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on 12 January 2012
This book provides another inside look at the workings of a Stewart Lee standup show, much like his earlier book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate. It is worth knowing exactly what you are buying before getting this book. The main part of it consists of a transcript of Stewart Lee's most recent show, with lengthy footnotes that reveal more about how the show was put together and extra details about his life. Then there are two sort of essays at the start and finish, which again give a bit more insight into Stewart Lee's approach to comedy. The whole book will not take more than a few hours to read, so it's a quality over quantity kind of thing.

This format might not be to everyone's taste but I found it incredibly interesting. The intricate ways that Stewart Lee sabotages his own shows to play around with the audience's expectations is very interesting. There is also quite a bit about how he has dealt with his recent success with his TV show and how he has tried to accomodate the different audiences this brings.

Stewart Lee also highlights some bad reviews he has found about his work on the interent, which makes me regret not having more criticisms for his work, as I might be able to make my way into one of his shows. It really is an interesting and funny book though. If you like Stewart Lee then you should like this book, if you don't like him then I don't know why you are reading this review.
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The 'If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One' EP is the second of three announced collections of the comedian and man Stewart Lee's standup material annotated to an obsessive and hugely insightful degree. Though I have been watching the DVD of the show transcribed in this book for over a year now, I have not enjoyed the show as much as on the day I read it in this format. Though there are surely those who, much like people who avoid bonus material for films because it ruins the magic of moviemaking, prefer to take their comedy as is without any serious analysis into its creation or execution, there are at least as many for whom Lee's discussion of his designs, worries and inspirations is welcome and serves not only to elevate the material (as in last summer's How I Escaped My Certain Fate) but also act as a criticism in and of itself of both the industry and its figureheads.

Included in the scant paperback are an introduction and an article Lee wrote over the summer in relation to some of the criticism he'd faced from various newspapers in the wake of the tour which I enjoyed reading immensely and was glad to see reproduced.

The so-called EP is a testament to Lee's grandest accomplishment so far, though perhaps without his notes (which address and elucidate specifically on some of the moments of the show I felt were a little 'off', and why exactly they appeared as such) I may not have enjoyed it as much. To say that having to explain the joke makes it less funny is here of no relevance, as he has not made me laugh more at material I'm familiar with, but has certainly highlighted his intentions for the show structurally and the extent to which he was successful.

A third volume, TV Comedian, is mentioned in the introduction and schedules for a Summer 2013 release and promises to cover his work for his latest two BBC series of Comedy Vehicle. If you fancy a bit more Stew, his and Richard Herring's 1990s series Fist Of Fun has just been released by indie label Go Faster Stripe (publishers of his second standup DVD, 90s Comedian and available exclusively through their website) and is well worth a look both on its own merits and as a starting point to see just how far he's evolved as the country's hardest working, funniest and frankly best comic.
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on 3 April 2017
And racing this will leave you feeling more hopeless and despairing than when you started. It's what you deserve and what you get
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on 15 January 2012
As I was paying for something completely unrelated at a bookshop in Islington, I happened to spy a little pile of these on the counter, possibly placed there by the great man himself.

Admittedly, I was initially dissappointed by the shortage of volume to the tome (just over 100 pages) and then again by the seemingly high price tag, however, as a long-time supporter of Mr Lee, I bought it anyway.

The bulk (!) of the book is identical in style to the transcript chapters from Stewart's previous work, How I Escaped My Certain Fate, consisting of a word-for-word transcript of the DVD recording of the show punctuated with footnotes about context, background, alternative lines used at other venues and even one Amazon review (The Picasso of Comedy). The footnotes do make for a good read and they seemed more detailed than in the previous book, however, while this method of writing provides a great deal of structure, it seemed at times as though Stewart might have enjoyed the freedom of rambling on for a few more pages than this restrictive format permitted.

To be perfectly honest, if you already own the DVD and keep abreast of all things Stew, there's not an awful lot which is new here and you'll probably read the whole thing in a short afternoon. I admit that I found it perversely entertaining to read and re-read the Richard Hammond and Clarkson parts in appropriately silly voices: "Ha, ha, gypsies. Imagine being a gypsy."

So is it worth buying...? Yes. It's well-written, intelligent and very funny. But EPs don't usually cost the same as albums.
You might be advised to hold out for a fairer price.
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on 29 August 2012
I awoke to Stewart Lee's brilliance watching his '41st Best Stand Up' routine late one night on telly. Having bought and devoured his DVDs, I then turned to 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate', and immediately fell into deeper admiration for the man's work. The DVD of the show this book documents followed, naturally accompanied by the book.

Lee is concerned with the Art of comedy, and as such his routines (particularly If You Prefer...) are more of a deconstructionist take on comedy which happens to be funny, than a 'straight' stand up routine. Consequently, there are layers and subtexts which speak to different people very differently. If nothing else, this book (and 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate') reassures the viewer that the humour in Lee's routines isn't accidental (at least, not entirely so) and helps to deconstruct further the already deconstructed stand up routine, often stirring in even more humour.

Those who dislike Lee (of whom I used to be one, kneejerking a distaste for what I assumed to be a genuinely arrogant, sneering delivery style) are unlikely to read either this or 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate', but nevertheless I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone, whether they like the man or not: at the very least, it might provide some insight into what he's trying to do. For those converts among us, this is a hilarious little book - I just can't wait for the next volume in the man's journey.
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on 3 January 2012
Having returned from Mexico in New Year where my lovely wife had treated me to a great birthday (50 , since you ask) what nicer way to thank her than for me to download Stewart Lee's new book on Kindle at midnight and proceed to keep her awake in the early hours with my constant, poorly stifled laughter.
Having moved to the sofa at about 2.30 am , I then continued to trouble the sleep of Ted our incontinent Labrador until finishing the book at 5 this morning.

I believe that Lee is our finest comedian. This book ( as with Certain Fate) underscores both the honesty and focus that make his stand up routines the stuff of repeated viewing.
Like his ( and my) hero Mark E Smith he cajoles, manipulates and wrong foots the audience brilliantly.His attacks on mainstream comedians,Top Gear and advertising are spot on and whilst-at first blush - they seem the random ramblings of a bitter man -the footnotes in this book reinforce the care which is put into Lees work.

Dont dismiss the book just because you've seen the Milder Comedian tour or DVD. This book is an insightful and rewarding companion to the standup routine itself and allows you to understand better the approach Lee has to audience , critic and fellow comedians .

Poignant, acerbic and -that word again-honest comedy from Britains most Marmite social commentator

Brilliant .
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on 17 February 2012
This is a properly arty book, from the faux-tatty retro cover art, to the comedy routine dissected and discussed as if it was a piece of English literature (which I suppose it technically is). It is (deliberately) in the style of an annotated play, with footnotes ranging from sincerity (which it turns out is the last taboo of comedy) to the off the wall deliberate melodrama. I particularly like Lee's references to all his influences, including other comedians, musicians, artists. The physical book is just a nice thing, producing all the nostalgic connotations of normal literature texts.

The content is humorous and intellectual, although presented as though it is neither. The audaciousness of delivering a routine that refuses to make proper jokes is funny enough, but to go further and discuss this technique, giving artistic justifications is such a brilliant concept. This whole idea mirrors and fits very well with the content of Lee's stand up routine.

You could probably just download a pdf instead of forking out though.
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on 26 March 2012
I'm a bit of a stand-up comedy obsessive, and as such a huge fan of Stewart Lee, so I may be being slightly bias when I tell you to buy this book. buy it now.

That is to say, If you've already read 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate' and have subsequently watched the DVD recording of 'If You Prefer...' then really you don't have any excuse not to check this out, honestly it's brilliant.
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on 12 February 2013
It's like karaoke for stand up, but with meta-textual references. I like the idea of these annotated transcripts, I wonder whether Michael McIntyre will be doing one, can't wait.
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on 14 February 2013
Thoroughly enjoyable transcript of the show with illuminating insights into Stew's increasingly well honed stage persona. The way he anticipates the increase in audience who are there because 'you know, he's on telly it'll probably be alright' and seeks to alienate them whilst managing their expectations is really rather beautiful - like a disturbed motivational guru who instead acts for good not evil.
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