This is a Book Review for Comic Insights: The Art of Stand-Up Comedy by Franklyn Ajaye. You can also check out other book reviews on Humor That Works or see our recommendations in our Humor Resources.
If you want to build a stand-up comedy career, this book is a must read. If you want to write comedy, this book is a must-read. If you simply enjoy comedy …this book is a must read. Part One offers essential advice about understanding the fundamentals of stand-up, studying other comedians, finding your own style, writing your material, working the live performance, and appearing on television. Fascinating, candid, insightful interviews with today’s top comedians, who discuss at length why and how they do what they do, comprise Part Two, the bulk of the book. The third and last part of the book addresses your stand-up career through interviews with noted comedy club owners, an agent, a personal manager, and a television talent co-ordinator.
If you’re looking for a book on how-to do stand-up comedy, this isn’t exactly it. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good book though; it is. As the name suggests, this book is for those looking for insights into what it means to do stand-up, and things to keep in mind when first starting.
Part One starts with one of the better breakdowns I’ve read for the elements of Stand-Up (Point of View, Honesty, Delivery, Timing, etc), and also gives the lay of the land for structuring material and performing in clubs. You won’t walk away from the first part with a set-list to perform, but you will have a much stronger sense for how to start thinking about creating one.
Part Two is where things really get good–tips, tricks and insights from some of the top comedians of the 90’s and early 00’s. While their comments won’t help you write a joke, they will give you a sense of what stand-up comedy is really like, what it takes to be successful and things to do/avoid as a comedian. Of all the sections, this is where I did most of my highlighting.
Part Three starts to hint at things to do if you want to be successful in the business of comedy by sharing thoughts from various managers and club owners. There are some helpful sections and interesting ideas, but there’s nothing written that will dramatically improve your skills in the industry. One of my favorite quotes did come from this section, from Jamie Masada: “The greatest good deed you could do for people [is] to make them laugh.”
My Favorite Part
The best part of the book is Part Two, specifically the excerpts from George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld. And one of the pieces of insight that’s stuck with me the most, and applies to other areas of life, comes from Paul Reiser: “Watching a mediocre comic will trigger you. You’re not inspired by greatness, you’re inspired by mediocrity.”
If you’re looking for a how-to write stand-up book, I’d recommend picking up something else. But if you want to improve your stand-up, or at least your understanding of it, pick this up to get into the minds and thoughts of some of the former juggernauts of the game.
Rating (out of 5):
Buy it on Amazon: Comic Insights: The Art of Stand-Up Comedy
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