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101 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deadly serious, hilarious book.
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...
Published on 29 July 2010 by Ben Thurston

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83 of 94 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid the Kindle version
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...
Published on 14 Jun. 2011 by Peter Moore


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101 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deadly serious, hilarious book., 29 July 2010
This review is from: How I Escaped My Certain Fate (Paperback)
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of brilliant comedy, 8 Dec. 2010
By 
kath "cinephile" (northumberland uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How I Escaped My Certain Fate (Paperback)
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. Although he does not give away much about his personal life, preferring to keep the focus squarely on his art, Lee's descriptions of the triumphs and disasters in his artistic journey provide a deep and engrossing insight into his motivation as a performer. All this and still laugh-out-loud funny.

Those detractors who view Lee as smug and arrogant will doubtless find further ammunition in his decision to set his work down and annotate it so minutely but they surely miss the point. Lee's analysis of his work is fiercely honest and he his own harshest critic, as quick to admit a lapse as a triumph. This book is a strange, delightful and engrossing read and a great insight into our most original and important comedian.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stewart Lee: How I Escaped My Certain Fate, 11 Mar. 2011
By 
Owen Hughes (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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An amazing insight into the inner workings of stand up comedy and in particular the way it has evolved since the 80s Alternative Comedy scene into the mainstream form it is in now. The book is educational, very entertaining, compelling and superbly written. It has helped to change my opinion of Stewart Lee and I urge anyone interested in comedy to read it.

The book is very emotional, too. It delves right into the depths of his failures, in the 90s, to achieve what he wanted in a way he could be seen as successful. The way he matures as a result of his retirement from stand up in the early part of the century, through to his part in the Jerry Springer opera and subsequent return to stand up is fascinating to read.

But, what I think were the best bits of the book were the transcripts of his live shows where he interjected them with reasons why things worked or didn't work. The way he broke down his own routine and explained the intricacies of them in a way not at first obvious was great.

The only minor gripes I had with the book, the only things I could possibly criticise it for were; the fact he just referred to quotes by his mates as if they were the most profound and amazing things anyone had ever said, when actually they weren't always as impressive as he was making out; the slightly arrogant tone of a few of his anecdotes (although he was surprisingly humble in places when I didn't expect him to be); and I disagreed with some of his opinions - all of which were interesting to read none the less.

I wasn't exactly a massive fan of Stewart Lee's work before reading this book, but his book has converted me! Definitely recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into the mind of an excellent stand-up comedian., 20 Jan. 2011
By 
M. W. Ellwood "mwellwood" (Abingdon, GB) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How I Escaped My Certain Fate (Paperback)
Having seen the DVDs of all the 3 shows from which the transcripts provide the core of the book, and having seen Stewart Lee live in his two later tours and on 2 other occasions, I was accustomed to his style and delivery, and it was very easy to hear (again) the words as he had spoken them, while reading. I was regularly laughing out loud, reading the actual transcripts.

As others have mentioned, the footnotes are substantial, in some cases taking up almost all of 2 pages opened out, with only a few lines of "body text" above them.

In most books, this would make the whole difficult to read and probably irritating. In the case of this book though, somehow it works. The way I tackled it was to first read the text on 2 facing pages at a time, and then read the footnotes on each page. This seemed to work for me.

I would say that in order to enjoy the book, you have to have seen Stew perform before, preferably live, but at least on TV or DVD. If you haven't then I hope it would make you go out and buy one or more of the DVDs, watch his new TV series when it comes out, and look out for a live performance to go to (look for his official website).

Negatives? I don't think I have any, personally, but I could see one area where some people may criticise him. From time to time he appears to be having a pop at some of his fellow performers. In the case of Richard Herring, if you remember the style of their double act, you can see this is a kind of vestige of that relationship where they were always scoring points off one another. In fact, he also gives credit to Richard Herring in many places.

In the case of other performers he has a go at, it is slightly more difficult to judge. Is he really writing what he thinks, or is this a continuation of his act? I think sometimes it's probably the former and sometimes it's the latter. He clearly knows and likes a lot of fellow comics and I think we know that he is respected by many fellow comics. I think that he must have written these comments safe in the knowledge that they would take them in the right spirit.

At times though, I was reminded of that Father Ted episode where he is giving a speech at the ceremony where is is given the "Best Priest" award, and Ted uses this as an opportunity to get his own back on all the people who he thinks have wronged him over the years. I would like to think that Stew is either consciously or unconsciously doing a sort of "homage" to this painfully funny "Father Ted" episode. On the other hand, I would love to be a fly on the wall (or perhaps just dressed in a fly costume) if, one day, Stew and Ben Elton should ever meet, say, backstage on the circuit somewhere, assuming this is at all likely.
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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
This review is from: How I Escaped My Certain Fate (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 6 Feb. 2011
This review is from: How I Escaped My Certain Fate (Paperback)
Stewart Lee is a great comedy theorist, as well as being very funny. It's very enlightening to follow deconstructions of comedy by an insider, and SL has clearly thought a huge amount about what comedy is for, why it works, it's pitfalls and limitations. I've seen him live twice; he's one of the few top-notch comedians who comes as far west as Taunton and Plymouth (thank you Stewart), and he never disappoints. I really like the format of the book, which lives in a perpetual state of borderline-anarchy from footnotes that constantly threaten to consume the main text. A must-read for comedy fans.
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83 of 94 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid the Kindle version, 14 Jun. 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the whole, a bit thin on quilts., 7 Aug. 2012
Comparisons are, in common with Lee himself, odious but he comfortably could be ranked alongside comedic luminaries such as Tom O'Connor, John Smith and Nick Clegg. Of course, I know nothing about comedy and this book isn't aimed at me. It proves that through its deployment of facts.

Several names cited here as key influences on the nascent Stew are unknown to me and possibly to science. These people apparently have contributed to his becoming the wretched, marginalised figure he is today reduced to having to allow Armando Iannucci, a tiresome CGI-generated rodent character I believe, a cameo on his show presumably as payback for something unsavoury in the past.

Anyway, apart from the paucity of detailed information about quilts, quilt-making and quilt people, the only real sour note in the book is a frankly shocking admission to having once bought an album by the tribute band Oasis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, honest, and strangely moving, 28 Mar. 2012
Comedian, man, and damned-to-hell blasphemist Stewart Lee wrote this book, and - as an "atheist, comic book reading, Morrissey fan nerd" - I'm so glad that he did.

If you aren't a fan of Lee already, this excellent book will serve as little more than a moderately cheap bundle of pages and colours. The content requires a pre-existent relationship with the comedy. This isn't - unlike, say, Peter Kay's autobiography - a book one can just dip into. That's not to say Peter Kay's autobiography is necessarily terrible or artistically worthless, but it just doesn't require the same degree of commitment. Or ability. (I'm joking. Peter Kay is a great writer).

Accompanying both the autobiographical material and the transcripts of several brilliant stand-up routines, Lee's ridiculously long footnotes are a stroke of genius, and they demonstrate just how far the (dare I say?) comedy genius will go in his lifelong effort to play with the boundaries between form and content. (Tony Blair, too, has a nice little go, as one amusing appendix demonstrates).

Lee's deconstruction of the inane "political correctness has gone mad" mantra played out brilliantly onstage, and returning to it here allows for a great deal of intelligent and astute elaboration. It's a refreshing and considered outlook, and I was thoroughly pleased to see Lee explain his perspective further.

A humour-inclined, aspiring young imbecile myself, I found essential advice and insights lurking around every punctuation mark. Not a single page flicked by without me learning something new about the unseen complexities of comedy. This book also introduced me (and most likely a lot of other readers) to the names of a few obscure comedians and talents, something for which I am deeply grateful.

Something I didn't expect was to be moved by this book. The detailing of Lee's relationship with hope and futility, and with the frustrating lack of serious recognition, proved to be gently poignant. Reading the history of 'alternative comedy', and of Lee's influences and personal anecdotes, had a sense of warm comfort prodding at my brain throughout.

Overall, a wonderful book. Comedy is a worthy art form, liberal-minded middle-aged jazz fans deserve to have their voices heard, and this bundle of pages and colours is a perfect use of pages and colours.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 3 Jan. 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Stewart Lee's book is quite simply one of the funniest books I've ever read (as in bursting out laughing no matter what the surroundings). It also shows up Lee to be one of the most original, witty and erudite comedians around. The book charts Lee's 'career' as a stand-up from his days in the Lee and Herring duo with Richard Herring, through the period (2000 to 2004) during which he gave up being a stand-up and, instead, co-wrote Jerry Springer - The Opera, through to his recent renaissance as one of the most highly rated comedians on the circuit. The majority of the book provides the (extensively annotated) transcripts from three of Lee's recent standup routines (in 2005, 2006 and 2008).

As the non-mainstream comedian that Lee clearly is, he provides a very interesting critical commentary on the state (and recent history) of British (and some non-British) comedy, praising the likes of Daniel Kitson, Simon Munnery, Jerry Sadowitz, Ian Macpherson, Kevin Eldon, Johnny Vegas, Dave Allen, Malcolm Hardee and Robin Ince, whilst deriding Michael McIntyre, Peter Kay, Russell Howard and Frank Skinner (Fantasy Football). The content of his standup (and associated commentary) is outstanding with marvellous pieces on terrorism, the US, Ang Lee, Tom O' Connor, football, Tony Blair, Carphone Warehouse, political correctness, religious bigotry, Big Brother, the Queen 'musical' We Will Rock You and Scotland. But, for me, the highlight was his take on Richard Littlejohn's response to the Ipswich prostitute murders (magic).

Essential reading.
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How I Escaped My Certain Fate
How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee (Paperback - 5 Aug. 2010)
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