37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2002
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.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2001
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.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2006
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.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2005
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.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2001
I've been doing improv comedy on and off for about two years now, and I can honestly say that this book is the best one I've read on the topic. Reading Truth in Comedy is the next best thing to actually being on stage. Now I find myself "looking for the game" in a given scene and doing other such techniques advised by Charna Halpern and Del Close; two veterans, to say the least, of improv. I've read the book three times now and every time I pick up something new, it's just a book that keeps on giving! Besides being very informative this book also is quite entertaining. I recomend buying this book whether you have and interest in improv or not.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 1998
Truth in Comedy is, in someways, a companion piece to the Chicago-based school operated by two of the book's authors. The book conveys the sense of joy and wonder that comes from creating comic genius and order from audience chaos. Charna Halpern and Del Close both still teach "The Harold" at the ImprovOlympic school/theater and the book (if you're planning to read the book while taking a "Harold" class, add TWO more stars!) Instead of quick comedic games designed for one-liners and "jokey" schtick, Truth In Comedy teaches a form that strives for art. Based on a single audience suggestion a team of improvisers follows the outline of The Harold to create a play with interweaving plotlines and characters for intelligent and hilarious comedy (think of a completely improvised Seinfeld epsidoe, or Pulp Fiction.)
Just one more thing: The photos in the book picture some veterans of the ImprovOlympic who are now somewhat famous in Comedy. Keep a look out for Andy Ricter (Late Night With Conan O'Brien), Adam McKay (Head Writer for Saturday Night Live), Miles Stroh (creator of 'Miles to Go'), and lots of others!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2000
The late Del Close was a legend in comedy circles - and for good reasons. The techniques he developed with Charna Halpern emphasizes that comedy should not be forced; it should come honestly from situations that are present. Forced comedy is never funny. Too bad a lot of these sitcom writers today don't know that (I mean have you ever watched Two Guys and A Girl?). I wished that I could've studied with Del but this book is definitely close enough for me. If you're thinking of going into Improv, then definitely get this book. You'll learn a lot.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2003
This book has one major gaff. It tries to squeeeeeeze in the improv basics, while it teaches the advanced "Harold". I mean, improv basics are scaterred throughout this book like debris in an O'Hare downdraft. For example, environment, objects and emotion aren't covered until the end of the book. What's a new improviser to think?
I wish the progression of this book was more logical: Improv basics, short scenes, long form.
Long form improv is made up of short scenes, despite the mantra of disgruntled long formers who blast short form as "jokey". Long form is an advanced skill, with a foundation in the basics of short scenes, like it or not. (Long form proponents who pooh-pooh short form are a lot like haute chefs who scorn vegetables and meat.) Likewise, the authors here become so carried away with the magic of associations between long form scenes, that most of their confused neophyte readers would barely be able label who they are in a single scene.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2012
Planning to study improvisation? Terrified?
I was. I ordered this book.
It's a great history of the evolution of long-form improv, which is a relatively new art form. It also covers the basic concepts and mechanics.
This book would also be a great tool for comedy writers.
It's a quick read and I've referenced it many times during my studies at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles. It cuts to the chase and explains the nuts and bolts.
I feel like many books like this have lots of fluff and after, you're like "yea! I read a book!" But you didn't LEARN anything.
This isn't one of those books.
You won't learn everything you need to know in this book, but you need to know everything that's in this book. See?