- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Meriwether Pub; 1 edition (April 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781566080033
- ISBN-13: 978-1566080033
- ASIN: 1566080037
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation Paperback – April 1, 1994
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Truth in Comedy: The manual of improvisation
By Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim 'Howard' Johnson.
Want to learn the improve techniques that helped Mike Myers, Chris Farley, John Belushi, and many others along the road to TV and film stardom? Then let two esteemed founders of long-form improvisational theatre, Del Close and Charna Halpern, teach you the 'Harold.' This groundbreaking acting exercise emphasizes pattern recognition and subversion of the audience’s expectations, which are important factors for making people laugh without ever telling a joke. It involves six to seven players and many kinds of scenes: games, monologues, songs, skits and more, all of which are bound to keep both actors and audience members guessing. The Harold is non-linear entertainment that remembers everything and wastes nothing — the key to successful improvising — and has become a standard in comedy clubs and improve theatres around the globe.
(160 pages, 5½ x 8½, paperback).
Art by Committee: A Guide to Advanced Improvisation
By Charna Halpern
This sequel to the ’improv bible’ Truth in Comedy delves deeper into the mindset and history of improvisational theatre, expanding on many of the ideas from Truth in Comedy as it explores the evolution of long-form improv into the New Harold and provides expanded thoughts on what makes improvisation effective. The accompanying DVD provides clear examples of these principles in action including performances by four influential improv groups: Upright Citizens Brigade (with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), Beer Shark Mice (with Neil Flynn), Armando Diaz Theatrical Experience, and The Reckoning. Also on the DVD are short clips featuring Peter Hulne, and interviews with many celebrity improv artists. Readers also get an insider’s perspective of Del Close, who many consider to be the father of modern improv along with book author Charna Halpern, as together they established the famous iO theatres.
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.
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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I did not read it to learn how to do improv comedy, I read it for insights into group improvisation that might transfer to playing music. In this it was somewhat disappointing. Compare to say, Zen and the Art of Archery, which is a book about archery the lessons of which transfer to other activities.
Improv games contained therein may be good fodder for amusement on long car journeys - better than "I spy".
The book is intended to be a rough guide to teaching and performing "Harold," the signature improvisation form of the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. While the text focuses heavily on the structure of the form, it also holds page after page of advice and tools for any improviser or actor. The lessons in agreement, trust (in yourself and others), and teamwork can be used in any improv form (shortform or longform). And it definitely can teach us actors a thing or two about performing a scripted show.
One of my few complaints about the book is it lacks concreteness. The author alludes to the phenomenon of group mind, the beauty of connections, and the wonder of "finding Harold." Despite giving examples, the reader is left with a "you had to be there" feeling, which, unfortunately, I don't think there's a way around. Harold is very much a "you had to be there" experience for both audience and performer. It's difficult to capture in words and in print the joy of seeing a spontaneous occurrence that takes both the performer and audience by complete surprise. I've found myself frequently recounting shows I've seen to uninterested or confused expressions, while the night before I was doubled over in laughter.
So, to sum it all up, if you're interested in learning Harold (especially if you're a student at the Improv Olympic) or picking up some very useful improv tools, give this book a gander. And if you have an old copy lying around, take another look. It's rare that I open this without finding something to inspire me or pull me out of an improv rut.