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