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0 906362 56 3


Tony Allen is a brilliant stand-up comedian and seminal figure in British comedy. This is what he calls 'the fruit of 25 years' work, play and mischief'. Founder of Alternative Cabaret, he massively extended the possibilities of the stand-up format by challenging the cheap bigotry of the comedy scene, making it wild, confrontational and absurd.

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Wanna Make Something of It?

The Secret of Stand-up Comedy

Tony Allen

Click to read a sample chapter

Advocate Heckler, Anarchist Parasite and Mixed-Ability Shaman, Tony Allen has written the first volume of what he calls 'the fruits of at least 25 years full-time work, play and mischief'. An exploration of comic attitude in the art of stand-up comedy...

"...I was watching Tony Blair recently on the telly addressing a conference. He walked on beaming and waving and then, while the crowd were still applauding, he 'apparently' recognised someone in the audience, pointed at them and made like he knew them, and clearly hadn't seen them for some time. I first saw Clinton do it. I've got my own version of the same thing. It's a ploy.

"What comes across is 'Hey! Good to see you. Glad you could make it. How's the family? Nice one. Catch up with you later.' What is really going on is the performer is demolishing the fourth wall and bonding with the room - 'I don't know you, I've never met you before and let's keep it that way. But hey, I'm an opportunist and you are my way of establishing a connection with this audience'.

"Politicians are learning the skills of the live performer. No big surprise there, until I saw news footage from Serbia and Vuk Drascovic was using the same technique. What next? The Indonesian Generals? 'Hey! Good to see you. How's the family? Do you want to see them again?'"

"...I was out of control and raving at them. Then I started mixing apologies with the abuse. The sporadic nervous giggling stopped; they didn't even talk to each other. There was just this big silent room full of unexpressed mixed emotions - disappointment, sympathy, embarrassment, fear, edgy excitement and awkward expectation - an unearthed wave of it, experienced as a deep communal sigh."

"...In a liberal society to suggest there are still taboos is almost a taboo."

Aimed primarily at performers, tutors and interested parties, and the next new wave of live solo artistes - stand-up comedians, performance poets, spoken word exponents, lyrical street traders, celebrity politicians, ambitious demagogues and wannabe messiahs, Attitude - wanna make something of it? is essential reading for those determined to stand up and express themselves in front of a live audience.

196 pages, black & white photographs and cartoons, original paperback, £
ISBN: 0 906362 56 3



The Performance Imperative

Working the Carriage

Performance Dynamics

Attitude: starting out

Discovering Attitude

Structure - giving it form


The Storyteller, the Fool and the Shaman

The first joke • The Danga to Archy

Commedia Dell'Arte

Robert Armin - a speculation

Fools in High Places

Joseph Grimaldi and English Pantomime

A Brief History of Burnt-Cork Minstrelsy

Jim Crow • The Musicians • The Format Centenary

Victorian Music Hall

Sing-a-long • The influence of Panto • Gus Elen • Dan Leno, Harry Champion, and Patter • Variety

Max Miller - comic attitude and beyond

Who Killed Variety?

Why are Eric and Ernie so lovable?

Lenny Bruce


Oval House • Folk Clubs • Fringe Theatre • Comrade Thesp • Rough Theatre • The Benefit Circuit • Roadshow • Hippie Circus • Busking and Covent Garden • Speakers' Corner • Crutch Guitar Style • Traditional stand-up • Bernard Manning and racist comedy • Post-Oval • Born Again Christians • Catharsis • Psychologically stripping • Audience terror • Here and Now • Oxford Poets • The Torness Occupation • Working Class Hero? • The Nose • The Walcot Beano Club • Comedy Store Audition • The Buskers' Concert • Attitude Elusive • Rock against Sexism • Midnight at the Comedy Store • St Hilda's Club • Comedy Store Again

The Early Days of the Comedy Store

Alexei Sayle • Old Material • Hecklers • Inappropriate Material • Uppity Hillmans • The Liggers • The Management • Jim Barclay and Andy De Ia Tour • Wines and Spirits • Andrew Bailey • Bob Flag • Peter Wear • Clive Anderson • Lee Cornes • Arnold Brown • Waiting in the Wings: Keith Allen

Comedy Store Part Two - Anger Management

Alternative Cabaret - Shouting, Swearing and Politics

The Elgin • The clientele • Acts • My Subject Matter • Sexist shit • Swearing • Pauline Melville • Alexei Sayle • The last night • Wrongly attributed • Beyond the Rule of Three • Origins of Alternative? • Other venues • Telly • Sharon Landau • Edinburgh Festival • Provocateur and Raconteur • Brown rice and bright lights • Hindsight • Alternative ethos • Provocative comedy • Anarcho-punk

Bill Hicks

Comedians by Trevor Griffiths

Mr Social Control

Bespoken Word at the Manor

What Comes Next?



Discovering my Clown - Tofu the Zany

Rough edges • Daniel Rovai • Stripey Richard • Roadshow • Offal and Tofu • Portobello Precinct • Police and Thieves • Costume and make-up

Jerry Sadowitz

Glastonbury Notes 1998 - Ian Cognito

Tony Green as Sir Gideon Vein

Glastonbury Notes 1998 - Rory Motion

Golden Rules of Stand-up Comedy - Never do a gig on CS Gas

The Summer of '93 - Benefit for Hackney Homeless

The Ultimate Knob Joke at Forest Fayre - The Great Geek and Stompy 1993

Glastonbury Notes - 1993: The Contemporary Fool

The Cutting Edge at the Comedy Store

The Open Heart Cabaret

Poetry Reading 1997

Ken Dodd died. Did he? No Doddy

Obituary: David Sutch

Lenny Bruce live at Basin Street West


My Attitude

The Grim Reapo Man is at the Door - Transcript



Click to read a sample chapter
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