I find stand-up comedians fascinating. It amazes me how someone can stand in front of an audience for an hour-plus and entertain them just by saying words. It sometimes looks such an easy thing to do but I’m sure the many people who have tried and died have proved how false an assumption that is, like the Britain’s Got Talent contestant who expected to get a laugh by shouting “garlic bread” at a bewildered audience.
After enjoying a great gig by Gary Delaney at the Leicester Comedy Festival I decided to check out some comedy books and the one that really stood out was Milton Jones’ semi-autobiographical novel ‘Where Do Comedians Go When They Die? Journey of a Stand-Up’.
The story records the experiences of the fictional Jerome Stevens at various points of his stand-up career which includes (the preface reveals) events that have happened to the author himself, to other comics he knows, and also some happenings that are entirely fictional.
There are both funny and serious points throughout the book and what comes across is just what an unusual personality make-up you have to have to be a stand-up: a mixture of tenacity, vulnerability, bravery and, most importantly, the ability to look at everyday life from unusual angles.
Stand-up is not something I could do but to experience a world I am so interested in through Jerome Stevens’ eyes is a real delight. Just as Shane Spall’s ‘…Princess Matilda’ book enabled me to experience an epic sea voyage without getting wet, so Milton Jones’ novel provides some of the excitement and quirky characters of stand-up comedy without all the late nights and hecklers.
I have enjoyed watching the adventures of Tim and Shane Spall on BBC4 as they circumnavigated the British Isles in their barge The Princess Matilda but this book is not the book of the TV series one might expect. Shane’s book covers the first part of their journey from London to Cardiff in amusing and exciting detail including encounters with new and old friends as well as eccentric characters and vivid descriptions of the places they visit. It is a wonderfully entertaining travelogue whether you are interested in boats or not.
But the counterpoint to the adventure around the coast are the parts which show the reason why the Spalls set out on this voyage in the first place. These sections written by Shane when Tim was ill with leukaemia are very moving as she goes through all the extreme emotions of someone in the situation of dealing with a serious illness in the family and describing Tim’s battle with the disease. This is what makes the book so powerful as it is clear why a couple who have come through such an awful experience would want to embark on such a fantastic adventure.
The other wonderful thing about the book is that it gives a far better insight into Tim and Shane’s personalities, particularly seeing Tim through Shane’s eyes. The other main character is of course The Princess Matilda herself who has a personality all of her own as she ploughs indefatigably through rough waves with skipper Tim at the helm.
A funny, moving and inspiring book.
Captain Follansbee (Written Paul Carden)
Paul Carden – vocals/guitar
Filmed by James Allen shrigmedia.com
Recorded 27th March 2011 at Lock 42, Leicester
Video copyright (c) James Allen 2011
Don’t Call It Love (Written by Paul Carden)
Paul Carden – vocals/guitar | Nigel Lawson – harmonica | Mark Haynes – percussion
Produced by John Ablitt | Filmed by Malcolm Carden
Recorded 12th January 2007 at The Swan in the Rushes, Loughborough
Copyright (c) 2013 Paul Carden