Long-Form Improv: The Complete Guide to Creating Characters, Sustaining Scenes, and Performing Extraordinary Harolds
by Ben Hauck
Allworth Press | 2012
A handbook of essential comedy skills, useful for all performers!
Long-Form Improv deftly teaches the wildly popular form of improvisation that is so foundational to the comedy stylings of many of today’s top actors and thriving comedians. Crammed with innovative ideas for conceptualizing improvised scenework and “finding the game of the scene,” this crisply written manual covers techniques for experienced improvisers, curious actors, and even non-actors.
A complete long-form improv resource comprising topics like ideation and character creation, improvising scenes for extended periods of time and enhancing them — and even performing the most famous expression of long-form improv, the half-hour improvised form known as “The Harold” — this astute text is written in a friendly, supportive voice by an experienced improv teacher and professional actor whose own frustration in learning the craft drove an obsession to create a program free of confounding teachings and contradictory concepts.
The book’s groundbreaking infusion with drama theory and game theory brings new life to the teachings of the craft, breaking down various aspects of long-form improv into short chapters for swift, step-by-step intake of its vital lessons. Students of acting and long-form improv alike should expect Long-Form Improv to bolster their education and fast-track their course to improv greatness.
On Deck with Lucy Interview – October 2012
Lucy-Jade Norris interviews me about the book, plus my other improv projects, for her talkshow On Deck with Lucy.
Improvised New York Interview – October 2012
Elizabeth Quinn interviews me about the book, plus my other improv projects, for her Podbean podcast Improvised New York.
I recently adopted Ben Hauck’s Long-Form Improv for my intensive summer course at Yale. My job was much easier than in previous summers because my students read, understood and loved Hauck’s book. The author’s analysis of moves in terms of game theory, clear explanation of conflict and desire and discussion of ideation, relationships, attitude, heightening, endowing and justification all helped my students step off back wall with courage, play the games they discovered together and support each other appropriately. They performed the tightest Harolds I have seen from beginning students — and that after only five-and-a-half weeks of daily instruction. I would definitely adopt Long-Form Improv as a textbook again. In fact, I would love to see a whole sequel from this author just on group scenes.
I just got this and it is now one of my favorite books on improvisation! It’s very clearly written and addresses some of the more mysterious aspects of improvisation in an accessible and straightforward way. The insights in the book were immediately applicable to my own rehearsals. Since the exercises are directly related to specific issues, it’s easy to target exactly what you want to work on. I highly recommend it particularly if you’re interested in understanding dramatic structure in improv.
Reading Long-Form Improv
In this video series, I describe the first six chapters of the book to flesh out ideas for even better understanding.
This playlist arranges episodes in order of chapter and includes some bonus videos.
It was circa late 2003, and I was working with the improv group Devil’s Dancebelt, trying to teach them the concept of “game” that I’d failed to grasp when I trained in long-form improvisation at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City.
Desperate to teach this critical concept, I sought out non-traditional means for learning the concept. For example, as simple as it may sound, I hit the dictionary for definitions of the term “game” for what obscure meaning might come to light and make obvious the lesson UCBT had tried to teach. I also happened upon the topic called “game theory,” a subject of much repute, which seemed to promise only a mathematical analysis of strategic interactions like tic tac toe. But it was when a co-worker of mine handed me the book The Strategy of Conflict by Thomas Schelling that I was introduced to a game theory that provided a less mathematical, more qualitative analysis of strategic interactions. Suddenly, international conflicts, world wars, or just the mundane little conflict between him and her were brought down to the tic tac toe level, viewed unapologetically as strategic interactions. Via Schelling, I came to see games — both the leisurely and the serious — as bargaining. And my life and my improv teaching were immediately transformed.
Bargaining has become a sort of “religion” for me, and I see bargaining and bargaining games and bargaining interactions pretty much anywhere I look and in any context or frame. Not only is negotiating a great price on a sleeper sofa at Raymour & Flanigan a bargaining game, but also is negotiating your way to the subway entrance on a very busy East 86th Street sidewalk in Manhattan during rush hour. And while bidding for lower rent as you shop for apartments is obviously bargaining, did you know that standing firm and never relenting for your cause against unethical animal treatment is also a form of bargaining? The question becomes how able you are to get what you want with your bargaining tactics. It should be of little surprise that I saw bargaining inherent in long-form improv, and suddenly the concept of “game” opened up for me and for those members of the improv group Devil’s Dancebelt.
So much opened up that I felt compelled to write a book. That book, eventually titled Long-Form Improv, basically wrote itself in the very beginning, the product of the simple idea. That simple idea was this: Based on the information I’d learned from long-form improv classes and based on the information that bargaining was not always competitive but sometimes cooperative, improvised scenework in the long-form improv tradition was not merely a matter of agreement but instead it was a matter of playing cooperative bargaining games — scenes that contain conflict as well as agreement. The object of the improvised scene you play with your fellow actor was to reach agreement, and this object was despite a conflict that was required to be a part of your improvised scene. For me, in learning about bargaining long-form improv gained a goal, and the path to performing fantastic long-form improv became apparent.
So, on the whole and through and through, long-form improv was a bargaining game. Its scenes were bargaining games, the interactions of the characters was a bargaining game, as was the interactions of the actors, as was the interactions between actors and audience. Many other aspects were bargaining games. And the most famous performance form from long-form improv, The Harold, was also one massive bargaining game.
It took nearly eight years after starting to write this book to finish it and get it published. It’s seen countless rewrites and in the process has become what I believe is as clearly and crisply written a book on improv that you can find. My hope is that you’ll be able to read the book and “get” long-form improv so that you don’t suffer from confusion that many long-form improv classes engender with their conflicting teachings and vague verbiage. My hope is that Long-Form Improv will become your go-to text when it comes to improvising scenes, creating characters, and pulling off that monstrous task of a half-hour Harold.
The Stand-In Handbook: Stand-In Central’s Guide to Standing in in Television and Film
by Ben Hauck
with Sara DeRosa
Stand-In Central | 2012
Finally, a manual on standing in!
Since its groundbreaking release in March 2010, Stand-In Central, the website I founded and edit to serve stand-ins in the entertainment industry, has provided innumerable visitors with incredible insight into the exciting and mysterious job of the television and film stand-in.
At Stand-In Central, we realized that not every visitor had time to sift through the tremendous resources available on the website. So, we released The Stand-In Handbook, a downloadable ebook chock full of information culled from Stand-In Central and its weekly-updated Tips & Tricks Blog.
The Stand-In Handbook features over 275 pages of guidance and instruction on standing in – from an overview of the job to what to wear to set, from tricks of the trade to ideas for being the best stand-in you can possibly be. The ebook is organized into 10 sections and more than 64 short chapters for quick and easy comprehension, and it is penned by me (the editor and a frequent contributor to Stand-In Central) as well as contributor Sara DeRosa.
The Stand-In Handbook is available in PDF format so it can be read it on a computer, and with its large type, The Stand-In Handbook can be taken to set to be read on a Kindle or other PDF-enabled ereader.
The Stand-In Handbook is $20.00 and available for immediate download with a credit card or PayPal account from the Stand-In Central website.
The Fi-Core Workbook: A Guide for the Screen Actor Deciding Whether to Declare Financial Core Status
by Ben Hauck
Fi-Core Central | 2015
An easy-to-read, in-depth resource on financial core status, so you can best decide whether “going fi-core” is right for you as an actor.
Jam-packed with details about financial core status for actors, The Fi-Core Workbook walks you through critical information about what financial core is, and what you lose, keep, and gain when you go fi-core as an actor.
Expanded to 3 parts, 26 chapters, and over 130 pages, The Fi-Core Workbook is available from Fi-Core Central and shares almost every angle you can think of on financial core, compiled over months of careful study and delivering page after page of valuable information on fi-core.
Not just a handbook, this immediately downloadable workbook helps you weigh the decision whether to join the union, stay in the union, or go fi-core, covering many of the ramifications of this major career shift. Inside the workbook you’ll find:
- surprising, little known stats on how many actors are fi-core
- a checklist on what you lose, keep, and gain when you’re fi-core
- names for fi-core in other industries
- how to declare fi-core status
- what to put in a fi-core declaration letter
- what the union’s fi-core acknowledgment letter looks like
- what to do after you go fi-core
- what you should do if you want to rejoin the union
- how to protect yourself as a fi-core actor
Plus, this landmark workbook provides information on the complications of going fi-core, defenses for arguments against financial core, how to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and additional resources should you need them should you go fi-core.
The Fi-Core Workbook is written by Ben Hauck and is immediately available in PDF format so you can read it on your computer. You can also take The Fi-Core Workbook with you to read on your Kindle or other PDF-enabled ereader.
The Fi-Core Workbook is $22.00 and available for immediate download with a credit card or PayPal account from the Fi-Core Central website.