Book Review: How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee

I am ashamed to say I didn’t really follow the wonderful work of the comedian Stewart Lee and Richard Herring back in the 90s. It was my fault entirely, I wasn’t paying attention. So when Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle appeared many years later I wondered how I had managed not to realise what a brilliant comedian he is. I had fallen out of love with stand-up for many years but over the past few years there have been some great comedians who have managed to get on TV for those of us who didn’t get to as many comedy gigs as we would have liked.

The comedian Stewart Lee’s book tells of him falling out of love with stand-up too, due to the apathy of audiences and the sheer expense of the Edinburgh Festival. Many creative people sometimes feel like they’re on a hiding to nothing and need to go away and take stock of the parts of what they’re doing that they like and what works best financially and figure out some kind of compromise or soul-search until a subtle shift in their approach through life experience gives them their answer. I hope that makes some kind of sense.

The book goes into what inspired the comedian Stewart Lee to start out in stand-up and then what made him give up. What follows are the years in-between involving Jerry Springer: The Opera and his realisation of the sheer creative potential of stand-up to be one person on a stage with complete freedom to do anything. The bulk of the book is taken up by transcripts of three of his shows from his comeback show ‘Stand-Up Comedian’ through the follow-up ’90s Comedian’ and ’41st Best Stand-up Ever’.

I think this book has caused me more laughing-out-loud on public transport moments than any other as not only are the transcripts hilarious but the footnotes and comments about other comedians are truly hysterical. There are some appendices featuring some articles the comedian Stewart Lee has written and an interview he did with Johnny Vegas.

The book puts across the comedian Stewart Lee’s passion for his art form and gives more wonderful insights into the world of stand-up comedy. I think I am so fascinated by comedy, not just because I am performing comedy songs, but also because there isn’t much reason to get excited about music these days. So with fantastic writers and performers like the comedian Stewart Lee, Josie Long and others who are doing fascinating and brilliant work it’s hard not to be excited by comedy at the moment.


About paulcarden

I am a writer and performer from The Midlands, UK.
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