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How I Escaped My Certain Fate Paperback – 5 Aug 2010
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'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
The acclaimed comedian presents a brilliantly funny and intelligent commentary on three of his most popular stand-up acts.See all Product description
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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.