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Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  872 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
In an irresistible invitation to lighten up, look around, and live an unscripted life, a master of the art of improvisation explains how to adopt the attitudes and techniques used by generations of musicians and actors.

Let’s face it: Life is something we all make up as we go along. No matter how carefully we formulate a “script,” it is bound to change when we interact with
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Harmony (first published 2005)
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The Comedy Bible by Judy CarterImprov Wisdom by Patricia Ryan MadsonArt by Committee by Charna HalpernImprovise. by Mick NapierTruth in Comedy by Charna Halpern
2nd out of 8 books — 1 voter
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Presentation skills
11th out of 11 books — 19 voters

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Jun 19, 2013 Deb rated it it was amazing
**Living well = Improvising wisely**

Ohmygoodness. Is this book ever a gift!

I actually checked this book out of the library a few years ago, and life happened, and I never got a chance to read it before it was due. But then, the Universe sent me a gentle reminder (thanks, L!) that this wisdom was just what I needed to read. Right here. Right now.

Right on.

Just looking at the book's table of contents (which has an uncanny overlap to my own working draft of How To Do Life) was soul-jolting:
1. Say ye
Jane Stewart
Not what I expected. This is more about adding variety and enjoyment to your life.

She gives suggestions like go to bed 1 hour earlier, get up 1 hour earlier, walk a different way when going someplace. For one day smile at everyone you see. Say thank you frequently and with details. Mistakes are good.

My favorite improv rule is say “Yes And.” Don’t say “Yes But.” Also don’t say “No.” I heard that before I read this book, and I was hoping for more ideas like that, which I did not get. I was also ho
Scott Wozniak
Mar 31, 2014 Scott Wozniak rated it liked it
This isn't really a book about improv. It's a life philosophy inspired by improv principles. Mostly, it can be summed up as relax, say yes more often, be okay with mistakes, and be present in the moment. It's not bad advice in general. It isn't particularly powerful and it certainly isn't original.

She most often quotes other Zen thinkers, along with a few other sources. She shares her story (from careful rule follower to free spirited improv teacher) and it's both relevant and fun to learn.

It w
Nov 09, 2008 Eleonora rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Eleonora by: Dave Pollard’s blog.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tim Holme
Apr 20, 2014 Tim Holme rated it it was ok
The first half is good, and inspiring as it hits the high points of improv -- say "yes", for example. That's the best tip in the book, and unfortunately, I already knew it, so I didn't find much new here. And the second half of the book loses its way into the self help pathos, which was a downer after the excitement of the beginning.
there's so much wisdom in these 160 pages, and although it may sound improv-focused, the content really applies to your whole life. what's great about this book is that ideas are simple and concise, really packing all of the author's thoughts into the fewest words possible - it's an efficient book.

i especially love how "just show up" is in the title, as madson says a lot about how being in the room and also full present already goes a long way towards getting somewhere. i think back on this week
Dec 14, 2010 Peter rated it really liked it
Improv wisdom, by Patricia Ryan Madson, is a delightful book that invites the reader to apply 13 basic principles (or “maxims”) of improvisation to our daily life situations. While clearly rooted in the tenets of improvisation, the book also reveals subtle influences of Eastern thought including Zen and Yoga which, like improve, guide us to be fully focused in the present moment, and direct our thoughts and energies towards harmony, collaboration, and kindness. The maxims are:

1. Say Yes
2. Don’t
Melissa Mcgowan
Jun 20, 2016 Melissa Mcgowan rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy and methods of Improv. The author clearly illustrates how anyone can benefit from applying these methods to their personal lives. The concept of just saying yes, which is the key to improv, seems so simple. However, it can also be profoundly transforming. I highly recommend this book.
Jul 31, 2014 Jacopo rated it it was amazing
Un manuale ben strutturato che va direttamente al punto e offre parecchi spunti di pratica per incorporare l'essenza della vita: l'improvvisazione. Personalmente l'ho trovato illuminante non tanto per i concetti esposti, quanto per il modo in cui l'autrice ha unito i puntini del mio percorso di miglioramento personale, facendomi capire che il minimo comune denominatore delle mie ultime letture e dei miei recenti interessi è proprio il voler ritrovare la spontaneità ed essere in grado di improvvi ...more
What a great little book! I had a feeling that working with improv could be a spiritual experience, and, sure enough, a friend pointed me to this little work. I want to try doing a spirituality group focused on the exercises here.
Jan 21, 2016 Adam rated it it was amazing
Quick and insightful read. Think of this book and it's ideas as more of a manifesto or philosophy of life. Definitely gleaned some great concepts I intend to internalize!
Erik Ferguson
Jan 10, 2016 Erik Ferguson rated it really liked it
Shelves: get-it-together
:-) :-) :-) Thank you, Jane!!
Mar 28, 2014 Alli rated it really liked it
It's a better-than-average self-help book, build on some research and experience as the author is on the Stanford drama faculty. I liked the references to Japanese cultural and language having lived there and been pretty engaged with the culture for a while that helped me hook into some of the ideas and the maxims. Overall, it was a pretty pleasant and novel take on the usual suspects for ways to live better. Some *highlights* on things that were particularly resonant and/or are _difficult_ for ...more
Fred Darbonne
Jan 28, 2014 Fred Darbonne rated it really liked it
Drawing on her four decades of teaching, most of it as a member of the Stanford University drama faculty, Patricia Madson presents a counter-intuitive argument for the value of improvisational skills in other areas of our lives. Accordingly, its genre is classified as self-help, rather than some category of the performance arts.

Her argument for loosening up, paying close attention to other people and what is around us, and thinking on our feet is compelling. She is careful to note that a success
Jun 18, 2014 Betsy rated it it was ok
There's a lot of good advice in this pop psych/self-help book - but it is a pop psych/self-help book. I wanted more substance, more depth. It's an interesting take on pop psych to use the rules of improvisation to give life advice, but it is lite, lite, lite. (Spelling, here, is deliberate.)
Apr 19, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Have been taking improv classes and this book distills some of the great lessons from the experience and how it translates to the world. Remember when Tina Fey said in Bossypants that improv was key to her success? This book shows it. Yes and!
Oct 07, 2009 Lessabouchard rated it it was amazing
Great kick in the pants for any artist that enjoys process thinking- particularly about how their work-style and life-style effect each other. The kind of prodding that feels sooooo good.
Sep 16, 2014 Doug rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
When you do improv, you get to this place where you realize the skills you build up are applicable to the rest of your life as well. Listening carefully, responding honestly, being bold, having fun. "Hey! This applies to the way I parent!" "Hey! This applies to the way I teach!" "Hey! This applies to the way I deal with clients!" I'm not saying the insight is trivial, it's not, but it's something everyone comes to after they've done enough 'prov.

So if you are an improvisor, I don't know how much
Aditya Jha
Feb 28, 2016 Aditya Jha rated it really liked it
After a long time I found a book that I was able to relate to chapter after chapter. The author wants us to improvise in our daily lives. However, don't be misguided by the title. The intention is not to be reckless in life, rather it is expected of us to keep reminding ourselves of our purpose. Being mindful of the future should not come at the expense of the present moment. Another brilliant point suggest in the book is to say yes. Saying yes to opportunities takes us out of our comfort zone a ...more
Jun 21, 2011 Becca rated it really liked it
Because of this book... I make my bed every morning!
Patricia  Ryan Madson
Mar 31, 2009 Patricia Ryan Madson rated it it was amazing
Life changing
James Barr
Mar 29, 2016 James Barr rated it it was amazing
A helpful book for anyone who needs to be up in front of people on a regular basis.

Notes: Don't be afraid to say yes to new situations, and don't be overly concerned about preparation. Just show up on time and start. Be confident that your current skills and what you already know will carry you through the performance. Just do what is natural and easy rather than striving for perfection and originality.
Pay very close attention as you live in the moment. Recognize the facts of your situation and
Aug 05, 2015 Craven rated it really liked it
Found this looking for books on improv.Certainly was some good advice on improv and the life stuff ain't so bad neither. You Probably don't need to read the book, though, because this is the gist of it:

The Twelve Maxims of Improv
1. Say yes.
2. Don't Prepare.
3. Just Show Up.
4. Start Anywhere.
5. Be Average.
6. Pay Attention.
7. Face the Facts.
8. Stay On Course.
9. Wake Up To The Gifts.
10. Make Mistakes, Please.
11. Act Now.
12. Take Care of Each Other.
13. Enjoy the Ride.
Jun 15, 2014 Mangoo rated it liked it
It is an easy experience of readers running through bookshelves in American(-style) bookshops: they are (over)crowded with self-help books and self-improvement and killer books disclosing how to unmistakenly achieve success over competitors lurking behind every corner. This speaks books by itself of the cultural feel (and void, I guess) and standing of the average American reader, though arguably it has also genuinely to do with an inborn aspiration to emergence among difficulties, in the spirit ...more
Jul 09, 2010 Ali rated it really liked it
You know a book has struck a chord when you begin imagining the syllabus you would create around a university course devoted to its study. I have long been searching for a book that summarizes my own discoveries in acting and Improv Wisdom seems to come close. Patricia Ryan Madson writes with the gentle, simple, seasoned reminders of a kindred spirit and with the humor and grace of your all-time favorite teacher. Upon reading this book, I wanted to BE Madson-to live like her-to think like her a ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Claire rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Reading Voix de Michele's tales of improv and Colleen the Communicatrix's review peaked my interest in improv wisdom, so I checked out a copy from the library. Well worth reading. (Thanks for recommending it, Colleen!)

The basic premise is that the tenets of improv performing can also be applied to life. "Say yes," "just show up," "start anywhere," "make mistakes, please" to name a few. Each chapter contains examples of its maxim from her life and her students' experiences, as well as experiments
Aug 13, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing
My friend Matt Griffin, an improv actor, introduced me to improv theatre a few years ago. I was hooked. I came across this book about a year ago and have wanted to read it. It is a wonderful read. Part improv book and part self-help, the author takes the principles of improv and applied them to life. Mrs. Madson makes one point clear to me: life is not scripted but improvised daily. I recommend this book for its simple message and brevity.
Andrea Mullarkey
Aug 02, 2012 Andrea Mullarkey rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a small book with lots of good advice on problem solving, staying motivated, and keeping life moving forward. None of it is particularly new or earthshaking but it was nice to have it all in one little spot. I also liked the organization into bite-size chapters because it enabled me to take one lesson each day and really try it on. Madson’s suggested actions were also helpful. I found myself one day asking over and over “what is my purpose here” and though it felt hokey at first it did o ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Such an incredible book with so many nuggets of wisdom. I came alive reading this. I loved all the fun games it suggested to try. I teach improv, perform improv and am always saying improv games can apply to life. This book proved it. I loved the quotes from this book and positivity surrounding it!
Jul 01, 2014 Sergei_kalinin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
13 правил и 55 упражнений, которые помогут вам стать импровизатором по жизни :) Очень неплохая книга по саморазвитию; читается легко, но с довольно серьёзной базой (автор - профессор Стэнфорда).

Подробная рецензия + подборка самых интересных упражнений из книги в моём блоге:
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