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on 10 August 2003
Tony Allen is a bit of a legend - he's really good and everybody knows he's really good, but you never see him performing anywhere. This book, which is a personal meditation on the art of comedy, goes some way to expalining why. He tells of the how the TV show he was on was censored, he tells how alternative comedy has become a business. But he makes what might have been a boring rant entertaining (at one point he sneaks in the best shaggy dog story I've heard, dressed up as a piece of journalism). The potted history of comedy in one chapter makes the book worthwhile on its own.
The only problem was the printing - 10 point sans-serif light-grey type on white paper. I suppose this is supposed to be post modern, but it just makes the text very hard to read.
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on 2 November 2002
Anybody interested in the history of comedy, especially the rise of what was called "Alternative Comedy", should know about Tony Allen. This book tell you in his own words.
The book is part history book, part exploration of comedy technique. For any current comedy performers, Tony Allen has some very useful ideas, especially about the distinction between a performer and an entertainer. His damning commments on the current state of the comedy club circuit are also very illuminating.
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on 26 November 2010
Fabuluous and funny book let down by poor printing - making it a strain, nay almost unreadable. Attitude is a book about straight-talking, honesty and directness with a dash of humour. T.A. bangs on about how stand-up also requires preparation, attention to detail and effort. Qualities sadly lacking in the production of this opus. Get the book reprinted properly, mate it doesn't do you justice. Next time point your finger at that publisher. Use better quality paper and don't skimp with the ink --- Ahhtitude, mister tightwad publisher .... make something of it.
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If you've ever sat with a beer, late at night after a gig deconstructing comedy you will see yourself in this book. It is part memoir, part diary, part treastie on comedy.
As an ex stand-up comic myself I did find some of it interesting as it is mainly a very personal history of alternative comedy told through gig reviews and reminiscences. Impressively some of them slag off other comics, in these days where we're all afraid of upsetting people I was genuinely amused and it does show that if nothing else Tony Allen does have tons of the attitude that he so keenly promotes.
Anyone with an academic interest in the history of the 1980's alternative comedy scene in Britain will love this book.
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on 3 July 2003
I first saw Tony Allen as a Master of Ceremonies at a Comedy Club in Soho in the late 70s. Audience participation was welcome and like my other friends, we were booed off stage after what felt like micro-seconds of trying to be funny. The glaring stage lights seemed to beta-block my brain; on top of that English is not my first language.
With "The secret of stand-up comedy" it is best to forget the aggro/attitude front cover and turn to page two (I think that the cover misrepresents him).
Rodin's thinker is pictured there, with the microphone attached. This is really what this book is about.
Tony Allen is a gentle giant of the stage who happens to be both thoughful and extremely funny. Behind the presentation of a history of comedy, from Lenny Bruce to RD Laing, is a commentary on existence itself.

No cheap thrills here, but an amazing range of observation. With Tony, the personal is political in an immediate sense as he describes ordinary and whacky situations (the work-van is about to pick you up in the morning, a therapist tells you to "stay with that feeling" or he briefly analyses the Thatcher years during the Falklands war). From meditation to chaos theory in the rain forest, from sexual experiments to the Kalahari desert nothing is left out.
If life seems a bit of a bad joke to you - whether you were a housebuyer with 'Northern Rock'
or at sea in a boat of refugees approaching Spain or Bognor Regis - then this book is for you.
Tony puts himself on the line to draw out of life what is most precious. "Much love, much passion, much power" was Allen's famous parting wish to audiences at the end of his act.
As a deeply religious, asexual and very straight person I must add that I am often offended by what he says. His dialogue with God in the book for example is extremely short. Yet He's of a searing honesty.
The acidity of the sixties, the street wisdom of the seventies, the great gap experience of the eighties - it's all in there.
On a different note, Allen is the guy who used to get arrested at Speaker's Corner in the 70s. For free Speech. Not once, but several times. He tried to explain to his audience that the thing you crawl out of as a newborn baby shouldn't be used as a swear-word (or was he talking about that German philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment, Immanuel...) The serious crime squad intervened during this birth process of non-chauvinist, tender thought. Allen was consequently put on death row and executed on behalf of all beautiful hippies. Read him before your death, not after.
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on 11 June 2009
Definitely worth a read if you're starting out, there's a lot of reminders, do and don't, and other stuff mentioned in this book you wont find on a comedy course. Get it, read it, learn it.
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on 7 November 2014
Interesting stuff from the inventor of alternative comedy.
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