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!

Christmas with Skynet

Last night, I invaded A Christmas Carol.

Dad’s Garage closed Invasion: Christmas Carol last night. Invasion, for the uninitiated, is an improvised version of the holiday classic. The basic premise is that each night, a random character is added to the mix with no advanced warning to the regular cast members. The unknown character is first introduced as the ghost of Xmas past, and then is sprinkled in through the remainder of the show. The cast members must incorporate the new character’s presence into the storyline.

Previously, some of the random characters have been a barbarian, a thief, a department store Santa, a Ghostbuster, and Hitler.

Last year, they did Invasion: Our Town with the same concept using the Thorton Wilder play. I invaded that one as an Indiana Jones-like character. Jesus made an appearance in a different episode.

I invaded Carol as The Terminator. Or rather, an early prototype Terminator, the T-1, “before they added bad breath.”1

Upon discovering that Scrooge was not Sarah Connor, I agreed to join Scrooge on his viewings of the past.

Later on in the show in a poorhouse scene, the husband of Scrooge’s old flame turned out to be John Connor, and a shootout ensued, killing all the poor (the front row of the audience). In the grand finale of the show, I finally discover Sarah Connor, wished her Merry Christmas, snapped her neck, and then we all said “God bless us, everyone!”

I am totally in the Xmas spirit now, humans.

1 A too-vague reference to the movie that likely no one got. But really, that was for me.

Back in the Garage again

So, after an 8 month or so hiatus, I was back at Dad’s Garage tonight.

They were short a couple folks, so I said I would host. I wasn’t brave enough to actual play, but it would be good to ease back into things.

However, if I’d known they were going to do a mediocre show for almost no people, I mighta’ played.

It was good natured and it had some high points, but overall a blah show. And a tiny audience, I guess because of the holidays.

Regardless, I enjoyed myself. Good old garage.

Of course, as is typical, here I am at 1:00am, wide awake.

Maybe I’ll watch part of a Battlestar Galactica.

Oops.. no… wait… I just got tired.



After the TheaterSports show tonight, told me that there was an audience member named Lucas Ryan in the audience.

I think I’ve heard of a Lucas Ryan in a local improv troupe, maybe one of the college ones. A quick google search…

, do you recognize this man?

Lucas Ryan, Basement Theatre, Atlanta

It’s important that I know of his whereabouts, because if we ever touched, we might explode and take the universe with us.