Ok, two books for you.
One I’ve been meaning to blog about for ages, one that’s just come through the letterbox today, both with an impro background. (And neither needing you to want to perform for them to be useful!)

Today’s one first, Sally Holloway, who I taught impro about a zillion years ago (15 years? more?) when I was teaching more regularly with Spontaneous Combustion (when we were performing much more regularly than now!) has written a book about writing jokes. Yes, a whole book on joke writing. This morning I’ve read the introduction (great), the afterword (brilliant), the last chapter (REALLY useful). And dipped into the rest. Sally’s called this a book about writing jokes. Well yes, on the surface, but it’s mostly a book about writing. About just doing it, and any number of little tricks that can be employed to just do it, and ways to listen to yourself, work with yourself. Including Just Doing It. Great. (And, as one who started standup in 1988 and gave it up as a very bad joke in about 1990/91, she’s almost convincing enough to make me think the writing of jokes is something even I could do. Now that’s impressive.)

And the previous one next. Alan Marriott was among the first people to teach me impro. I’m almost entirely sure the (somewhat dubious) honour of being the actual first belongs to Lee Simpson, Donmar Warehouse, 1987. I think this is right because that’s when Lee had a beard. (And maybe a ponytail? or am I just imagining that?) Anyway, Alan was teaching there and then too, and I thought 2 things – 1) that this ‘impro’ class my mate Debbie Mullholland had taken me to (despite my protests that I wanted to be a ‘proper’ actor and wasn’t interested in comedy!!) was amazing, and 2) it was what I’d been doing for years. (I had, with several companies, and had read Keith’s Impro back in 1981/2 ish, we just didn’t call what we were doing improvising. I think we called it, er, making it up …) Anyway, back to Alan’s book …
Great, clear, concise descriptions of plenty of impro games many of us have been doing for ages, applied not only to impro (or yes, improv if you must), but also to other work, to the work of making our own work. Also nice for me, as I bring more and more impro and theatre stuff to each time I teach writing, to be reminded of ideas or games I haven’t worked with for a dozen years or more, or things I’d forgotten that are just as useful as those I use all the time. (That thing of building up a store of stuff that’s useful and forgetting to look around for what else might do just as well, or better. Nice to have these two books to remind me.)

So, two books for the price of one blog, two ways to get on and do it. And both impro related.

And speaking of which, at Improbable‘s Eldership Open Space this past weekend, I was delighted to spend time again with Andy Harmon. Andy taught Lee impro at drama school. Lee taught me. Viola Spolin taught Andy. And I’ve been taught (as many of us have) by Keith (Johnstone). Which gives me direct lineage to both godmother and godfather of impro/v. Yay. (I hasten to say, I’m not claiming it gives me any more than that! but still, yay anyway …)