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Improvisation for Actors and Writers: A Guidebook for Improv Lessons in Comedy [Paperback]

By Bill Lynn (Author) & Kip King (Foreword by)
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Item description for Improvisation for Actors and Writers: A Guidebook for Improv Lessons in Comedy by Bill Lynn & Kip King...

by Bill Lynn, forward by Kip King. A guidebook for improv lessons in comedy. Far more than simply an overview of improv comedy, this book helps actors, writers and comedians learn the basics as taught in all the major comedy schools. First, the do's and don'ts of the Comedy Improv Commandments. Next, the concepts that, when understood, hit the student like falling anvils: Anvil #1: Collaboration - Working with the "Group Mind," Anvil #2: Agreement - "Just Say Yes," Anvil #3: Foundation - "Who, What, and Where," Anvil #4 - "Finding the Game." There are twenty-nine chapters in five sections: 1. Improv Comedy Schools, 2. Improv Comedy Basics, 3. Comic Character Development, 4. Long Form Improv and 5. Writing Sketch Comedy. Successful improv requires the skill of the actor, the talent of the comedian and the ideas of the writer rolled into one. This book tells how it can all be done for performers and teachers.

Publishers Description
Far more than simply an overview of improv comedy, this book helps actors, writers and comedians learn the basics as taught in all the major comedy schools. First, the do'sand don'ts of the Comedy Improv Commandments. The concepts that, when understood, hit the student like falling anvils: Anvil 1: Collaboration -- Working with the 'Group Mind', Anvil 2: Agreement -- 'Just say Yes', Anvil 3: Foundation -- 'Who, What and Where, Anvil 4: Exploring -- 'Finding the Game'. Successful improv requires the skill of the actor, the talent of the comedian and the ideas of the writer rolled into one. This book tells how it can all be done for performers or teachers.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Meriwether Pub
Pages   295
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.56" Width: 5.48" Height: 0.49"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 16, 2004
Publisher   Meriwether Publishing
ISBN  1566080940  
ISBN13  9781566080941  

Availability  0 units.

More About Bill Lynn & Kip King

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Lynn, actor and comedy writer, studied in the professional actor training program at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. He worked as a comedy writer for an independent Hollywood-based marketing firm, and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and radio Artists.

Bill Lynn currently resides in the state of California. Bill Lynn was born in 1964.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Improvisation for Actors and Writers: A Guidebook for Improv Lessons in Comedy?

great overall description of U.S. schools of improv  Sep 5, 2004
I am bi-coastal and have wound up taking classes at the Groundlings, UCB, and several smaller unknown venues. I felt I didn't really need this book (it was a gift), but after reading it, I felt my views on the different improv homes I've become a part of had come into better focus, via the perspective offered by the knowledge of the other schools of improv thought I had not yet been a part of. And the ones I didn't know in depth seemed much more accessible.

Bill Lynn's book (and Kip King's, though I suspect he was more of an "idea man" than an actual sit-down-and-write-it author) is basically a list and explanation of the different games and styles of teaching the different schools of improv across the country have to offer. He does not espouse a new take on improv or performance, nor does he pretend to. As if anyone's going to top Del Close, Viola Spolin, or Keith Johnstone. Or Dario Fo for that matter.

It is a useful, well written guide to what other people have already created in the improv world, and it purports to be nothing more. It includes some useful info on the Groundlings, Second City, Improv Olympic, etc....and some lesser known teachers like Stan Wells who works at a place called the Empty Stage, which I have since checked out, taken classes at, and found to be an great skill-sharpening experience, in conjunction with my other classes/shows.

If you're looking for new or bar-setting ideas on what improv is/should be (as some confused readers clearly have done), this is not the book for you; Viola Spolin's work is your next stop in that case, but if you're shopping around for your next stint at an improv school, this is your book.

Goes by quickly too. Clean, simple prose.
Ho Hum   Aug 30, 2004
This is my edited review -

Upon my initial reading of this book, I was confused. The book announces "Groundlings Theater" on the front, has a foreword by a Groundlings' teacher, offers a fairly complete review of SEVERAL improv schools, as well as the author's time as a student.

Considering this, I don't think I was wrong to think this was a book about the Groundlings' theory of improv, or at the very least produced with the approval and collaboration of the Groundlings; I've been told that I was wrong.

Needless to say, in my confusion, I was more harsh on this book than I should have been. THAT review is appended below.

That said, taking the book as I've been told I should take it - an introduction to improv for the beginning student - it's not bad, it's not great.

In terms of improv, Bill Lynn offers up a survey of a pretty traditional improv education, and fleshes it out by including his own observations as a student. This is both refreshing and irritating. Considering how many improv books - and books about theater in general - speak narrowly and from a 'learned teacher' perspective, it's nice to have something with the broad focus that a student's eyes offer of technique and theory. Unfortunately, it has also limited the author's ability to analyse and prioritize his lessons - too often it reads like the student was given notes, and in turn he's published them for us verbatim.

His sections on character development and sketchwriting are practical, and he deserves kudos for not over-writing (hence, over-simplifying) his brief section on long-form improvisation. For any student of improv, it's complicated enough to deserve a book of its own. The author dealt with it quickly and quietly.

At times, the author demonstrates a lack of experience and nuance (for instance, his approach with the "Commandments" of improvisation - mostly a list of "Don't Do this" is a teaching method that fell out of favor in improv schools years ago), but for the precocious beginning student or the novice without the time/money to take classes, this book is a fine accessory.

Below is my original post.

An uninspiring introduction to Short Form improv. You'd do as much to watch a few seasons of "Whose Line." Countless books have been written listing improv games and exercises, and this latest book by Mr. Lynn is unfortunately yet another in the stack.

This book would be more forgettable (and certainly wouldn't inspire this rant) if it left out two points: One, its bold ties to the Groundlings improv school, and its introduction by Kip King.

For those who have studied improvisation, there are several venerated schools and several philosophies. Many of these schools have published books heavy with their respective theories - With "The Second City Almanac," we see Second City. "Truth in Comedy" gives us the Improv Olympic and Del Close. "Impro" & "Impro for Storytellers" are Johnstone's Loose Moose Theater and "Improvise" is from Napier of the Annoyance Theater.

Lynn's book purports itself to be THE book of Groundlings improvisation. Or, perhaps I'm misinterpreting the reason he had "Kip King of the Groundlings theater" listed on the front.

Kip King is the father of Chris Kattan, and one of the founders of the Groundlings. "Ah," thinks the reader, "with his endorsement, surely this Lynn fellow must know what he's talking about." Well, who is Bill Lynn? Frankly, I have no idea. I can't search a single bit of information about him. However, and perhaps I'm overreading into it, his book seems to imply he took classes at the Groundlings school last year and took really good notes.

That's it.

Sadly, it gives us nothing newer than Spolin, no more challenge than an "intro" class from any of the schools. I, for one, was looking forward to finally reading up on the Groundlings. Don't look to this book for that.
A complete handbook for the aspiring improv actor  Jul 5, 2004
Improvisation For Actors And Writers: A Guidebook For Improv Lessons In Comedy by Bill Lynn is a complete handbook for the aspiring improv actor and organized into five specific sections: Comedy Schools; Improv Comedy Basics; Developing Comic Characters; Long Form Improv; and Writing Sketch Comedy. This informed and informative "how to" manual is enhanced with an extensive appendix of improv exercises. Improvisation For Actors And Writers is a clearly valuable addition to theatre department reference collections and "must" reading for anyone who has an interest in writing or performing improv on the stage or for television.
Maria, "Second City" conservatory alumni  May 18, 2004
This book is pretty good. It's more "Groundlings" than "Second City" Chris Kattan's father, Kip King an orginal Groundling wrote the preface. It is helpful that this book is from a students eye view. I went through both programs and used the book as a tool to guide me through the process. It helped with technique and sketch writing.
Before You Start at the Groundlings  Apr 18, 2004
I recommend this book for students at the Groundlings, The Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, and the Improv Olympic.

I've studied at the Groundlings and at Second City, and this book has the info you need all in one place:

--Basic Short Form Guidelines in a list
--Advanced Improv Scene Techniques (The "game", positive start, circling up)
--Instructor Side Coachings (be warned)
--Comedic Character Guidelines (labeling, physical and vocal changes, rolodexing, psychological defense mechanisms, character "game", celebrity impersonations.)
--Montage Long Form Guidelines
--Sketch Comedy (Structures like one-upsmanship, contamination, split screen, and character flaw; how to edit dialogue, devices, endings, reveals.)
--Instructor Side Coachings for Sketches (be warned)
--List of Class Exercises (only the ones the schools use)

I've seen students go through an entire program, and never really grasp some of the major concepts. This is an 'all-in-one-place' reference. Buy it. You'll be ahead of the pack, and confident in your own knowledge and skill, before, during and after your class.


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