Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art

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$18.99  $17.66
Harper Perennial
Publish Date
5.2 X 7.9 X 1.4 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author
SAM WASSON is the author of five books, including the best-selling Fosse and Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. At Wesleyan University he joined the Desperate Measures improv troupe, cofounded its annual twenty-four-hour show, and earned limited admiration for his parody of Virginia Woolf.
"With Saturday Night Live looming ever larger in the pop culture landscape, it's time for a history of improv comedy. Wasson delivers, moving nimbly from improv's origins in 1950s Chicago to movies like Caddyshack and TV shows like The Colbert Report." --Entertainment Weekly

"A compelling, absolutely unputdownable story . . . And, in case you're wondering, yes, the book is funny. In places, very funny. A remarkable story, magnificently told." --Booklist

"Improv Nation masterfully tells a new history of American comedy . . . Wasson masters the art of the monograph by locating a sharp argument within a sweeping, messy, compelling history . . . Wasson's dizzying style drives the point home. Though he jumps around, he never gives a player short shrift, and his conversational tone captivates. The book's focus tightens as its narrative strands converge, but it maintains a loose unpredictability throughout. It holds the element of surprise -- true to the spirit of its subject. Grade: A-" --Entertainment Weekly

"Sam Wasson's Improv Nation examines one of the most important stories in American popular culture . . . Wasson may be the first author to explain [improv's] entire history in comprehensive detail. For that reason alone, it's a valuable book, benefiting from dogged reporting and the kind of sweeping arguments that get your attention."--New York Times Book Review

"[A] winning history of the subject . . . [Wasson] makes fine use of improv as a prism for understanding the development of American comedy, and it's a pleasure to encounter his acute characterizations." --Wall Street Journal

"In his studious but breezy book, Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art, author Sam Wasson tracks the relatively young craft of creating humor in the same time it took Neil Simon to sharpen a pencil, making readers feel like they're sweating on stage with its quick-witted practitioners. Like the best of his subjects, which include Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray and Tina Fey, Wasson has perfect timing . . . Wasson has assembled a loving tribute to one of entertainment's most daunting challenges, with lots of laughs to boot."--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A fast-paced, thoroughly engaging road map of how improv -- that rapid-fire art of entirely unscripted performance -- came to infiltrate and shape the American pop-culture landscape . . . A whirlwind of quick, sharp anecdotes, never lingering too long yet still giving the reader a full sense of the people and the history shaping improv into what it is today." --Seattle Times

"Wasson makes a thoroughly entertaining case that improvisational comedy has 'replaced jazz as America's most popular art' and represents the best of democracy . . . Wasson brilliantly weaves together the disparate strands of improv's first decade . . . [and] nicely foreshadows future events and collaborations and does an admirable job of making simultaneous events easy to follow . . . In the spirit of an improv performer, Wasson takes care to never let the stars take over the show."--Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

"Wasson, author of the stellar biography Fosse (2013), brings his spellbinding prose style to this history of improvisational comedy . . . There's a natural flow to the author's writing--a conversational tone and a way of capturing our interest that transforms what could have been a dry recitation of people, places, and facts into a compelling, absolutely unputdownable story . . . And, in case you're wondering, yes, the book is funny. In places, very funny. A remarkable story, magnificently told."--Booklist, (starred review)

"A refreshing look at the ways in which comedians, artists, writers, and actors started getting involved in improvisation . . . An entertaining book, recommended for aspiring comedians who want to historicize their practice."--Kirkus

"The perfect gift for extreme comedy nerds and students of the craft."--HelloGiggles

"Engaging . . . An exuberant read. Wasson's zesty writing conveys the transcendental thrill of on-the-fly soul-baring, of seeking of ever-deeper authenticity."--Newsday