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Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy (Theatre Arts (Routledge Hardcover))

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In this engaging and disarmingly frank book, comic Jay Sankey spills the beans, explaining not only how to write and perform stand-up comedy, but how to improve and perfect your work. Much more than a how-to manual Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy is the most detailed and comprehensive book on the subject to date.


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In this engaging and disarmingly frank book, comic Jay Sankey spills the beans, explaining not only how to write and perform stand-up comedy, but how to improve and perfect your work. Much more than a how-to manual Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy is the most detailed and comprehensive book on the subject to date.

30 review for Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy (Theatre Arts (Routledge Hardcover))

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bakunin

    I have been doing standup for 1 year now and a colleague recommended this book to me. There is something in me which revolts at the idea of reading about humor - indeed how can anything so abstract be explained? I have always seen humor like something akin to music and as something which you are born with. Either you have it or you don't. Having said that I believe that one can learn a great deal from the pros. This books contains lots of tips and it manages to explain the hard work which a care I have been doing standup for 1 year now and a colleague recommended this book to me. There is something in me which revolts at the idea of reading about humor - indeed how can anything so abstract be explained? I have always seen humor like something akin to music and as something which you are born with. Either you have it or you don't. Having said that I believe that one can learn a great deal from the pros. This books contains lots of tips and it manages to explain the hard work which a career in standup demands of you. There is method behind the madness but ultimately I believe that comedy is an art where you need to find yourself by trial and error. There are only hints at what you should do on stage to make it. Thats what makes it hard. Thats what makes it fun. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about standup.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Harry Hol

    I read this 'on the road' while doing my first few stand-up gigs. It's an amazing book full of absolutely essential information for anyone doing (or contemplating) stand-up comedy. It's written with a gentle humor and it feels like having a wise mentor sharing his experiences. This is not a book that promises to teach you 'how to be funny'. It tells you what stand-up comedy is, how you can improve your performance and how you deal with the emotional rollercoaster of being on stage. It helps you ho I read this 'on the road' while doing my first few stand-up gigs. It's an amazing book full of absolutely essential information for anyone doing (or contemplating) stand-up comedy. It's written with a gentle humor and it feels like having a wise mentor sharing his experiences. This is not a book that promises to teach you 'how to be funny'. It tells you what stand-up comedy is, how you can improve your performance and how you deal with the emotional rollercoaster of being on stage. It helps you how to deal with success and with failure. Coincidently, I read the chapter about bombing on stage right after I had a particularly bad night. I was amazed how spot-on the author wrote about this experience and it helped me get back on the horse quickly. I cannot recommend this book enough.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Frederic Kerr

    I have yet to read a book on standup that I found comprehensively helpful, but each offers some insights. This is a good book to read if you want to gain a thorough, emotional understanding of standup comedy writing and performance. Sankey, like Judy Carter, believes that connecting with the audience through topics they care about is key. He stresses likability and vulnerability as important attributes of successful comics. Sankey 's work on stage etiquette and the stresses placed on comics by v I have yet to read a book on standup that I found comprehensively helpful, but each offers some insights. This is a good book to read if you want to gain a thorough, emotional understanding of standup comedy writing and performance. Sankey, like Judy Carter, believes that connecting with the audience through topics they care about is key. He stresses likability and vulnerability as important attributes of successful comics. Sankey 's work on stage etiquette and the stresses placed on comics by various roles (MC, middle, headliner ) is very helpful. He offers a view into the evolution of a comic's progress from rookie to feature/middle and beyond. He thoughtfully describes the fragile power dynamic between performer and audience. There are a few things this book didn't do that I thought would have made it stronger. Sankey frequently waffles rather than giving clear advice, often suggesting, "on the other hand, too much of this thing I just recommended would be a bad thing." Clearly most life decisions are a matter of judgment along some kind if continuum, but I found this grating. Maybe he's just very Canadian. Secondly, like Carter, Sankey's major emphasis on trying to guess what the audience cares about or will "relate to" struck me as misguided. I think the comic 's main task is to take something we find funny and demonstrating to the audience why that's true for us. They can agree and laugh or disagree and scowl, but we're selling our vision of funny. Jerry Seinfeld does a great bit on pharmacies. Although everybody has been to one, I doubt most people care much about drugstores. It's Seinfeld 's sociological dissection of the pharmacy experience that makes it funny and I expect he could do that with taxidermy or taxes if he wanted, neither of which is highly "relatable". On the continuum between relatability and originality, the relatable end of the topic spectrum is where most hack material lives. If it's super relatable, it may also have been done to death. Although an obscure topic may excite no passion in most people, they will find it funny if we show them how. That brings me to what I thought was the biggest shortcoming of this book. I already have my own view of what amuses me. I know that humour derives from surprise, exaggeration, release of tension, incongruity and changes in point of view, to name a few. I would have found it useful for Sankey to have included a few, practical exercises on finding the funny in any topic by processing them through those various source lenses to construct jokes or bits. I have found some of these exercises in other books and I continue to seek them out, but such exercises and any deconstruction of what actually makes things funny were absent here. The book is still useful in other ways, but my quest continues.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emlikescake

    I will let you know if these tips work after I do my first standup routine next week... *hyperventilates, faints*

  5. 5 out of 5

    John G.

    Loved it, no other comedy book out there delves as deeply into the psychological and philosophical underpinnings of stand-up comedy, perhaps other than "Only Joking: What's So Funny About Making People Laugh?" by British Comedian Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, but that book is more about humor and laughter in general and Sankey's book is much more a how-to book. Loved it, no other comedy book out there delves as deeply into the psychological and philosophical underpinnings of stand-up comedy, perhaps other than "Only Joking: What's So Funny About Making People Laugh?" by British Comedian Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, but that book is more about humor and laughter in general and Sankey's book is much more a how-to book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sinziana Pertea

    It was ok. Offers some insight into the basics of the genre and guidelines to help you understand that your friends thinking you're funny and cracking some jokes now and then do not necessarily indicate potential for a career in comedy; that I give it. Some of the advice felt a bit too specific (like what to wear and how to hold the mic on stage) and not so relevant if you're a stand-up buff and familiar with a variety of talented comedians (who typically break those patterns and do their own th It was ok. Offers some insight into the basics of the genre and guidelines to help you understand that your friends thinking you're funny and cracking some jokes now and then do not necessarily indicate potential for a career in comedy; that I give it. Some of the advice felt a bit too specific (like what to wear and how to hold the mic on stage) and not so relevant if you're a stand-up buff and familiar with a variety of talented comedians (who typically break those patterns and do their own thing).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Lau

    Just finished the book and my friend told me i'm still not funny. Hopefully theres a part two to this book... Kidding. I liked this book because I love stand up and the art of comedy/ performance. It's absolutely fascinating to dive into how comics think and feel about everything from new material to tried and true material and everything in between. Check it out if you like stand up as much as I! Just finished the book and my friend told me i'm still not funny. Hopefully theres a part two to this book... Kidding. I liked this book because I love stand up and the art of comedy/ performance. It's absolutely fascinating to dive into how comics think and feel about everything from new material to tried and true material and everything in between. Check it out if you like stand up as much as I!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    I liked Jay Sankey's book Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy fine, but it didn't leave a strong impression on me. I didn't blame the book for that. I was looking for a craft book, and this wasn't quite that. What I did like about the book was the incorporation of Zen ideas into standup, and maybe the best way I can sum that up is that you can do your best work the more authentic you are being to yourself, and when you are not trying so much as doing and being. I know how that sounds: very flight I liked Jay Sankey's book Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy fine, but it didn't leave a strong impression on me. I didn't blame the book for that. I was looking for a craft book, and this wasn't quite that. What I did like about the book was the incorporation of Zen ideas into standup, and maybe the best way I can sum that up is that you can do your best work the more authentic you are being to yourself, and when you are not trying so much as doing and being. I know how that sounds: very flighty. But I understand that if you approach it that way, the material will come more naturally.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    I coach a group of amateur comedians every year for "Accountants Are Funny Too", a charity event that pits 10 accountants from the Southeast against each other in a fun competition of stand-up, mainly to debunk the myth that theirs is a humorless, dry profession. Anyway, this is the one book I recommend above all others to them in terms of 'getting' what doing stand-up is all about. I don't like the title, b/c I think the "Zen and the Art of..." thing has been done to death, and it makes it soun I coach a group of amateur comedians every year for "Accountants Are Funny Too", a charity event that pits 10 accountants from the Southeast against each other in a fun competition of stand-up, mainly to debunk the myth that theirs is a humorless, dry profession. Anyway, this is the one book I recommend above all others to them in terms of 'getting' what doing stand-up is all about. I don't like the title, b/c I think the "Zen and the Art of..." thing has been done to death, and it makes it sound trendy, but to the author's credit, he does draw out the Zen metaphor often and well, and he hits home on what works and what doesn't in the world of stand-up. It's a fun read, even if you don't aspire to the world of comedy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Okay. Probably the most useful parts are reminding a comic that for whatever reasons, reactions vary--the same material may kill one night and another bomb or that a mediocre comic may get a great reaction in front of the same audience where a really good comic gets nothing. Overall, the book appears to attempt to provide guidance for someone completely new to comedy (ie how to structure a joke) to someone more experienced (ie getting an agent, what to do when a headliner) as a result it at time Okay. Probably the most useful parts are reminding a comic that for whatever reasons, reactions vary--the same material may kill one night and another bomb or that a mediocre comic may get a great reaction in front of the same audience where a really good comic gets nothing. Overall, the book appears to attempt to provide guidance for someone completely new to comedy (ie how to structure a joke) to someone more experienced (ie getting an agent, what to do when a headliner) as a result it at times feel spread pretty thin. Would have been better if he had focused on one end of the spectrum or the other.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Blake

    Not much "Zen" here in this bland introduction to Stand-Up comedy, apart from a 6-page chapter at the end and Suzuki quotes introducing some sections. There are some interesting parallels to be implicitly drawn between Zen, acting and Stand-Up. I would recommend this as a book on auditioning as well for the similarities to monologue auditioning. Overall, an easy read. Nothing earth-shattering or enlightening here. Redundancies in the instruction, advice and writing style make you feel like you've Not much "Zen" here in this bland introduction to Stand-Up comedy, apart from a 6-page chapter at the end and Suzuki quotes introducing some sections. There are some interesting parallels to be implicitly drawn between Zen, acting and Stand-Up. I would recommend this as a book on auditioning as well for the similarities to monologue auditioning. Overall, an easy read. Nothing earth-shattering or enlightening here. Redundancies in the instruction, advice and writing style make you feel like you've read the same book 4 times by the end. -B

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Cravak

    Finally, a book that discusses stand-up comedy from inside the human soul. Though Sankey is smart enough to provide his reader with tips at generating more laughs, he's more concerned with making hopeful or struggling comics be at ease with their craft. It works! After reading this book I found the courage to get back on stage after a year absence and felt more connected to the crowd than ever before. Yes, I got more laughs. Finally, a book that discusses stand-up comedy from inside the human soul. Though Sankey is smart enough to provide his reader with tips at generating more laughs, he's more concerned with making hopeful or struggling comics be at ease with their craft. It works! After reading this book I found the courage to get back on stage after a year absence and felt more connected to the crowd than ever before. Yes, I got more laughs.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gary Parish

    I'm a huge fan of Jay Sankey's instructional DVDs on sleight-of-hand magic so I figured this would be something worth my time. An extremely easy read and not as funny as you might think, Sankey spells out the trials and pitfalls of what it's like to be a comic, more anecdotal than a cut-and-dried lesson plan but entertaining nevertheless. He includes pointers on scripting, rehearsing, dealing with hecklers and how to use a journal for ideas. I'm a huge fan of Jay Sankey's instructional DVDs on sleight-of-hand magic so I figured this would be something worth my time. An extremely easy read and not as funny as you might think, Sankey spells out the trials and pitfalls of what it's like to be a comic, more anecdotal than a cut-and-dried lesson plan but entertaining nevertheless. He includes pointers on scripting, rehearsing, dealing with hecklers and how to use a journal for ideas.

  14. 5 out of 5

    A

    Would have lots of tips for any stand-up wannabe, also good insight into how comedians come up with jokes. Amusing illustrations, would do very well with a lot more examples of written jokes that would act to express the authors sense of humour

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This was the only title I read before actually performing stand-up. It was good...interesting and provided some helpful insight. I need to read more in-depth on the subject. This wasn't a bad start. This was the only title I read before actually performing stand-up. It was good...interesting and provided some helpful insight. I need to read more in-depth on the subject. This wasn't a bad start.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kurtbg

    Besides the anecdotal information much more material was presented with a logical breakdown in the comedy bible (previously reviewed). There was much overlap which reinforces just what one is in for if planning to go try their mettle in the stand up comedy world.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Grefe

    A solid guide to the art of stand-up comedy as told by someone familiar with Zen and Meisner. Overall, I found this very helpful and useful in the idea behind and the work involved in honing the craft of stand-up comedy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Xavier Shay

    I don't know anything about standup and feel like this is a book I could have written if you asked me to make something up. I guess the secret to everything is some combination of public speaking, how to make friends and influence people, and hard work. I don't know anything about standup and feel like this is a book I could have written if you asked me to make something up. I guess the secret to everything is some combination of public speaking, how to make friends and influence people, and hard work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Interesting read. Good advice readily relates to all manner of public speaking.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben Nesvig

    Entertaining, though not funny, with some useful information. Not sure how it compares to other books on the subject.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alvarez

    Helpful..jury's still out. Helpful..jury's still out.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Ledford

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aidan Halpin

  24. 5 out of 5

    George

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eitan Rosenberg

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Horvick

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas White

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sindre

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