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on 1 December 2010
As a relative newcomer to stand up comedy, I've always struggled to write material. Fellow comics have always explained that good gags are mostly the product of hard work; but when you're looking at a blank page, even if you have a few basic ideas, where do you begin?

Other books, of a similar ilk fall short because they are too focused on the way the author's mind works, which isn't necessarily the same as the reader.

Sally Holloway is different, she defines a series of joke mining processes, to find and develop your material. She has a troubleshooting section at the end of each process, that's easy to relate to.
Every other chapter, she points out typical writing challenges faced by her and other comics. So you don't give up just because your beautifully crafted gag, hasn't appeared after half an hours work.

This is someone who has not only performed stand up comedy but more importantly has literally years of experience teaching the art of writing comedy material. As you explore each technique, you can watch the thought process as she cleverly weaves in transcripts from one of her courses. This can at times be a little tedious, however if it's not relevent it's easy to skip to the next section, without feeling you've missed anything.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely. For me it's the best joke writing book I have ever read; but be warned, once you get started, you'll find yourself waking in the night, desperate to get all the ideas popping into your head down on paper.
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on 13 December 2010
Short review: This is a really useful book. Buy it.

Longer review: This is a really useful book. Buy it because it's very easy to read, handily divided into chapters on `theory' and `practical' so you can use it in a way that suits your mood and your current needs. Sally writes in a friendly and conversational style that gives you the feeling you're actually present on her joke writing course (not bad for less than £12) and she sprinkles her text with relevant quotations from famous comedians to give extra inspiration.

There are plenty diagrams, for example of `joke webs' which are her special joke-writing tool for generating ideas. It really helps to see examples drawn out so that you can start to write your own. There are also sections on what results her students came up with from her exercises so you can compare your own ideas with theirs.

I also like the fact that this is a comedy writing book from a British author. So many comedy guides are American and although they have their value, the American sensibility and turn of phrase is different, and if you're British and want to write for a UK audience it's nice to have something rooted in British culture. I'd definitely recommend this book. My only quibble is maybe it needs a slightly funkier cover.

And finally: Here's a joke idea I came up with after reading the chapter on puns (don't groan, they are great warm ups and can lead on to proper jokes too) and then letting my mind do some `Background Processing', another of Sally's top tips:

"I was having a drink with Britain's Most Haunted's Derek Acorah today when he heard he'd won the lottery. He was pondering how to spend the money. All on himself, give it all to charity, 50-50? Anyway, he asked my advice. I thought about it a bit then I punched him in the face. I felt it was necessary to strike a happy medium."

Happy joke writing!
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on 30 November 2010
I've read quite a few books that supposedly teach you how to write comedy but in the end they're often just a tiresome compendium of the author's anecdotes of (once) working in the industry. This book is different. It's totally focused on getting you writing from the get-go and there are lots of different exercises to try and inspire you. Some worked better than others for me but it's worth the price of the book for the Joke Webs section alone. I love this method!!

Even if you think you have no idea how to start writing gags this book seems to show you a way to get started - after that it's all up to you to keep going. Although it's main focus appears to be writing material for stand-up or topical shows there's quite a bit of good advice that'll help with writing a sitcom (which is my main area of interest). The only thing I wasn't too keen on was some of the drawings in the book - particularly the weird geriatric hands!! (when you read the book you'll see what I mean).

Alongside Evan S. Smith's Writing Television Sitcoms, an indispensable book.
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on 11 June 2015
This is a very useful guide to the art of Joke Writing, as it says. It covers the basics, what Jokes are. How they can be constructed, it goes on to explain in detail how jokes can be brainstormed, then written, then refined. A lot of the time the difference in a joke being funny and falling flat lies in the rhythm and the direct distillation of the idea in the clearest and simplest form. Just as in song-writing you need the EXACT right words.

In this book you get deconstructions of jokes, how they work, what happens if you change them around. How you can build on them or allude to the punchline later for extra laughs. This is a very good book. I have read a lot of books on comedy writing and I wrote about 5 pages of gags (half page of really good stuff) the first time I serious got to grips with the concepts in the book. I should qualify that by saying that I have previously written jokes and routines but this book sets things out in such a clear manner that it takes the banging your head against the wall element and almost eliminates it- you'll always get blocked, but if you want comedy to be your trade this book is well worth your money
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on 3 June 2011
You didn't think you could learn how to write jokes did you, but this book really makes it possible. Of course, how good you are depends on you, but as an intro to writing gags, or as a way of pepping up your existing skills, this book is great. It is also impressively succinct. Logan Murray's book ('how do be a great stand up' complements this book by exploring more the performance side of things.
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on 22 November 2010
Just finished reading this book and it is the best book about comedy writing that I've read. Ms Holloway obviously knows her stuff and she has shared her experience in a clear, entertaining and constructive way. You won't just read this book - you will be writing whilst you are reading. Really inspiring stuff.
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on 9 March 2015
One of the best comedy writing books I've read. It is concise and clear with real exercises that translate to real industry tips. Her style of writing isn't that faux jokey too cool for school that I see too often in comedy books. A breath of fresh air. If you want a good clear book on comedy writing and deconstructing gags and jokes, buy this book. I write character sketches and found it to be refreshing and relevant for sketches too
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on 31 August 2014
This is such a brilliant book. I love it.

It answered so many of the questions that I had about writing comedy. I now feel confident in my ability to write jokes and have already written a few good ones. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to 'pull back the curtain' to learn some tried and tested techniques for writing jokes whatever the medium. (It is good for those wishing to write sitcoms, cartoons, stand-up comedy, best man speeches etc).

The book is well structured and chapters are divided into 'practical' or 'theory'. This shows the author's great respect to the reader. She doesn't stop you in your tracks and spring an exercise on you when you are reading in 'lean back mode' (theory). And, when reading the practical chapters, you can be prepared to get into 'lean forward mode' and roll up your sleeves and do some work. This simple division of 'practice and theory' meant that I actually did 'do' the practicals and got the most possible out of the book.

The book is nice 'n short and so didn't take very long to read. It is written in such a friendly style that reading it was a joy. I have read a lot of non-fiction books and this really is one of the best out there. Buy it. Read it. Share it.
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on 26 November 2010
A good read even if you are not into stand up comedy as it is entertaining and gives ideas for creative thought which is good for speech writing teaching or just trying to stay happy.
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on 18 February 2013
This was one of a triplet of books that I bought, so that I would be more likely than not, be able to successfully complete the sitcom for my final TMA submission and end of course assignment (EMA) that I had proposed, to complete my A363, Open University course. The book is very thorough and complements some of the points made in John Vorhaus' The Little Book of SITCOM, with regard to group participation etiquette and being entirely free with one's thinking, so as to clear the decks and/or suggest something that can be further developed. It also covered aspects that are a feature of Logan Murray's Be a Great Stand-Up: Teach Yourself, with regard to listing ideas and drilling down to reveal the potential for jokes. As a stand alone item, The Serious Guide to Joke Writing is more than satisfactory to guide one through the procedures via which--the Hadron Joke Collider, Joke Webs, etc.--it will be possible, over time, for the dedicated student to craft seriously good material.
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