A Summer in the Park

Review in the Guardian Guide by William Cook

Tony Allen was one of the founding fathers of alternative comedy and, like a lot of innovators, his role is often overlooked. Now he's written a book about his one-true love, Speakers' Corner. Stand-up and public speaking actually have a lot in common and this absorbing, autobiographical book shows you how these two artforms overlap, and remind you what comedians ought to do but rarely dare to - "Disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed". Allen is an anarchist and the Speakers' Corner he describes is the ultimate anarchic comedy club. Entirely unregulated (exceptby the police), it's a free and unrestricted flow of opinion, a bit like early alternative comedy. "I may disagree with what they are saying" says Allen of his fellow speakers, "but I would die for their right to interrupt and heckle each other while they are saying it." And he would, as well.

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