As of yesterday, I’ve published 35 interviews with Austin improvisers over the course of two years. For you calendar lovers out there, this means I haven’t published a Sunday Interview every Sunday.

Of the 35 interviewees, I asked 21 a variation of this question:

If you were writing an improv manual, what would be the titles of the first three chapters?

Some of them took it very seriously. (Peter Rogers’ response is the longest and most thoughtful.) Some answered it as a comedy bit. Most of them, I’m guessing, answered the question quickly. A couple of them were asked for the title of only one chapter, while one particular interviewee was, strangely, asked for the title of the last chapter of his hypothetical improv manual.

And thus, below you will find the Table of Contents of an imaginary improv “frankenbook” — a book cobbled together from 21 separate improvisers.  Chapter titles are presented in chronological order — starting with the first interviewee, Ms. Kaci Beeler, through yesterday’s subject, Sean Hill.

Read it aloud a few times and it’ll mutate into a jangling cacophony of improv koans. It’s an exquisite corpse, a found poem.

For example, there’s the dichotomous beauty of Stephen Kearin’s three cut-to-the-chase titles followed immediately by Shana Merlin’s touchy feely answers. Or Dan Grimm’s chapter titles, which read like something Panic! At the Disco would sing.

Maybe if you read the entire list aloud enough times it can become an extra-long mantra.

Here you go …

Frankenbook Improv Manual
Table of Contents

• Commitment Is Everything (Kaci Beeler)
• Finding Failure Funny
• Make The Work You Wish You Could Watch
• What is Base Reality? (Matt Besser)
• How to Create a Base Reality
• The Game of the Scene
• Simmer Down (Stephen Kearin)
Can The Chatter
• Cut The Crap
• Open Mind (Shana Merlin)
• Open Eyes
• Open Heart 
Don’t Pressure Yourself, You’re Making Shit Up (Dan Grimm)
• Shut the Fuck Up & Don’t Talk So Much: You Aren’t in the Dinner Scene of Reservoir Dogs
• Proximity, Physical Contact & Being Affected: Make Your Audience Your Bitches
• Listen (Dave Buckman)
• Agree
• React
• Improvising as an Ensemble (Aaron Saenz)
Improvising as an Actor
• Improvising as a Writer
• K.I.S.S. (Josh Gill)
• This Needs to be Fun (Lance Gilstrap)
Understanding Improv By Talking About Sandwiches (Cody Dearing)
If it isn’t fun, don’t do it. But if it is, DO! (Aden Kirschner)
It’s Okay! (Valerie Ward)
• Of course!
• Hell yes!
• Get over yourself (and hating on yourself)! (Emma Holder)
• Get over everyone else!
• Have an opinion!
• Forget Everything You Have Learned (Chuy Zarate)
Forget Everything You Know
• Stop Being Selfish. Please The Audience Before Yourself (in bed)
• Don’t Try to be Funny (Jeff Whitaker)
• Be Patient, Earn the Laughs
• Spinning Bowties
• Let’s have some fun! (Quinn Buckner)
• Alright this part might not be as much fun, but trust me, it’s tasty!
• Whew! Now it’s back to the fun!
• Baffled Dancers (Peter Rogers)
• Making Observations
• The Whole Picture
• You’re Already Great! (Lacy Shawn)
• Fun!
• Work What You Got!
• This is a chair & this is how to move it from one place to another (Kareem Badr)
• Fuckin’ Do It!
• F.S.U.
• Location (Ceej Allen)
• Location
• Play Earnestly
• Being Present (Sean Hill)
• Saying Yes
• Giving Your Partner a Good Time


• • • • •


  1. Tyler Lane on December 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I like Lacy’s chapters :3

  2. Andrew on December 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    I transcribed their punctuation marks, making no changes. Which means the three folks whose titles included punctuation marks are:

    Valerie Ward
    Lacy Shawn
    Quinn Buckner

    • Valerie Ward on December 9, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      And Emma Holder!

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