Stand-Up Comedy: The Book (Review)


This is a Book Review for Stand-Up Comedy: The Book by Judy Carter. You can also check out other book reviews on Humor That Works or see our recommendations in our Humor Resources.

Book Synopsis

All the world loves a clown and whether you want to clown around at parties or make a living as a standup comic, comedian Judy Carter can show you how to ‘do’ comedy.

My Thoughts

Judy Carter is also the author of The Comedy Bible, written in 2001, and though this book is older (1989) and I read it second, I still think it’s the better book. Much of the same praise from The Comedy Bible remains the same:

If you are brand new to stand-up comedy, you will learn some of the basic terminology like setup, punch, and callback. It’s also written as if it were a workshop, leaving the reader to do exercises and activities which encourages the best way to get better at comedy: by doing it.

However, what I like about this book better is that it’s more focused. The Comedy Bible tried to do too much–this focuses on building your first set as a stand-up comedian. It doesn’t claim to help you climb to the top in the business, nor is it diluted with a poor attempt at teaching you how to write sketch comedy: it’s written specifically for the person who wants to try stand-up for the first time, and to-date, is the best book that I’ve found for that.

There is one watchout with the book: comedy has evolved in the 20 years since the book was written and, though most of it holds up, some of the techniques are outdated–namely the idea that every thing you say has to be in the style of “setup/punch.” You’ll be OK  if you follow the tips in the book, just know that you won’t be on the bleeding edge of comedy.

My Favorite Part

I enjoy the journey the book takes you through as you start to develop a possible stand-up set. The reminders are also helpful: “Remember, comedy doesn’t kill. The trick to dealing with fear is to go on in spite of feeling afraid.”

The Bottom-Line

If you’re brand new to comedy and interested in trying stand-up (or are still in your first year), this book can help you get a jump-start on the process. It won’t make you an instant success and you’ll want to use your own sense of style to determine what’s right for you, but it is a good primer to the fun, yet challenging world of stand-up comedy.

Rating (out of 5): :-) :-) :-) :-)

Buy it on Amazon: Stand-Up Comedy: The Book

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • JokeDoctor October 25, 2011, 3:59 am

    Nice review on Judy’s book and you make some good points. I’ve been doing stand up comedy for 25 years professionally and I’ve been a writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I think Judy’s book is okay. She tends to stuff comics into a box, however and she limits them with the type of material they can do. You’re right on the money with the set up/punch delivery being older and more canned. However, developing your chops with set up/punch is like a musician developing the ability to play scales. One and two-liner jokes are your fundamentals. You will be a better comedian and joke writer if you are solid on your fundamentals. Once you learn the fundamentals you start crafting stories and it’s within the story that you begin to recognize the humor “plays” you can make to trigger laughter from the audience.

    Laughter doesn’t come from the audience out of mere coincidence, it comes from surprise (which is the number element that triggers human laughter). And surprise comes from structure within the material.

    I think one of the best books on the fundamentals of comedy is “Comedy Writing Secrets” by Melvin Helitzer. You might also take a look at Comedy Writing Step by Step by Gene Perret (Bob Hope’s head writer). Once you really understand the fundamentals you can write anything and make it truly funny.

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