Stand-Up, A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic

by Ian Keable

Hardback, 288 pages, 16 pages of photographs

Reviewed by John Archer

I have to start by admitting an interest in this publication. I am one of a number of Professional Stand-up Comedy Magicians that Ian makes reference to in this book - though how I managed to be part of such an esteemed company I will never know. Having said that, I promise to give you an honest critique of what is possibly the best book ever to be written on modern Stand-up Comedy Magic.

I would guess that many reading this might never have heard of Ian Keable; those who have may wonder what makes him the right man to write this book? Indeed, if I were to say that the best book to be written on stand-up comedy magic is now in print - and you didn’t know otherwise - you would probably imagine the author to be Mac King, Michael Finney or Graham Jolley. In fact a whole host of names may come to mind but, let’s be honest, probably not Mr. Keable.

The good news is two-fold. All of the people who you possibly thought should write this book were involved - the list is too big to slavishly copy here but, trust me, the great and the mighty from around the world are quizzed and probed on every aspect of Stand-up Comedy Magic with enlightening results. Secondly, I can’t think of anyone else who would have taken this job so seriously. Ian is an ‘anorak’ on the performance of Comedy Magic - some would say he needs to get a life. For years he has lived and breathed the who, how and wherefores of successful Stand-up Comedy Magic. Thankfully it has paid off, for all who would care to digest this collected knowledge will be richer indeed.

So what about the book? Well at almost 300 pages it is a very thorough look at every aspect of the performance of Stand-up comedy Magic. Ian deliberately limits the discussion to one-person patter acts but no stone seems to be left un-turned on the subject. The book comprises of 5 major headings ‘Comedy and Character’, ‘What to say’, ‘Audience participation’, ‘The Act’ and finally ‘Preparation’. Each section is broken down into a multitude of sub-headings as diverse as could be imagined - for example: Lack of Incentive, Failure to Borrow Objects, Apportioning Blame, Business Cards, Reducing Fees, Thanking Assistants, Closed Questions, Stepping Out Of Character, Situation of Conflict, Jokes Versus Lines… and the list goes on, with well over 200 individual topics analyzed and discussed.

Now that may make it sound like a heavy little tome to read but that is certainly not the case. I found the book very easy to read. There seems a very natural flow as each topic is broken down and discussed. Ian doesn’t mystify the subject; he exposes it and makes it understandable and accessible. Throughout the book we are given real life examples or opinions of around 30 world-class professionals. On many occasions we hear a variation of solutions to a particular problem; and Ian is clear to point out that it is up to us as a performer to find what is right for us. Not confusing the mind but broadening it.

If you are venturing into the world of Stand-up then I heartily recommend this book to you, and don’t skip the foreword! It is a treasure trove. Sure, Stand-up Comedy Magicians will still appear on the scene without this book - but it could take them a little longer to get there. However I’m sure that in the future a new star will appear somewhere in the world, and when asked what got them started, they will say: “I read Ian Keable’s book ‘Stand-up: A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic’

I know I wish I’d had it 20 years ago.



© John Archer, October 2008