The 10 Commandments as a Guide to Improvisation
by Matthew Stillman
In 1996 Amy Poehler gave my improv class a stunning note about how the stage was her church and improv was her religion. It was the first few months that I was learning and studying improv. She keyed us into a vision that improv could teach you something about being a better person. It was a crystalline moment for me and got me thinking. If improv was Amy’s religion and it could teach us about being a better person could religion teach us anything about improv?
After reflecting and considering the question more deeply I have come to a definitive answer…
Yes it can. And I am not a Bible thumper either. This isn’t some backdoor way to make you believe in anything except that religion/philosophy can teach us something important about improv.
This book is improv theory nerdiness of a high order, But this book is also a well thought out argument that the 10 Commandments from the Bible offers some of the most important guidelines to improv since Truth in Comedy. 15 years in the making.
But first, see what these improv luminaries have to say!
I never realized I was adhering so strictly to the Judeo-Christian tenets until I read this book. I agree with Matt whole heartedly when he says “God is quite simply, the present moment” – Matt Walsh, UCB founding member, Director, The High Road
“Matt Stillman is a student of the craft. He loves improv and everything improv related. This treatise on the 10 Commandments as they relate to improv is a fun and insightful read that can help any improviser look again at what is in their own Improv Commandments.” Ali Farahnakian, UCB founding member, founder of The People’s Improv Theater aka The PIT
“I have spent many countless hours, long into many nights, discussing and dissecting improv from many different angles. But rarely have I heard someone contemplate improv in a such a thoughtful, insightful and unique way as Matthew has done in this book. He is a smart guy who is full of love for improv and the people who do it.” – Kevin Mullaney, IRC, IRC Podcast, iO Theater, UCB
“This book’s wise, witty approach to the sacred and the spontaneous shows us how improvisers combine the two to create beautiful hilarity with integrity. A very funny read, and sharp insights in every paragraph! Great for anyone, whether you’ve improvised on stage or not.” – Jay Rhoderick, Centralia, Burn Manhattan
Stillman has THOUGHT THIS THROUGH. This is more than just improv advice, there’s interesting theological analysis to be found here as well, including a closer read of the original Hebrew of the 8th and 10thCommandments that will shake your moral core a little. A Funny Thing Happened at Mount Sinai is not a beginners Improv book, but if you’ve read Truth in Comedy and Johnstone’s Impro and you want to take your play to a deeper level, I really recommend this illuminating, brave little book. – John Ross Bowie, UCB, Naked Babies, Big Bang Theory
Matthew Stillman has written a gem of a book, a bright and enlightened find for performer and non-performer alike. This sublime and engaging book sparks our highest components of artistic expression. “A Funny Thing Happened at Mount Sinai” is a reminder to hold true to that which we know to be collaboratively right and good. You’ll find yourself living this improv philosophy on and off stage with ease and confidence to greater creative results. This book will be a source of inspiration that you will find yourself returning to again and again. – Christina Gausas, 30 Rock, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, iO Chicago
Get a copy all for yourself. It is only $5 bucks
You’ll learn about the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn about improv. Pretty much you’ll be enjoying all the learning you’ll be doing. Have some one hug you for making this decision. You are worth it.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Mt. Sinai: The 10 Commandments as a Guide to Long Form Improvisational ComedyOrder here and you’ll receive the sexiest PDF version, fully designed by the inimitable Lisa Valuyskaya.