truth in comedy

"Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation" (Charna Halpern, Del Close, Kim Johnson)

if you haven't read this, and you work faire, you should. "The Art of Play: The New Genre of Interactive Theatre" (Gary Izzo) is great theory -- fantastic theory -- but if you're anything like me, when you first hit the streets of faire, hoping to inflict yourself upon a hapless customer, theory tends to flee right out of my head. or at least, it did for the first 15 years i worked faire.

close, although he tends to go on and on about the "Harold," a game which isn't particularly applicable to the improv out at faire, gives some great examples and advice to remember when you're on the streets. namely:

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  • No Laughing Aloud. The more ridiculous the situation, the more seriously it must be played; the actors must be totally committed to their characters and play them with complete integrity to achieve maximum laughs. (p.25)
  • Don't try to make jokes in improv! Jokes are not necessary; they are a complete waste of time and energy that is better spent developing a scene. … Chances are if you're concentrating on telling a joke, you're not looking for the connections in a scene. And the connections will draw much bigger laughs than any joke. … A good improviser doesn't need to resort to jokes; jokes are born out of desperation, and the audience is the first to realize it. (p.26) Jokes frequently lead to groans from an audience -- they rarely get laughs. On those occasions when they do get laughs, it is usually at the expense of the scene, because the commitment to the scene is lowered. Jokes tend to be employed as a last-ditch measure by insecure players when they are worried that a scene isn't funny. Unfortunately, too many players manage to establish themselves as bad improvisers and humorless stand-up comics in the same scene. (p.27)
  • Yes, and… Agreement is the one rule that can never be broken: the players must be in agreement to forward the action of the scene. Answering, "Yes, but…" stops any continued growth, while a flat "No" erases any block that has been established. (p.47)
  • Questions. He who gives information is a gift-giver; he who asks questions is a thief. Instead of providing fellow actors with facts, questions place the burden of invention upon the other players. It's much better for an improviser to assume he knows the same amount of information as the other actors, and use the opportunity to contribute his own share of information to the scene. (pp. 57-58)

these are just a few of the gems to be found inside -- definitely pick up a copy if you can.