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Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  895 ratings  ·  78 reviews
For more than 20 years of directing, teaching, and participating in improvisation, Mick Napier has watched thousands of scenes. His experience as founder of the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre/Annoyance Productions, as well as Resident Director and Artistic Consultant for The Second City, has led him to continually question why and how scenes work or don't work and what one mu ...more
Paperback, 130 pages
Published March 3rd 2004 by Heinemann Drama
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Mar 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Improvisers
"Truth in Comedy" believes in groupmind in improvisation, whereas Mick Napier's

"Improvise" urges improvisers to believe in themselves. Prior to reading the book, I've heard people describe his methods as "fuck your partner" improvising. I don't think Mick Napier is suggesting a performer should bulldoze a scene, but rather initiate strongly and follow through with that initiation or character. He offers very sound advice as to what makes a scene successful, and when put into practice it has hel
Kimberly Hirsh
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
As I first started reading this, I got nervous. I like rules, and Napier's first move is to tell you to throw out the rules of improv. I meditate on "Yes And" as though it were a koan, so at the suggestion that I not follow THE RULES anymore, I almost threw this book away from me. I was on a bus, so I'm glad I didn't, because I probably would've injured somebody. But I'm also glad I didn't because in spite of his distaste for the rules, Napier has a lot of wisdom to offer that you can use withou ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone who is mildly interested in improv, I really enjoyed this book.

The author is fun and is great at explaining his points.
Lauren Stark
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a college freshman who entered the world of improv this year; I found this book very useful. I liked the direct and scenario driven way Napier made his points. However there were some sections that assumed things that weren't true about improv for me, and that made it hard to connect in some spots. Overall though the book had important tools, useful exercises and strives to empower people to do improv without leaning on the crutch of fear, and I feel better for having read it.
Rob Moore
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely a book I'll want to come back to. I kind of shy away from people who focus too much on the "there are no rules in improv!" message...well duh! That being said, there was a lot of thought-provoking moments in this book and I especially appreciated the middle of the book where Napier walks, chapter by chapter, through a scene and how to make it successful. I can definitely see why this is considered a core text for improvisers.
Sam Caldwell
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The writing is very unpolished (dare I say improvisational?). The physics and sciency bits fell a bit flat for me, including the entire chapter relating improv to the second law of thermodynamics. That said, the advice rang true, and I liked that the books provides exercises you can do at home.
Eddie Quintana
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I disagreed with so many of the ideas in this book, but it really challenged me to think about WHY I found myself disagreeing with it. I think Napier does a great job of explaining his vision for improv and a great roadmap for achieving it. The exercises and tips for auditioning were excellent.
Alejandro I Sanoja
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you are into improv you MUST read this book. It will also be valuable for anyone that wants to be a better actor or performer in general.

I've read several improv books and this is by far the most actionable one. Although improv is an art, most artists don't like to admit that applying a science mindset can sometimes be valuable. Mick Napier does a great job of finding the balance between art and science.

Another valuable component of the book is the "Journal" section where he shares several
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is about finding your own voice, committing harder, being more confident, and taking care of yourself as the first step in any scene. It has lots of interesting and helpful advice. Napier advocates for choosing strong characters at the beginning of a scene and committing to them. Some of his critics think his style is selfish, but I value a scene partner that makes strong choices. I think I'm on Napier's side.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was completely unexpected. He s
Shalaj Lawania
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm not a huge fan of books that are snarky towards the entire genre from the get-go (usually a condescending style prevalent in self-help books: 'Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Obstacle is the Way etc.). The constant desire for Napier to stand out from the crowd created issues like:

1) There is frequent criticism for traditional methods, which means this book needs to be read after you read a conventional improv book. Will not work as a standalone.

2) The desire to appear radical makes the auth
Greg Talbot
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Stay present
Make bold choices
Prepare an emotion or a point of view
Draw out your character to the audience
Stick to your choice
Be Open

Really solid book. Last week I did an improv show over at Annoyance Theater in Chicago...and even though there's a lot of work to get better it, I felt much more comfortable having flipped through this a few times.

Won't get you the homerun, but will get you to the game. Worth it.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a brilliant resource for anyone looking to seriously pursue improvised theater (particularly improvised comedy). It is also an interesting, if a little intimidating, introduction to a unique way to view improv. Not only is it extremely helpful for these reasons, but it also has interesting life advice bits here and there that I truly took to heart. Fantastic book that I look forward to revisiting in the future.
Ivan Tchernev
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: improv
An excellent introduction to improv that holds back nothing. Mick Napier's tone is pleasantly conversational (if a little in your face), and his inclusion of improv exercises for one are almost worth the price of entry by themselves. If you're into improv, read this one. Then wait a year, and read it again. I expect it to have gems for years to come.

Ryan Morton
Wonderful book on improv from a legend in the industry. Filled with lessons, person stories, jokes, and both rules and non-rules. As a student of improv, this was an eye-opener and has greatly improved my performance, understanding, and enjoyment of improv on stage. Thanks for the book and perspective Mick. Read this if you want be "play" better on stage, or in life...
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Super informative book on the art of improvisation. Mick Napier is blunt and brutally honest. he doesn't refrain from telling his readers on how they need not necessarily follow the "The golden rules" of Improv.
Mick LeClaire
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would have rated this book three stars for it's charming little spurts of misogyny and general dickheadedness, but dammit, Mick Napier really knows what he's talking about. It was enough to bump the book from three stars to four.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
He breaks all the rules -- and explains WHY. Tons of insightful advice you can immediately use to improve your improv. I got a lot out of this, especially the exercises that can be done at home.

Before reading this one I always recommend Keith Johnstone's timeless book Impro.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the best book on improv. Great insights and tips from a guy who knows what he's talking about. Definitely worth the investment.
Benjamin Rubenstein
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: resources, paperback
It's all about the improv games, baby
Cristal Hernandez
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it

Just finished reading this. Had some very good points and advice for developing a scene. Was indifferent about the journal at the end about time at second city.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life advice disguised as improv advice. Everyone should read this.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is really awesome.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
There was a lot of useful advice. I particularly liked the idea of filtering the events of the scene thru the lens of the character you've created.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good audition advice and great games/practice for at home.
Erin Panjer
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Down to earth and simply stated. Smart and Jolly. Great exercise suggestions.
Max Beyer
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love Napier's voice throughout this entire book. I found myself reading segments of it to my friends that don't even improvise just because it hit so close to home and I related with it so well. He clearly knows his stuff, and it kind of felt like taking an improv class after each chapter. He truly has a gift for articulating his annoyances with bad improv while giving excellent examples of what he is talking about, and provides simple tips on how to remedy it. Truth In Comedy seems ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theatre, 2000s
A must read for anyone involved in improv, sketch comedy, or acting in general. Reading this book made me instantly regret not taking classes at the Annoyance during my time in Chicago. As someone who came from the iO background of "support support support," the idea of "self first" was off-putting to me. However, reading Improvise, I see now that I had it all wrong, thanks to a complete misunderstanding of what the Annoyance school of improv is all about.

Improvise does a fantastic job of layin
Keith Moser
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education, 2013
Definitely not as compelling a book as Truth in Comedy, but some good tips inside for people looking to get into improv.

My biggest complaint about this collection of "rules" is how author Mick Napier just repeats himself over and over and over and over again. When I read books like this (acting tips, improv advice, etc.) I like to highlight key passages to make any re-read quick and easy. This book was written with a type of language that made this nearly impossible. Very rarely were tips writte
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Napier has a distinct way of looking at how performers create appealing scenes on stage. I'll never call anything "The Right Way (period)" but for improv, this book seems to be The Right Way For Me. Go out on stage, make a choice, stick with it. Simple.

I prefer this style of thinking and talking about improv over Truth in Comedy's and Improv Handbook's. Many feel differently, and i can understand why as long as the reason isn't that you believe Napier's telling you to bulldoze and ignore your sc
Nov 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Jesus taught in parables, so why not Mick Napier? He also uses lots of hypothetical examples, commenting on them snarkily as if they were actual improv performances. He demands improvisers to unlearn the rules they've learned, while also giving a list of strongly suggested do-nots that he insists are not rules. He writes in a talky, informal tone that can be distracting. He often tries to anticipate what the reader might be thinking or the judgments the reader might be passing. But underneath al ...more
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