Most people conjure up ideas of three or four folks on stage, years of acting classes or the best class clowns coming together to give gut-hurting laughs when the word ‘improv’ comes to mind. Others might dream of the shear horror of coming up with ideas or scenes never memorized or thought-of on the spot. Never been done before. Well, improv is different to many people, but at its core, improv is about listening. It’s also the topic author Norm Laviolette writes about in his 166-page book, The Art of Making Sh!t Up: Using The Principles of Improv to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse (Whiley, 2019).
Laviolette is passionate about comedy – he writes much of the first pages about being the kid that derived much glory and love from making others laugh. He also maintains he grew up in a funny family. While not everyone has the desire to jump up on stage and make people laugh, it’s a commonality that at some point in one’s adult lifetime, they will have to present an idea to a team, a boss, or work on a project with someone else. Laviolette, who is a co-founder of Boston’s Improv Asylum, no doubt has spent countless hours conjuring up ways to simplify improvisation theater’s applicable use to real life and teaching it to folks that might not necessarily walk into his esteemed company’s doors already having these honed skills. He gets human nature. That’s what makes this book so easy to read.
He’s a good teacher and his writing shows his prowess. Each chapter is enjoyable – he doesn’t labor over examples, but rather, gives quick ideas and even assignments that the reader can easily do. One also gets the sense while reading The Art of Making Sh!t Up, there isn’t a deadline per se, but rather a strong foundation on applying these skills to one’s own life. He also really emphasizes his own background – again he’s pretty funny – is one of risk taking and massaging the rules. Not everyone is wired like that, and Laviolette recognizes that without making the reader feel like they are unworthy or already at the bottom of the barrel. But he also champions the reader to take those first steps, and to create timelines and life landmarks.
This book is full of practical skills. It’s definitely a standout book for anyone looking to improv their leadership skills, or perhaps they have a work group that has a varied group of personalities. Laviolette’s book possesses those skills to assist you in navigating those waters. As a reader, the best chapter proved to be about failing – again another completing relatable feeling. One certainly gets stuck in their head about not doing the right thing, looking like an idiot or even not being able to make a decision. More than meets the eye – The Art of Making Sh!t Up: Using The Principles of Improv to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse is a highly enjoyable book. It’s not just about being funny – it’s about being your best self.