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How I Escaped My Certain Fate Paperback – 1 August 2011
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About the Author
- Publisher : Faber Paperback; Main edition (1 August 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0571254810
- ISBN-13 : 978-0571254811
- Dimensions : 13 x 2.2 x 19.5 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 233,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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What I hadn't appreciated before in his books are the names of comics (and musicians), a wide range of interesting people you can Google and get to know.
Top reviews from other countries
I'm a huge fan of Stew's stand up and writing, so to have them both in one place was a delight. As Stew points out in his annotations, stand up loses a lot of its value when transcribed into words, and this is particularly true of his performance, which relies so much on how he performs. This might sound like a reason against reading this book, but no, it's quite the opposite! Because it allows Stew to add yet another level of hilarious meta-humour to his work.
I was in stitches through a lot of the book, but there are also plenty of heartfelt and earnest sections. An absolute delight!
There are three threads to this volume, which weave together throughout. The first is a sort of comeback story. In 2001 Stewart Lee quit stand-up comedy after more than ten years of touring. Exhausted and demoralised, he turned to other projects for a time (notably, writing the Jerry Springer Opera), before realising that he couldn't leave stand-up after all, because it was the only place where he could properly explore his own ideas about how comedy works. How he changed his business model is a story in itself, told in a typically faux-dour way, and he punctuates it with transcripts of the three sets that relaunched him and brought him sufficient critical acclaim to flip his career around. The sets are wonderful - if you're interested in this book you've certainly seen them live or on DVD - and they're given vast added value by the constant footnotes and commentary from Lee looking back over where he stole his ideas from, what worked, and what didn't. Exceptionally entertaining, but also a great insight into the real work behind what is often seen as a disposable entertainment form. I loved this book, in particular the way that Lee switched his goals from 'a sort of vast and aimless success by being something I'm not' to a more definable and truer artistic satisfaction (which happens to pay his bills). Lessons for us all, about how success is defined and what it really means.
I feel it could have done with some extra effort on the editing front as the same / similar material is recycled across the transcripts of the three routines featured.
That having been said the inter-textual commentary on context and autobiographical material more than makes up for this.
Despite what others have said the kindle version (which i have) is still a mess - the text uses footnotes quite extensively, but these appear in the tiniest font and you have constantly "re-size up" the font setting to make these anywhere near readable and then the "re-size down" for the main text view to work. "Whats that all about...?" (- 1 star for that)
I liked the technical explanation of the structure of comedy, audience interaction and rapport, all of which is nicely illustrated by the material. Also worth mentioning is that Mr Lee generously references other comedians throughout the work, enabling the reader to widen their appreciation of Comedy Heritage, comedians in general (genres and styles) as well as the evolutionary process of making something "funny" - sometimes with surprising and moving results.
My favourite part was the second, and largest section, which comprised of annotated stand-up, as a long time fan of comedy in particular stand-up I found it fascinating to see the process of constructing a joke.
The only draw back I found with this book, (and its a very personal thing), is that I had to devote my full attention to it due to the amount of footnotes and appendices. Normally with non fiction, and books in general, I can read them in front of the tv of on the train but this book has so much back and forth I found it hard to keep track unless I was in a completely quiet environment.
However I would still really recommend this book- firstly to fans of Stewart Lee but also generally to fans of stand up. If you are in any way interested in the process of constructing comedy routines I would recommend this book.
Overall I was fascinated by this book and even though it wasn't what I would call an easy or quick read it was certainly a rewarding one.