Being something of a nerd (I like to think I am nerd-chic), I have read a lot of books about improv. Here’s one I read a long time ago, but just recently reread. To my surprise I found it chock-full of great improv nuggets: The Tao Of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff.
If you have read The Tao of Pooh, you might be saying, but Todd, that’s not a book about improv, it’s about Taoism.
Same thing, I say.
Sure, The Tao of Pooh, written in 1982 was ostensibly (See my big word, nerd alert!), written to introduce Taoist concepts to the Me Generation that also spawned Milli Vanilli and the side ponytail. But even if he didn’t know it, Benjamin wrote a great improv book.
Just listen to this wisdom:
The more forcing, the more trouble.
Not only is that great advice for life that covers everything from brain surgery to digestion, but what a great thing to remember as an improviser.
I can’t count how many times I have witnessed/been in a scene that wasn’t going particularly well only to have some improviser (like, um, me!) try and force some joke out… instant tank-ville.
As improvisers, we know that forcing anything on stage leads to confusion, frustration, and general badness. But we forget, oh how we forget. I know they’ll think I’m funny if
I can just get this joke to work… I know it!
Or how about this:
Cleverness, after all, has its limitations.
Any improviser worth her salt knows that the best improv comes from raw on-stage discovery and not from clever thinking. Clever thinking leaves you alone on stage, in your own head, wondering where everyone has gone.
News flash – they left you behind to go have some fun.
I heartily recommend this short, wise book for all improvisers (since we are all making shit up all the time in life, that means all of you), for a read or a reread. Besides you can never read too many books.