Book Log #47 – The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual

The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, & Matt Walsh [Drama Bookstore, New York City, $25]

The last time I looked for books about improv, there were about three. Impro for Storytellers by Keith Johnstone, Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin and some other book I’m forgetting that I didn’t read. Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern and Del Close– I just looked it up.

There are now hundreds. Dozens in the Drama Bookstore in New York City, which is a great stop for the theatrically minded.

The UCB is strongly in the Del Close school. If I came from any school of improv, it was more Johnstone, who begat TheatreSports, which begat ComedySportz, which was my first exposure to Improv in 1985. But I have no cultish attachment to any of them.

I wish I had picked up Truth back when I was actually doing improv, it probably would have helped.

This UCB book is chock full of good stuff I’d heard bits and pieces of over the years. I was surprised at their aversion to actual storytelling, though. Their thought was that the plot or storyline is almost insignificant in doing comedy improv, whereas I (and Johnstone, I believe) have seen story as the cake you put the comedy frosting on. Johnstone’s title, was, after all, for Storytellers.

Is this a conscious wall they’re putting between the Haralders and the TheatreSportsers? Dunno. Don’t care either.

Though the book is needlessly repetitive in many places, it’s an inspirational read. It focuses on long form improv (which they capitalize LongForm), which I greatly prefer these days. Ironically, I have never actually seen a true Harald (the longform primarily described here), though I have heard people go on about it. It seems interesting, if rigid in structure.

Perhaps I’ll catch one next time I’m in Chicago.

Books Read: 47
Week Number: 47
Parity again!

Book Log #46 – Approval Junkie

Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie [Hardback, Little Shop of Stories, $27]

I knew Faith Salie a tiny, little bit.

Freshman year at my dream school, and her “safety” school (pg 224), we lived in the same 103 person dorm. We acted together in a video project, where I and two other guys sang (poorly, in my case) a serenade to her about art, or rather how “we have art for [her]”. We are not the heroes of this video, we are the jerks. She plays a being from another plane of existence, or something like that. I played a pizza delivery boy.

I know she took the Early to Bed, Early to Rise adage very seriously, to the chagrin of her suitemates, who were more the opposite and didn’t care much for shushing during Really Deep Conversations That We Have In College.

We once had a very nice conversation in a suite, the topic of which I completely forget.

She transferred to Harvard after freshman year, which I referenced in the dorm yearbook with a joke about “Faith No More”, a band I knew existed but couldn’t point out in a lineup. I stretch for the comedy.

But now she is part of the Golden Era of Female Comedians. Felicia Day, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, etc. etc. etc., many of whom have written memoirs. But not many of them are on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR, which is her greatest achievement IMHO.

I love these books, and Ms. Salie’s is no exception. Very funny, very readable, and just the right amount of poignant. She’s got plenty of stories worth telling, even at her young age of mid-fortiesish.

I recommend it, even if she disses my alma mater.

Books Read: 46
Week Count: 47
Gotta… catch… up.

Book Log #44 – The Pale Horseman (Saxon Tales Book 2)

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell (Amazon, Kindle, $9.99)

Continuation of the Saxon series. Continues to be Game of Thrones Lite, but with actual history of England as the basis.

The author has notes at the end about where the story deviates from history, which is interesting.

There are echoes of plotlines from Game of Thrones… a healer/witch who heals the son of the king, which causes the death of another boy. Death for life, which is reminiscent of the “healing” of the Khalesi’s husband (Drago?) in GoT. There were other parallels I’ve forgotten.

All in all, a good read. I’ll probably continue in the series.

Books Read: 44
Weeks : 45
Ratio: 0.977

For the first time since starting this, my ratio drops below 1.0. Scary times! Desperate measures are called for! I need 8 more books in the next 7 weeks!