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Randy Fertel on the Power and Peril of Creative Improvisation

Though timely and pitched to the current political moment, Randy Fertel’s new book, Winging It: Improv’s Power & Peril in the Time of Trump, is in many ways the continuation of a decades-long pursuit: studying the art of improvisation as an act of spontaneous creativity and immense cultural force. “It’s been my life’s work,” he says. “How lucky am I? I just stumbled on an idea, a lens to look at cultural innovation and creativity in a fresh way.” In addition to his books on improv, Fertel is also author of The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak, a rollicking memoir about his eccentric New Orleans family. (His mother, a force of nature, founded the Ruth’s Chris Steak House empire.) Recently I met Fertel at his home in New York City, and we talked about the new book, the darker political implications of improvisation, its contrasting glories, and the way forward.