Improv Resources

April 15, 2010

So maybe you’ve read a little about applying improv to daily life and your intrigued and want to learn more.  Today I want to share with you some resources that might be of help to you in your quest.

Classes

First and foremost, if you’re curious about improv, dive in and take an improv class in your area.  It’s important to mention that improv classes are not the same as acting classes, which tend to be more serious and theory-based.  Improv classes usually involve various improv games and warm-up exercises which tend to be more playful and fun.  At one class I took about ten years ago, I remember that we had to act and get in the character of someone we admired.  I chose Matt Damon and soon took on Matt Damon’s persona in a couple fun and interesting exercises.

Your best bet to find improv classes is to Google “improv classes” in your town.  If you’re fortunate to have several improv schools in your area, please note that each school might have it’s own improv philosophy.  I brought this up when I had coffee with my improv teacher a few weeks ago and he mentioned that the improv school that I attended when he was my teacher (Players Workshop) had a sense of “purity and kindness” about it. Had I chosen Second City or IO (Improv Olympic as it was known then), I might have had a different learning experience.

Online

There are quite a few improv resources online.  Some resources include:

  • The Improv Resource Center, which is essentially a pretty good message board filled with improvisation information. From what I can tell, there are frequent posts and updates.  There’s also updates from several regional areas.
  • The Improv Encyclopedia.  This site includes an encyclopedia of improv games, which is worth a visit.  If you teach, conduct meetings or have kids, it might be worth a look.
  • Wikipedia’s explanation of improv. This is a great place to get an overview on the art and science of improvisation.

Books (note: these are not affiliate links)

  • The Second City Almanac of Improvisation by Anne Libera.  This is the improv book I wish was written when I took classes.  It is filled with numerous ideas on how to become a better improviser on the stage.  I really like some of the quotes that are sprinkled throughout the book like this one:  ” Recognize the space.  Own it.  Use it.  Make it yours.  Adapt, adopt and improve it by making discoveries that help define it even more.”  This is, quite simply, an awesome book if you take or plan to take an improv class.
  • Improvise This! How to Think on Your Feet So You Don’t Fall on Your Face by Mark Bergren, Molly Cox and Jim Detmar.  This is another great book on improv that takes the principles of improv and applies them to settings that are offstage.
  • Improv Wisdom Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. This is another one of my favorite books on improvisation that doesn’t necessarily need to be applied on a stage.
  • Improvisation For the Theater by Viola Spolin (3rd Edition).  I haven’t read this book, but my former improv teacher, David Murphy, says that much of the stuff taught at Players Workshop came from this book.  I’ve also heard this book considered by many as the bible of improvisation.

Video

Improv Everywhere is one of my favorite sites for a laugh. Part performance art, part improvisation and pure fun…here’s a really great Improv Everywhere mission from several months back…

There you go…you are ready to say “yes and” and dive into some improv, right?  If you are aware of any other great resources, I’d be interested in hearing about them. Thanks for your attention and keep on laughing.

1 Lori April 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I’ve learned so much about improv from your posts, Tim. The video rocked my socks, too.

Thanks for this list of resources. Hey, maybe you should shoot your own improv video and post it? Whaddya say?
:)

I’ve played a lot of practical jokes on people, which might have qualified — on a few occasions — as improv. {I’m laughing thinking of them right now.} OK, well, probably not.

Thanks for this post, Tim. I’ve enjoyed getting to know this side of you. Fun!

2 Tim April 16, 2010 at 7:36 am

Hi Lori: Yeah, the video really gave me a good laugh the first time I saw it. As far as shooting an improv video…well that’s an interesting idea that I’ll have to think about. Ah, I like where you’re going with the practical jokes…and you’re right, they probably could be considered improv since you really don’t know how your victim(s) will react. Thanks for giving me some ideas and I hope you have a great day!

3 Lance April 17, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Tim!
I LOVE the video!! What a cool thing – and especially how everyone got into it!!

And this whole improv talk here has me thinking….what a fun thing to do!! Tim, I think it is so awesome you are doing this. Very, very cool! (and thanks for the links!!)

4 Tim April 18, 2010 at 8:20 am

Hi Lance: Based on some of the videos I’ve seen you in, I can picture you doing improv…though I bet you probably do a lot of that when you’re hanging out with your kids and drinking crazy drink concoctions. I’m glad you liked the video…I’ll never think of getting lost the same way again.

5 Patricia Ryan Madson May 29, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I am very happy and grateful that you included my book, Improv Wisdom in your list of recommended books. This book stays alive thanks to the kindness of readers like you. I appreciate that you took the time to blog about your enthusiasm. May all of your improvisations turn out well!

6 Tim May 30, 2010 at 8:47 am

Hi Patricia: Thank you for stopping by and for writing Improv Wisdom. It’s certainly a great book that can be applied in many areas of our lives. And thank you for your good wishes…have a great weekend!

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