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Big laughs; small moments; when you come in with a serious character but can’t help but smile when you look at your scene partner… There are so many reasons we heart improv.

When you both say the same first word during Mind Meld.

Doing organic openings in an alley while passersby stare in amazement.

When you keep your Noo Yawk accent, even though your scene partner’s is Bahston.

Struggling to find the opening in the curtain, so you just play the scene from behind it.

When the tech person makes you laugh.

Ruining a perfectly good scene because you wanted to use the God mic.

When “the quiet one” starts tearing it up on stage.

When you say or do something with your back to your scene partner, and afterward they say, “How did you know what I was doing?!”

Photo © BCIF

Photo © Jim Goad

When you finish putting the mimed coin in your pocket even though you’ve been swept, because it’s so real to you.

Playing the opposite sex, or a superhero, or a rhododendren with issues.

When you don’t remember what you said or did…you just know it felt awesome.

Leaving the stage still laughing and drenched in sweat.

Coming off stage to find the people in the green room clapping.

When you find out after a great set that your work friends came to see this one.

When your students come to your show.

Overhearing someone in the audience say “They wrote that in advance.”

Photo © BCIF

Photo © Jim Goad

When there’s three people in the audience and you fucking kill it.

Being surprised on the way out with “your cut of the door.”

When someone outside the community says, “I’ve seen you perform. You’re really funny.”

Performing at an out-of-town festival for the first time.

Getting past the border guards, then remembering the joint in your pocket.

Seeing DCM wristbands around NYC and feeling like you’re part of the club.

When your body forgets it was sick until after the show.

Making someone who never breaks corpse.

Photo © BCIF

Photo © BCIF

Thinking you blew the audition, then getting The Call.

Seeing your friends on the Main Stage.

Seeing your friends in commercials.

Seeing your friends in commercials like this, and never letting them forget.

When you hang with your team and don’t talk improv.

Having so much fun coaching, you feel bad taking money.

Watching TJ and Dave perform.

Discovering that the coolest, smartest, most talented improvisers are also the kindest, humblest, and most generous.

Getting to perform with your comedy heroes, and making them laugh.

Photo © Caleigh LeGrand

Photo © Raw Photography

If you’re like us and still haven’t finished – or, um, started – your holiday shopping, here are some suggestions for the funny ones on your list. (No, we haven’t made a list yet, either.)

Saint Celebrity Prayer Candles

Holy crapola! How cool are these? If you don’t see something you like, you can request a custom order of your favourite Comedy Gods. Saints Odenkirk, Poehler, and Colbert, please!

Artwork © Saint Celebrity

Artwork © Saint Celebrity

Top Tomes

We’re big fans of learning from different theatres and instructors, and the same goes for improv books. While the points of view vary, each of these titles is written by authors who know their shit. For anyone looking to expand their knowledge of long form and comedy, one (or more) of these would make a great gift.

Books

Improvising Better: A Guide for the Working Improviser by Liz Allen and Jimmy Carrane

Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh

Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy: The Harold by Fotis, Matt (2014) Hardcover by Matt Fotis

Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book by TJ Jagodowski & David Pasquesi with Pam Victor

Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier (now updated and expanded with a foreword by Stephen Colbert)

Improvising Now by Rob Norman

Truth in Comedy by Del Close, Charna Halpern and Kim “Howard” Johnson

Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Guide to Writing Funny and Getting Paid for It by Mel Helitzer and Mark Shatz

The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus

And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers–The New Unexpurgated Version!by Mike Sacks

Trust Us, This Is All Made Up 

Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, TJ and Dave’s documentary is a timeless classic. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and a fully-improvised, 50-minute performance at the Barrow Street Theatre, it’s a must-see for all improvisers.

Improv Tees, Clocks, Mugs & More

From spiffy new logo Tees to our Improviser’s Clock, you’ll find goodies galore in our online store. Happy hols!Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 3.43.52 PM

As the improv blogosphere expands, more awesome voices join in the chorus. Here are some of our faves.

Artwork © David Kantrowitz

Artwork © David Kantrowitz

Miles Stroth: Pack Theater

A veteran of the Chicago and LA improv scenes, Miles Stroth studied under Del Close, was a member of The Family, and helped invent The Deconstruction and The Movie…so he’s, y’know, pretty good.

Stroth’s straight-from-the-hip style is a joy to read, and reminds us a little of Mick Napier’s. (What can we say? We love swears.) The blog is only a few weeks old, but topics so far include The Myth of Stage Time, Listening vs Monkeys, and An Introduction To The Four Scene Types, part of an ongoing series.

Jay Sukow: Today Improv

Jay Sukow brings 30 years’ experience performing and teaching in Chicago to his improv worldview. He studied under Colbert, Razowsky, and Carell, and we think it shows in his compassionate, mindful writing, with posts like “How Do I Get Out Of My Head?” and “Dear Improvisors.” Like Stroth’s blog, Sukow’s is still in its infancy, but with tips for improvisers as well as business people, it’s sure to build a strong following.

Jimmy Carrane

The creator and host of the Improv Nerd podcast, Jimmy Carrane has one of the best blogs out there. It’s honest, unfiltered, and always enlightening. After three decades in the Chicago improv scene, Jimmy has performed with the best of the best, and experienced the highs and lows of doing improv for a living. Whatever you’re looking for, chances are Jimmy’s covered it, from physicality, status, and fear, to walk-ons, auditions, dealing with stage hogs, career jealousy, and much more.

Will Hines: Improv Nonsense

After all that Chicago deep dish, why not take a walk on the Will Hines side? Hines hails from UCBT, where he taught and performed in New York City before moving to LA. His tumblr is a mix of improv tips, personal reflections, photos, and a forum for improvisers to ask for advice.

Hines’ writing is conversational with just the right amount of swear-y, as in this gem:

“Caring is funny. It’s unexpected. Don’t go too nuts or it’ll feel false. Just give about 20% more of a shit than we expect you to.

‘For this year’s musical, we are producing West Side Story.’

‘Fuck yes!’

Hey, that’s pretty funny! So yeah, do that. Give just a bit more of a shit than we expect.”

The House That Del Built

Labelled “The intellectual musings of an improv wonk,” THTDB is thoughtful, wordy, and – dare we say it? – deep. With topics like Talent vs Skill, The Economy of Comedy, and Joking, Lying and The Truth, this is the place to go when you want a mind sandwich – a really good one.

Pam Victor: My Nephew Is A Poodle

You probably know Pam Victor from the most eagerly-anticipated improv book in yonks, Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book, which she co-wrote.

Pam’s blog blends her day-to-day life as an improviser and instructor with her “Geeking Out With…” series of interviews, featuring every improv rock star you can think of except for Del (and even then, she’s probably planning a seance). Definitely worth poring over.

National Improv Network

NIN’s mission is to “bring every venue, troupe and improviser access to the tools and resources they need to create excellent improv and run excellent venues.” It’s this distinction that makes it invaluable for anyone who owns a own theatre, runs a festival, or produces and directs shows, in addition to being improvisers. Posts cover a wide range of topics, including spotlights on different cities’ improv festivals.

Montreal Improv

Since 2009, Vinny Francois and crew have been writing and reposting cool stuff on improv, comedy, acting, and more. Always smart and insightful, they’ve also reviewed a whack of improv books, and guest posters include David Pasquesi, Jill Bernard, and Will Luera.

Nat Tsolak: The School of Laughter

This quintessentially British blog is a charming alternative to our slightly-less-eloquent North American fare. (To paraphrase Rene Zellweger, “You had me at ‘whilst.'”)

Nat Tsolak’s posts include personal stories and improv games, with a special focus on improv, comedy, and psychology.

Ben Noble: I’m Making All This Up

St Louis native and copywriter Ben Noble started doing make ’em ups three years ago, and now he writes a blog about improv and creativity. He also wrote Improv ABC, which is more advanced than it sounds.

David Kantrowitz: Improv Artvice

This tumblr features quotes from some of improv’s brightest lights, and you can even buy them as prints and other goodies. How about an “If you’re not having fun, you’re the asshole” canvas print for your bedroom?

Artwork © David Kantrowitz

Artwork © David Kantrowitz