Truth in Comedy

An improv routine that slumps to the floor and spreads into a puddle: alas, that's Truth in Comedy, a thin book that styles itself as "The manual of improvisation". After reading Keith Johnstone's Impro and Impro for Storytellers, perhaps the plodding and ill-structured form of Truth in Comedy is more distracting. Who edited it? And the print is too large, the layout of the book too amateurish, the binding of my paperback copy is already splitting. Meriwether Publishing Ltd. records the copyright date by writing "1994" and "2001" in Roman numerals. Why, if not to slightly disguise the year? And the overall tone is a distracting mix of name-dropping and mutual-admiration-society ritual bows. Authors Charna Halpern and Kim "Howard" Johnson constantly salute their coauthor, the late Del Close, and too many salutes get in the way of progress.

Yet there are faint glimmers amidst the clinkers. In Chapter Eight ("One Mind, Many Bodies"), for instance:

The ImprovOlympic workshops constantly prove that a group can achieve powers greater than the individual human mind. Scenes created have turned out to be prophetic, and ESP has actually occurred on stage. Players are able to speak simultaneously, at a normal rate of speed, saying the exact same thing, word for word. Some teams became oracles on stage, answering the great questions of the universe, one word at a time, leaving audiences chilled and astonished.

Audiences have witnessed the group mind linking up to a universal intelligence, enabling them to perform fantastic, sometimes unbelievable feats. It only happens when the group members are finely attuned to each other, but it almost seems like they are tapping into the same universal consciousness that enables individuals with special abilities. Somehow, we are able to connect to it — and all improvisers know the value of connections!

That's a fascinating, but sadly pedestrian, description of a phenomenon that needs proper documentation, illustration, and analysis. Please, somebody, do that — and then write it up with wit and sparkle!

^z - 2013-04-26