Are you an improviser who has had your fill of zip-up hoodies and pairs of skinny jeans? If so, this year, we recommend that you ask Santa to bring you some books.
These four books are must-haves for any improviser who wants to get out of his or her own way, boost your creativity, and make it in the big, bad world of comedy. And if Santa doesn’t bring them, why not buy them for yourself?
- The Big Leap: Conquer your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level
by Gay Hendricks (2010)As improvisers, we get failure. It’s part of our job description. What we actually have a harder time with is success. What happens when we start getting good and we start getting more recognition and more opportunities? Some of us self-destruct, and the worst part is we don’t even know why. How you could not love a book about how we sabotage our own success and the sneaky ways we do it? In The Big Leap, Hendricks not only helps identify the things that we do that get in our own way to becoming even more successful, but also he gives us practical ways to overcome them. If you are frustrated that your career is not where it’s supposed to be, this book is a must-have on your holiday wish list. Be aware this book is filled with tough love, and if you are not willing to look at yourself, I have three other books on the list that will be a little more gentle on you.
- Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
by Austin Kleon (2012)Boy, do I see this in my improv classes all the time: Students who are blocking their creativity because they want to come up with an original idea. The premise of this book is that everything has been done before, and that all sorts of artists from Pablo Picasso to David Bowie have stolen from other artists. How great is that? For me, learning that, and the nine practical things that follow, was inspiring. The real power of this book is in its simplicity. It takes the shame out of the notion that it’s wrong to steal from other artists and gives you permission to do so. Plus, it’s a quick read, it has pictures, and it’s only $10.95.
- How To Succeed in Business without Really Crying: Lessons from Life in Comedy
by Carol Leifer (2014)If I ran an improv school, I would make this book required reading for anyone who wants a career in comedy. Carol Leifer is a successful stand-up and a four-time Emmy nominee for her writing on shows like “Seinfield,” “Modern Family,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” She shares with us some great show biz stories from her career and the lessons she learned from them. You expect it be funny, which it is, but what I loved about it was that even with all her success, she is relatable. It reads like you are getting advice from a trusted friend. It’s human and practical. She is realistic and candid about the comedy world, and talks about the highs and the lows, the disappointments and the importance of failing. If Santa only brings you one book this year, I hope it’s this one.
- Improv Therapy: How to Get Out of Your Own Way to Become a Better Improviser
by Jimmy CarraneLooking for a cheap gift idea for one of your improviser friends? Buy them a copy of my newest book, Improv Therapy. This book is honest and insightful look at things improvisers don’t want to discuss: their feelings. You’ll find out what blocks you on stage, and get practical advice to overcome your issues so you can become the improviser you always dreamed of being. It’s available either as a digital download for the Kindle or as a PDF version (which you can print out and put in someone’s stocking).