Attitude - Wanna make something of it?

The clue to the secret of stand-up comedy is in the main title: Attitude.

"Facing the beast of a live audience without the theatrical convention of a fourth wall is a pretty scary situation. It appears to trigger a sort of strategic identity crisis. Somewhere in this complex process is the clue to more than mere survival; it can also lead to the discovery of a performer's comic attitude."

One of the exercises Tony and his colleague Den Levett do on their performance workshops is invite participants to contact and expose their 'inner nerd', to develop timing and attitude by talking at length about something they know all too much about. Tony's inner nerd is a comedy nerd. He's erudite about the history of comedy, fascinating about the processes of making comedy and passionate about the possibilities and future of comedy.

'Tony Allen is a brilliant stand-up and a seminal figure in the history of British comedy' says the blurb, and I can't argue, but I prefer his description of himself: Advocate Heckler, Anarchist Parasite and Mixed-Ability Shaman. His own attitude was developed by trial and error over years of larking about on demos, first heckling then speaking at Speaker's Corner, as a barker for fellow street performers, as a member of fringe groups like the Rough Theatre Roadshow and of course as an/the original 'alternative comedian'.

His attitude pervades the book and, as a writer, he's excellent company. By turns passionate, mischievous, erudite, affectionate, analytical and, for a self-professed 'militant agnostic', agreeably opinionated. This is a grandfather's chest of a book, combining beneath the one cover a how-to (or help-yourself) manual for budding stand-ups and performers of every hue, a general history of stand-up comedy, a personal history/testimony about the roots of alternative comedy and a grab-bag of reviews, articles and transcripts of comedy material which make the book, once read, a pleasure to dip back into.

Attitude is a must-have for those interested in stand-up and performance, for anyone else it's a real treat. As a performer he's often described, warily, because of the breadth and seriousness of his material, as 'challenging', but he's produced a real page-turner of a book.

Matt Harvey - Freedom

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