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Palgrave Macmillan

Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy

The Harold

ISBN 9781137376572
Publication Date February 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Comedy has undergone a seismic shift over the past quarter century: from star powered stand-up comics to an ensemble-fueled style marked by support, trust, and collaborative creativity. This shift is mainly due to the long form improvisational theatre structure known as the Harold. The form's philosophies serve as the bedrock for the majority of the most significant comedic performers, writers, and directors of the past quarter-century who are transforming the way peformers and audiences make, view, and interpret comedy. This book examines the development of the Harold and the ways in which it has helped transform American comedy, examining the tensions and evolutions that led to the Harold's creation at ImprovOlympic (now iO) and following it through its use in contemporary comedic filmmaking.

Matt Fotis is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Albright College, USA. His work has appeared in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, among others. He is a published and award-winning playwright.

1. Introduction
2. Before the Harold: How Did We Get Here?
3. The Training Wheels Harold
4. The Flexible Harold
5. Reactions, Transformations, and Combinations
6. Improv beyond the Theatre: The Harold's Influence on Television and Film


"I remember my late partner, Del Close, telling me years ago that someday our work in long form improvisation would change the face of improvisational comedy. And while we struggled for years to convince anyone that improvisation was an art form unto itself, he promised that someday someone would study our work and its importance to the world of comedy. Del was always right. Matt Fotis has done an incredible job of looking at the rich history that I am so proud to be a part of. The depth of his study is unbelievable; he covers the history of improvisation and the work itself. I don't know how he did it - but he got it right. Somewhere above, Del is jumping in the air and clicking his heels together. Del and I brought the Harold to the stage, but Matt Fotis is bringing the Harold to the rest of the world." - Charna Halpern, iO Theatre
'Matt Fotis has done a great job researching in detail exactly what Long Form is, how it started, and (most importantly) the impact it has had on American Comedy, which is substantial.' - Jeanne Leep, Professor of Theatre Arts, Edgewood College, USA and author of Theatrical Improvisation: Short Form, Long Form, and Sketch-Based Improv
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