Author Norm Laviolette is a funny guy. He’s got decades of experience in stand-up comedy and he’s also cofounder of the Boston-based improv group, Improv Asylum. Laviolette, whether it’s his natural abilities or through his years of human observation, has put together an excellent read in The Art of Making Sh!t Up: Using The Principles of Improv to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse (Whiley, 2019). Laviolette nails the details and champions the reader into becoming said ‘powerhouse’ in his book, and yes, one just might walk away with the tools of the trade.
It’s hard to say if the book falls more into the humor genre, or instructional, but be assured, it’s very applicable to the business life. Leaders and bosses of any field (especially marketing) will find several nuggets of information that carry into the real-life business practices. What makes this book so engaging is Laviolette’s easy to follow style and his peppering of pop culture references. He writes like he’s the guy sitting next to you at the bar; he’s not the Zig Ziglar of sales, but he might be the guy that also took the seminar and is sitting next to you on the plane ride home. He’s quick-witted (a skill he helps you hone, or at the very least leads you in practicum). His chapters – there are 24 of them – are just perfect in length and while some may say complete common sense, it’s little reminders like practice that Laviolette’s inspires his readers.
He writes, “It is just reps. Everything in life is reps. And if you have the patience to keep showing up and putting in the reps, you will undoubtedly improve at whatever it is you are doing.” Laviolette does a great job of asking the reader thought-provoking questions like ““What is something that you have always wanted to do, but thought that was too hard or seemed like it would be too painful? What if you changed that thought and instead said, “I’m going to do it exactly because it seems hard or difficult”? If we wait for everything to be easy before we try to do it, then we probably will be waiting forever.” He’s right.
One thing that is most enjoyable about this read is that Laviolette may be a seasoned entertainer and showbiz guy in his own right, he doesn’t punish or make the reader feel like their lack of, or even basic foundation, of improv skills is a setback. Improv truly is for everyone. He’s honest that improv doesn’t have to be funny – at its core improvisation is about listening. His book devotes one solid chapter to listening, but the building blocks in the book lead up to listening and follow that principal from thereon.
Readers offended by curse language might want to find a different route. This book is by no means an ‘R’ rating, but definitely PG-13. He seasons his writing with frequent uses of the s-word. It’s not overt, but again, the author does comedy for a living, so it’s easy to give him a free pass. And, the writing is so personable and fun, it’s never an obstacle. It’s real life and far from reading an academic textbook.