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Press Release

For Immediate Release

For a review copy of the book
or an interview with the author,
please contact Dawn Hopkins,
at (612) 377-8445 or

The Art of the Laugh
A Handbook for Sketch Writers, Actors, and Directors

Minneapolis, MN (December 13, 2005)Aerialist Press; or Publishing Without a Net is pleased to announce the release of our newest title, The Art of the Laugh: A Handbook for Sketch Writers, Actors, and Directors. Following quickly on the heels of his first book, Innovation at the Speed of Laughter, author John Sweeney once again shares how the principles of improvisational performance can be applied to another creative process. In this case, sketch writing. Author Sweeney walks the reader through a unique sketch development and performance process - a process used and taught at his theatre, the Brave New Workshop, and embraced by many well-known alumni such as Pat Proft (screenwriter for Bachelor Party, Naked Gun, Hot Shots!, and Scary Movie 3 to name a few).

Proft, who offers up a Foreword for The Art of the Laugh, concludes: “With John Sweeney’s years at the BNW, he has perfected a great working formula that has given birth to an environment that makes comedy click. In the past five years, I’ve seen moments at the BNW I wish I had come up with… You can’t teach being funny, but John Sweeney’s book is a good guide to putting a good piece of material together.”

Sweeney did indeed perfect the formula, but it is a method developed over nearly five decades of writing and performing originally-scripted, sketch comedy shows for the BNW stage. Drawing on this history, The Art of the Laugh gives readers an inside look at the process that helped to establish the BNW as the oldest satirical comedy theatre in the United States. The book reveals Sweeney’s 8 core principles of creative improvisation and details the idea generation, scripting, rehearsal, and performance model used today.

Also included with The Art of the Laugh is a CD-ROM containing hilarious sample scripts, audio performances, and worksheets ideal for classroom instruction, individual work, or ensemble-based creations. The book recently became the standard text in the BNW’s well-known school for improvisation, the Brave New Institute, and has been shared with faculty, colleges, and students nationwide as part of BNI outreach programs, improvisational workshops, and visiting artist courses.

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About the Author:
John Sweeney is a world leader in workplace innovation. Years ago, John left a successful corporate real estate career to follow his passion for performing improvisational comedy. Today, he has found a way to combine his business insights with his passion for improv. He conducts more than 100 training workshops and keynote speeches a year for some of the largest (and smallest) companies in the world. He is the owner of the Brave New Workshop Theatre, is a member of the National Speakers Association, has appeared in dozens of television commercials, and is the author of a major motion picture screenplay. He lives in Deephaven, Minnesota, with his wife, Jenni, sons, William and Michael, and dog, Burt.

About the Book:
Art of the Laugh: A Handbook for Sketch Writers, Actors and Directors (Aerialist Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-9762184-1-0, $24.95) is available at bookstores nationwide and online at

The book is distributed through Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, Inc. (1-800-283-3572) and is the essential improv-based handbook for writing, performing, and directing comedy sketches.

About the Brave New Workshop:
More than forty-six years ago, an ex-circus performer named Dudley Riggs founded the Brave New Workshop. Today, the BNW is the longest-running satirical comedy theatre in the United States. Alumni range from writer/activist Al Franken, to MAD TV’s Mo Collins and Reba’s Melissa Peterman, to Naked Gun writer Pat Proft, Analyze This writer Peter Tolan and That 70s Show executive producer Linda Wallem. BNW alumni have contributed to hundreds of movies and television shows, including Scary Movie 3, The Gary Shandling Show, M.A.S.H., and Happy Days. The theatre continues to perform at its historic Uptown Minneapolis location, producing four original sketch comedy shows each year and hosting a multitude of other events.

About the Brave New Institute:
Founded many years ago, the Brave New Institute (BNI) was initially started as a way to introduce Brave New Workshop performers to the creative development process used to produce the shows. However, in 1997, when John Sweeney and his wife, Jenni Lilledahl, bought the theatre from founder Dudley Riggs, Lilledahl devoted a majority of her time to the Institute and quickly developed an undeniably successful curriculum. Under her executive leadership, the BNI grew from 7 students to over 150 each week. Also under her direction, the Institute began outreach programs and developed three specific tracks for performers, non-performers, and business people alike. In addition to improvisational classes, the BNI also offers writing workshops, music workshops, and and student-produced performances. For information about the BNI, please email John Haynes at