Thursday, September 09, 2010

Stand up comedians

I finished Stewart Lee's new book this week, How I Escaped my Certain Fate, and it was a very interesting, informative read from the 41st best standup comedian ever, 3!

Following his progress from up-and-coming star on TV and stage, to despair with the profession, back to his triumphant return to comedy (said in best Krusty the Clown voice), the book contained the three transcripts from each of Lee's three most recent stand up shows, with footnotes littered throughout explaining the origins of certains jokes, references being made, or asides to other comedians.

This was the most interesting aspect of the book, hearing Lee explain in detail, often over a page in small, footnotey font (why is footnote font so small?), about his time working with Harry Hill and Robin Day, or explaining that he bought a certain joke from another comedian to help lighten the mood of his otherwise often long-winded affairs.

Reading his scripts without knowing the delivery would give you no clue as to how funny Lee can be, the way he repeats jokes over and over again, with changes throughout perhaps, to build laughter from what could be awkward repetition. Or that, as Lee admits, sometimes is just awkwardness and the audience fails to get the delivery and therefore the jokes.

A final point on the book I found interesting, was Lee's choice of introduction music for his shows.
For each one he used piece of jazz to help him identify, or even turnaway, potential troublemakers: "If they can't handle the music, they probably won't like the show" is Lee's (paraphrased) rationale behind this and certainly one that seems to make a lot of sense.

Overall then, if you're a fan of the man and want to know more about the thought processes behind his shows and the world of interesting, clever, thought-provoking comedy, this book is one for you.

I give it 41/100.

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