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How I Escaped My Certain Fate [Paperback]

Stewart Lee
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 5 Aug 2010 --  
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How I Escaped My Certain Fate How I Escaped My Certain Fate 4.5 out of 5 stars (123)
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010

Experience how it feels to be the subject of a blasphemy prosecution! Find out why 'wool' is a funny word! See how jokes work, their inner mechanisms revealed, before your astonished face!

In 2001, after over a decade in the business, Stewart Lee quit stand-up, disillusioned and drained, and went off to direct a loss-making opera about Jerry Springer. How I Escaped My Certain Fate details his return to live performance, and the journey that took him from an early retirement to his position as the most critically acclaimed stand-up in Britain.

Here is Stewart Lee's own account of his remarkable comeback, told through transcripts of the three legendary full-length shows that sealed his reputation. Astonishingly frank and detailed in-depth notes reveal the inspiration and inner workings of his act. With unprecedented access to a leading comedian's creative process, this book tell us just what it was like to write these shows, develop the performance and take them on tour. How I Escaped My Certain Fate is everything we have come to expect from Stewart Lee: fiercely intelligent, unsparingly honest and very funny.

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How I Escaped My Certain Fate + Stewart Lee! The 'If You Prefer a Milder Comedian Please Ask For One' EP + Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle - Series 1 [DVD]
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 1st Edition edition (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571254802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571254804
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Lee's bumper DVD extras-style assemblage echoes the revelatory sprawl of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.... Stewart Lee has created a book which is at once a notable repository of technical insight, an invaluable insider's guide to three decades of British comedy, and as revealing a portrait of its author's life and opinions as even the most self-consciously confessional of conventional celebrity memoirs.' -- Ben Thompson, Independent on Sunday<br /<>br > ' (A) fascinatingly detailed account of what inspired, motivated and influenced his creativity ... the trials, insecurities and passions that have fuelled him over the past ten years are so honestly, amusingly, eloquently, and, often, viciously expressed that it only serves to further confirm his position as one of our leading 'alternative' national treasures. -- Time Out<br /<>br > 'It s a simply remarkable piece of writing: funny, wise, partial, propulsive. And then there are the footnotes, which comment on the shows like some frank, deliciously-detailed DVD commentary ... His writing ... has the irony, honesty, petulance and righteous zeal that we Lee fans demand ... an essential, invigorating investigation into the art, craft and culture of stand-up comedy. -- Dominic Maxwell, The Times <br /<>br > Required reading for comedy fans ... (Lee) is analytical, critical and perfectly willing to say when he finds himself proud of something he wrote, or occasionally ashamed. It is a fascinating insight into the process of creating comedy, and making months of work feel like a fresh, spontaneous show each night ... This book should win him some new fans and cement the dislike of old detractors. And it's impossible to imagine he would ever choose to do anything else. -- --Natalie Haynes, Observer

His marginalia offer an absorbing history of alternative comedy since the late 1980s, affectionate pen-portraits of misunderstood heroes, such as Johnny Vegas and Simon Munnery, and fascinating insights into his craft ... the wonderful achievement of this book is that it makes you as excited as Lee is by the capabilities of a man in a dark room with a microphone. -- Richard Godwin, Evening Standard<br /<>br > It rules! Have you ever noticed how transcripts of stand-up shows can make for some of the best fun material going? ... so long, so bitter and so thoroughly enjoyable. --Dazed and Confused<br /<>br > Funny, honest and insightful throughout. It deserves to make its author even more than he appeared on HIGNFY ... like the author s stage act, it is elliptical, repetitious and, inevitably, solipsistic. But in a good way ... in the hands of a lesser talent, this would be unbearably tedious, but Lee s verbal dexterity and exhaustive knowledge manages to make the experience cumulatively hilarious. -- --John Naughton, Word magazine

It works brilliantly ... complementing the very well-written autobiographical narrative that connects the routines and the footnotes are such rich mini-essays that I reached the end wishing there was an index, in order to relocate such observations as Lee s comparison of the Mighty Boosh's offbeat comic timing to dried stalks of spaghetti being dropped onto a china plate . How I Escaped My Certain Fate is a sophisticated demonstration of the poetics of comedy by an artist who, like Wilde, has been moved to public contrarianism in the belief that there is no sin except stupidity . -- Jeremy Noel-Todd, Daily Telegraph<br /<>br > It's a sort of autobiography, but really just as much a book about the way British comedy has changed ... usually, such copious asides are the sign of a very bad book but Lee pulls it off, mainly because his notes are invariably insightful, and frequently very funny. -- --William Cook, Independent

Book Description

The acclaimed comedian presents a brilliantly funny and intelligent commentary on three of his most popular stand-up acts.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deadly serious, hilarious book. 29 July 2010
This book is perhaps the funniest book I have ever read. Stewart Lee has consistently been one of the funniest comedians in the country and his apparently arrogant yet always self-deprecating style has been brilliantly realised on the page. He shows a thoughtfulness and integrity that puts previous controversies about his work into context and also provides a fascinating peek behind the subjects of his stand-up set to reveal complexity, planning and yet more humour behind them.

One of the things that stands out about his stand-up work is how much of it he does to amuse himself, and how he is well aware and largely in control of alienating and regaining his live audiences.

The transcripts of his live sets are really interesting as the copious footnotes give them new depth, but they read pretty well too - although probably better for having watched the sets on dvd. I can't recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in Stewart Lee in particular or stand up in general. It will make you laugh.

One thing, if you're easily offended, then I would urge you to read this book - you'll be offended, but it raises a lot of ideas about why you might be offended, and why Stewart Lee has bothered to offend you.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of brilliant comedy 8 Dec 2010
By kath
This book is as compelling as a thriller, as thought-provoking as a philosophical treatise and as beautifully written as any literary novel. And it's funny; as funny as...well, as funny as seeing Stewart Lee perform live. Or almost. Having seen all of the routines transcribed here I was hearing Lee's unique delivery of every line and remembering the (sometimes uncomfortable) silences, the shouts and whispers and the occasional startling physicality in the routines. Readers not familiar with the live acts will certainly want to seek them out on DVD after reading them here and comedy enthusiasts and fans of exhilarating prose everywhere will find plenty to enjoy.

The pleasure for me was in discovering the minute workings of the routines, their carefully crafted structure, the precisely chosen word or phrase that sets up a linguistic or imaginative collision that keeps the audience suspended in a brilliant comic moment. Lee harnesses all his formidable comedic and intellectual powers to skewer the crass and the cruel, the dumbed-down mainstream and the self-regarding celebrity elite. He is both deadly serious and richly, sometimes absurdly, comic. And it is comedy that is always about something, always underpinned by the passions and preoccupations of an intelligent and idealistic man unafraid to challenge and even alienate his audience to make his point. But for all the seriousness of purpose Lee's performances are, first and foremost, brilliantly funny and original and this book is a valuable and enjoyable commentary upon them. "How I escaped..." is a mixture of copiously and fascinatingly footnoted transcripts of three live shows and autobiographical content that charts Lee's early career and fluctuating fortunes on the circuit.
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80 of 91 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid the Kindle version 14 Jun 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
The Kindle version of this book is riddled with typos and mysterious line breaks. I can forgive the odd typo of two but not when they appear with such consistency that they destroy the flow and enjoyment of a book.

The most regularly occurring mistake is the word Comedian which mostly appears split into 'Com' and 'edian' - not something you really want in a book about a standup comedian. There are also numerous instances where lines are mysteriously broken, half way across. Granted, these mistakes don't render the book unreadable. But they are an unwanted distraction - a bit like an annoying click on a CD.

Having created a few ebooks myself, I know exactly how these typos occurred. Word Processing programmes like Word insert all kinds of mysterious hidden spaces and breaks that don't show up in most situations but do when you create an ePub or mobi files. That's why publishers should proofread their ebooks on devices like Kindles as well manuscripts printed from PDFs. It doesn't cost a lot of money. It doesn't take very much time. But unfortunately, such is the attitude of publishers to ebooks, most of them couldn't be bothered.

The most infuriating thing? The e-version of this book costs more than the paper version!

I thought long and hard before posting this review. The book Stewart Lee has written doesn't deserve a one-star review. As the other reviewers have testified it is funny, thoughtful and well-written. But the Kindle version, as a product, is faulty. It has flaws that render it unfit for purpose and people thinking of buying it should be warned.

Sadly, it's the only way to make publishers pick up their game. Bad reviews on Amazon upset authors and their agents. It's the only thing publishers react to.

My advice? Save a pound - and the aggravation - and buy the paperback version instead.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First class Stew. 11 April 2011
An entertaining and seriously well written account of the struggles and successes of one of the greatest Stand-up's of his generation . Despite the critical acclaim and his influence on the style of super star contemporaries , Lee struggled for years for commercial success . Here he details his disillusioned retirement from Stand-up ,his subsequent return and the difficulties in finding his audience and making a commercial success from the discovery.
The transripts of his stand up shows from the period covered by the book and the annotations and asides that accompany them give an insight into the difficulty of creating an intelligent and original act whilst deliberately avoiding easy gags and comedy cliches.
Despite his own view that the audience for his work is small and his material somewhat inaccessible;on the page ,as on stage ,he is consistently funny ,often hiarious and always engaging.
Give it a go. He needs the royalties.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Read - A Real Page Turner
A superb and gorgeously written tome by probably the smartest and most dynamic stand up in the country right now. Read more
Published 1 month ago by KJ
5.0 out of 5 stars but recipient was delighted
Bought as a gift, but recipient was delighted
Published 1 month ago by VMJ
4.0 out of 5 stars A few to many pages.
There was maybe one or two to many pages in this book, however it wasn't that bad in the end.
Published 1 month ago by Aaron
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites and one of the best, so often misunderstood it...
One of my favourites and one of the best, so often misunderstood it seems (how) and even his thorough explanations in this book will not help those who don't 'get him', still a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by simon lw
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good, product and delivery great. Thanks
Published 2 months ago by S Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Having seen all of his stand up routines before, even re-reading them was great, and all of the comments added by Stew only improved on the material. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Feynman's Bongos
3.0 out of 5 stars Very funny in bits
I was told to read this book by my son, who said it had made him laugh out loud. Some bits of it are paralysingly funny - the routine about Braveheart and the one about Joe... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hencarrier
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly salted
Entertaining and intelligent, as ever, but also informative about a certain era of British popular culture. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Deep Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and brilliant.
Awesome. Different. Great change from the asinine panel show (in it for the cash) comics. If Stewart was a musician he would be Jim Morrison NOT that scourge and fevered ego Bono.
Published 3 months ago by Richard M, Derbyshire
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