Ha Ha Among the Trumpets

An Improvisational Journey

by Latifah Taormina


“Latifah Taormina (aka Jessica Myerson) actress, comedienne, wife of my pal Alan and co-founder of The Committee, one of the treasures of San Francisco Theater during the 1960s, has captured the craziness, the fun, the daring, and the warm-hearted openness that characterized San Francisco during that time. As a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, I saw her and her confreres as our friendly competitors, but so many friendships crossed over. Re-reading the names: Howard Alk, John Brent, Garry Goodrow, Howard Hesseman, Dick Wertheimer, Scott Beach, floods the mind with memories and communities that all contributed to the laissez-faire, politically edgy, and accepting braid of our beloved City.

Improv-it’s a high-wire act, but here’s the best example I know. Scott Beach, one of the first local members of the Committee, and I were at lunch somewhere, when a man at the next table leaned in to inquire of Scott-“Do you mind if I smoke?” Without hesitation, Scott replied in his stentorian voice, “I don’t care if you burn to the ground.” Read this book. You’ll get the picture, and you may intuit why both she and I eventually wound up on spiritual paths.

— Peter Coyote, actor, author, Zen priest

Names like Howard Hesseman, Alan Arkin, Bill Graham, and even Caspar Weinberger illuminate this incredible chronicle of The Committee, San Francisco’s improvisational company that not only gave rise to many Hollywood stars but also pioneered long-form improvisation. Ha Ha Among the Trumpets chronicles the incredible journey of newly married Second City alums, Alan and Jessica Myerson (later Latifah Taormina) who built their own company from scratch in San Francisco in the early 1960s while exploring a new spiritual practice called Subud. The fascinating story of this company is told against the historical backdrop of the Kennedy assassination, Bloody Sunday, Selma, the early feminist movement, and the beginning of the anti-war movement. Taormina’s spiritual quest ultimately takes her beyond her marriage, which is tested by the competing claims of politics, work, family, and the author’s emerging sense of her own identity. An astonishing story.

— Mary Adams, poet





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Book Cover Design by Marcus Bolt, UK.

Based on a 1963 San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Spread on The Committee.