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Improv Books

Here are some books which I really liked on Improv. I have read several others that I don't really recommend, but I don't see a use in including these since I haven't found any to be too bad. I would also encourage anyone interested in improv to read books on theatre. Eventually, these will be just as valuable to your improv skills.

Truth in Comedy (The manual of improvisation)

Truth in Comedyby: Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim "Howard" Johnson
Meriwether Publishing Ltd.
ISBN 1-56608-003-7
Copyright MCMXCIV Meriwether Publishing Ltd.

This is my favorite book about improvisation. It teaches some basic and advanced concepts about long form comedy. It sets forth the game of The Harold, which is the creation of Del Close – at least according to the book. I would recommend anyone with 2 years of experience to read this book. It may be a little advanced for beginners.

IMPRO: Improvisation and the Theatre

IMPROby: Keith Johnstone (with an intro by Irving Wardle)
Routledge Publishing
ISBN 0-87830-117-8
Copyright 1979 by Keith Johnstone

This is a great book for beginners and more advanced improvisers alike. It teaches basic concepts of what improv is. This doesn't mean that it is easy reading. It should be the basics for everyone to build and build upon in improvisation. It's also a really well written and entertaining book.

Improvisation for the Theatre

Improvisation for the Theatreby: Viola Spolin (Originator of Theater Games)
Northwestern University Press
ISBN #0-8101-4000-4
Lib. of Congress Cat. #: 63-7579
Copyright 1963, 1983 by Viola Spolin

This is the first really great book on improv. Without it and Viola's influence, the other books would have never been written. It's a good book for someone trying to start his own troupe. It gives lots of nice games and such, but it's fairly hard to read. Spolin tends to put out high ideas without giving the reader the basics to build upon. It's still a good book if you can finish it.

Other Notable Books

  • The Compass, by Janet Coleman, is a very nice narrative on the beginnings of modern improvisation in Chicago.
  • Something Wonderful Right Away, by Jeffrey Sweet, is the best book I have seen on the history of improv. Jeffrey Sweet is the best documenter of improv's history and a good writer.