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Top 10 Improv Books

Updated on October 7, 2014

Top 10 Improv Books

After viewing an improv show in Dallas, I decided to learn more about the art of improvisational comedy. Here's the top 10 books I could find on this comedy art. Perfect for birthday, holiday or anytime gift for the aspiring actor or comedian in your family.

Updated 11/27/2012

Improv Wisdom:

Don't Prepare, Just Show Up

The best comedy improv singers know every trick in this book, a great addition to any performer's library. Clear, everyday language explains each element of an improvised song. Simple building blocks are combined with performance tips to raise a performer's musical improvisation to its highest level. The included CD, featuring cast members from ImprovOlympic West's hilarious Opening Night, The Improvised Musical, provides * examples * exercises * practice accompaniments

Truth in Comedy:

The Manual of Improvisation

Amazon.com Review

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.

Improv Handbook:

The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond

"The Improv Handbook" is a great new guide that covers the history of improvisation and includes chapters on spontaneity and the fundamentals of storytelling.Although there are already several successful books on the market about the theory and practice of improvised theatre, there's nothing comprehensive, helpful, fun and full of experience and advice."The Improv Handbook" is a great new guide from a husband and wife team who have years of studying, performance and teaching behind them. Beginning with a history of improvisation, the book works through different types of format and performance including TheatreSports and the inventions of Keith Johnstone and Del Close. The core section of the book is called, simply, "How To Improvise" and includes chapters on spontaneity, the fundamentals of storytelling, working together, upping the ante and characters.Having established the fundamentals, the two authors go on to elaborate on more advanced techniques and skills. The book concludes with sections on how to improvise in front of an audience and - just as crucially - how to attract an audience in the first place." The Improv Handbook" should become a standard book in the field - it's smart, fun, helpful, and inspiring, and it's on a mission to bring Improv to a much wider audience.

Improvise.:

Scene from the Inside Out

For more than 20 years of directing, teaching, and participating in improvisation, Mick Napier has watched thousands of scenes. His experience as founder of the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre/Annoyance Productions, as well as Resident Director and Artistic Consultant for The Second City, has led him to continually question why and how scenes work or don't work and what one must do in order for a scene to be successful.

In this book, Napier takes an irreverent, but constructive look at the art and practice of improvised scenes. He covers such topics as:

* two-person scenes

* group scenes

* entering scenes

* techniques to achieve richer, more layered scenes

* auditioning

* solo exercises for practice at home.

Napier also challenges the conventional wisdom of the rules of improvisation, examining what's behind them and how they came to be in the first place.

Get helpful, tangible guidelines for bringing strength and direction to your scenes. Just Improvise.

Free Play:

Improvisation in Life and Art

This book is about the inner sources of spontaneous creation. It is about where art in the widest sense comes from. It is about why we create and what we learn when we do. It is about the flow of unhindered creative energy: the joy of making art in all its varied forms.

Free Play is directed toward people in any field who want to contact, honor, and strengthen their own creative powers. It integrates material from a wide variety of sources among the arts, sciences, and spiritual traditions of humanity. Filled with unusual quotes, amusing and illuminating anecdotes, and original metaphors, it reveals how inspiration arises within us, how that inspiration may be blocked, derailed or obscured by certain unavoidable facts of life, and how finally it can be liberated - how we can be liberated - to speak or sing, write or paint, dance or play, with our own authentic voice.

The whole enterprise of improvisation in life and art, of recovering free play and awakening creativity, is about being true to ourselves and our visions. It brings us into direct, active contact with boundless creative energies that we may not even know we had.

101 Improv Games for Children and Adults

101 Improv Games for Children and Adults starts with the basics of improvisational comedy, giving aspiring performers the building blocks required to think on their feet. A great resource for educators as well as for the professional actor or layperson, the book includes rules for 101 games that cover everything from easy warm-ups to over-the-top crowd pleasers, such as Fairy Tales, Bizarre Games, On Your Toes, and Narrative Games.

Musical Improv Comedy:

Creating Songs in the Moment

The best comedy improv singers know every trick in this book, a great addition to any performer's library. Clear, everyday language explains each element of an improvised song. Simple building blocks are combined with performance tips to raise a performer's musical improvisation to its highest level. The included CD, featuring cast members from ImprovOlympic West's hilarious Opening Night, The Improvised Musical, provides * examples * exercises * practice accompaniments

How To Start Your Own Improv Comedy Group

What if all the theatre books in the world taught people how to rehearse but not how to perform? Nothing on presentation. This odd situation exists in the genre of improv theatre books, where there are quite a few published tomes providing improv training, but nothing, really, on how to perform it in front of a live audience. This book gives all the tools that a reasonably competent adult would need to understand improv theatre, train others, form a performing group, and keep it together as long as possible. The unique element of this book is it's focus not only on improv concepts and games but on practical guidelines for creating a viable performing group and staging improv games for live audiences. The book includes an extensive game list with staging comments.

Causing a Scene:

Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places with Improv Everywhere

A fake U2 concert. A deranged hypnotist.

A book signing by a dead author.

Welcome to the wild world of Improv Everywhere.

From the infamous No Pants! Subway Ride to the legendary Grand Central Freeze, Improv Everywhere has been responsible for some of the most original and subversive pranks of the Internet age. In Causing a Scene, the group's agents provide a hilarious firsthand account of their mischievous antics. Learn how they created a time loop in a Starbucks and gave Best Buy eighty extra employees. Join in on the fun with this irreverent, behind-the-scenes look at Improv Everywhere's world-famous missions, and get inspired to create your own memorable mayhem.

Improvisation for the Spirit:

Live a More Creative, Spontaneous, and Courageous Life Using the Tools of Improv Comedy

Comedy improv requires quick thinking, collaboration, getting out of your own way, and being in the moment without being a perfectionist. Katie Goodman, an internationally touring improv comedian and comedy writer, uses her witty and encouraging style to show you how to acquire the skills of improv comedy and apply them to every aspect of daily life. Along the way Goodman shares hilarious and insightful stories from her experiences onstage, as well as step-by-step exercises from her popular self-discovery workshops and retreats. Packed with creative, original, and, most importantly, fun exercises, Improvisation for the Spirit offers a truly transformational guide for anyone wanting to get more out of life.

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