon on August 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
While I read this book it became clear to me that all any improvisation text can really off offer is advice. Halpern has a lot of excellent advice to share about improvisation that would be found most useful to novice and intermediate improv artists. And she very successfully pads her advice in funny examples and anecdotes to create a humorous and entertaining book.

Although the book is funny and even inspiring at times, it won't help you improve at the hardest part of improv: thinking on your feet. The good news is that anyone can become quicker on their feet with a bit of practice. So if you're looking for a good introduction to the basic practices of improvisation, this book is what you're looking for. But don't buy it expecting it turn you into an improv genius overnight. Overall, I recommend it.
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