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Mastering Stand-Up: The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Comedian

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4.50  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This entertaining and sharply written guide—for both beginners breaking into comedy and professionals seeking to improve their sets and advance their careers—examines the work of great comedians such as Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Izzard, Moms Mabley, Hannibal Buress, Sarah Silverman, Richard Pryor, and more as a means of illustrating the most important techniques of ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2017 by Chicago Review Press
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Allan Guttman
Mastering Stand-up Comedy
by Stephen Rosenfield

reviewed by Allan Guttman

There are a lot of books out there about creating comedy, but I have never read one with as much clarity, warmth, humour, intelligence, honesty, wisdom, humanity and dedication as Mastering Stand-up Comedy.

Stephen Rosenfield speaks from the heart (and from many years of experience as a teacher and comedy writer) to help potential (and working) comedians fulfill their comedy dreams.

He does it by creating a masterful set of cha
...more
Kelly
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently decided to try stand-up comedy. I don't even know why because I get so nervous before going on stage. Yet for some reason I feel compelled to do it.

I'm taking a weekly class, which I think is crucial. I need someone to force me to write material and perform.

But I wanted more and this book was it. Rosenfield gives you tools to apply to your writing and you can immediately see your set getting more laughs.

His section on overcoming nerves was life changing. I had my first performance yes
...more
Daniel
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My friend participated at an open mic night at a comedy club, which made me want to participate at an open mic night at a comedy club. Increasingly a researcher, I picked this one up from the library to see if I’m actually interested in stand up, or it was a fleeting feeling. Lots of similar themes to other books I’ve been reading this year. There are no short cuts. Write things down. Produce first drafts. Then edit them vigorously. A quick read over the weekend, it felt like a great introductio ...more
Shalaj Lawania
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If stand-up is your calling, then this book is perfect. Cogent, well paced and insightful - highlighted elements of stand-up that I never noticed or considered intentional routines.
William Evans
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There aren’t a lot of books on stand up. This is mostly due to the macho “don’t ask for directions” many male comedians take with their work. “You go out, you perform, repeat. Don’t read books. Don’t take classes. If you’re not funny, you’re not funny, period.” You could never tell that the field was male dominated.

This is the first book (that I have read) on stand up comedy that obliterates that idea. To be quite honest, reviewing this book feels wrongheaded as I will be re-reading and breaking
...more
Roozbeh Daneshvar
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Who is this book good for? I think it can be anyone. It is supposed to be about stand-up comedy and all the aspects of it. Yet, I think it has more to offer: to tell us how humor works in our communications. It finally answered many of my questions on why some jokes do work and why some don't. I used to have a friend who was insisting on the same type of joke, the same theme and the same delivery, over and over again, and I could never understand why not only these "jokes" were not funny, but al ...more
Stven
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Stven by: library
This is a book with lots of good practical advice for someone who wants to know how to go about getting started doing stand-up comedy. Nuts and bolts stuff like how to write a first draft and how to edit based on how well material goes over when you try it out in front of a crowd. The advice about actually "mastering" stand-up can be summed up in two kernels of not-so-secret wisdom that apply to any talent: do it over and over, and improve it as you go along. So I'd have given the book a differe ...more
Daniel
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading mastering standup. My favorite part of the book was the part about forms of stand up comedy. I had never thought about the different forms of standup comedy before.
Its so exciting to think that I might be able to write jokes that are funny and the express my point of view of the world. Instead of repeating other peoples jokes I could be repeating jokes that I came up with. I had never thought that I could do that before reading the book. Writing my own original stand up comedy
...more
Harold Citron
I came at this book from two points, first, as a recommendation from a friend and second, as a lover of humor and stand-up comedy.

I have always stood in awe of those who have mastered this art. There are any number of jokes and routines that have been committed to memory solely from the number of times listening to or watching their performances. Reading Mr. Rosenfeld's book provided not a 'frog-dissecting' cold analysis of humor, but a careful blueprint and map to the craftsmanship that goes i
...more
Leif Ahrens
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Order it and be prepared for changes in your life!

I just finished chapter five of your book „Mastering Stand-Up“ and I can’t really believe it: I wrote my first material. It is anecdotal stand-up which I am going to use as opener for one of my trainings/seminars. Wow - feels good.

I used to work as onair-personality for one of the leading radio programs in Germany (HITRADIO FFH) in the 90s and early 2000s. It never came to my mind, that comedy can be learned. I thought the other onair-staff writi
...more
Odile
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this because I saw it in the Stanford magazine: I had the challenge of being the first speaker at 8AM on the second day of a conference so I started with a couple of corny space jokes to wake up the audience and it worked! My ambition is not to become a stand-up comedian by far. However I was really amused by the reactions of people to my jokes at various gathering since then.
The book talks about how to make comedy work: it is a simple easy read. It also makes it clear that to make it wo
...more
Austin
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocked at how good this was

It was like a breath of fresh air. He covered everything you need to know as a stand up in the physicalist sense and in the spiritual sense too. The only thing I wish he elaborated more on was the legendary comic Mitch Hedberg haha. Love his style, but overall amazing book! I seriously recommend any new comics starting out to read this! I just did my first standup at a bar a few nights ago and I killed it! It was the best feeling ever, and am still high from the exper
...more
Jasmine
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I saw Mastering Stand-Up while at the library and decided to pick it up, as I have been flirting with the idea of doing standup comedy. I enjoy performing, and people think I'm pretty funny, but I'm just so damn lazy, which is why I haven't pursued it.

The book was excellent, and had some great tips on, well, mastering standup. And it was nice to know that there were some things in there that I am already doing or working on, courtesy of being in Toastmasters. I really enjoyed the book, and in f
...more
Angela Chang
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am not a standup comedian, but I sometimes tell jokes in my class. it was a pleasure to read Mastering Stand-up. Its a a clear and well-written book, with many tips on how to tell a joke well. I sometimes laugh at my own jokes and this book helped me put that behavior in perspective. I learned that the most important thing is to enjoy your time with the audience, and to focus on strategies that communicate well. Lots of great tips, and very practical.
Roger Smitter
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
My question: Would Mastering Stand-Up be useful in a public speaking class? Not for that public speaking class that so many students take in their first year of college.

But, for the second or third level public speaking class, this book would be surprisingly useful.

It’s also a fun read (no surprise)! I was smiling most of the time I was reading and sometimes laughed out loud. Warning: like stand up routines, the book is covered in obscenities and bad language.
Sara
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For aspiring stand-up comedians this book is an absolutely must-read! From techniques and tips to industry anecdotes and comedy history, Stephen Rosenfield has compiled a unique and useful book that can be a guide toward improved performance as well as an honestly fun read (I was laughing out loud!).
Greg C
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stephen's insights are engaging and invaluable to anyone interested in pursuing, or regularly performing stand-up comedy. His writing is clear and concise and provides great advice as to how to best navigate the many bumps in the road to becoming a successful comic. A definite must read for any lover of stand-up.
Alex White
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So clear! So useful. So straightforward and motivating. It's so obvious reading it that you're getting the perspective of a professional. He even takes the time to break down stand-up comedy into specific genres so as to better understand what you'd like to pursue. It's a nice book for confidence onstage
Jef McDonough
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Could've gone a little deeper on comedy writing. Joke structure was covered pretty well, but I'd like more on joke theory. If I'm a robot reading this, I still don't know how to be funny.

That said, everything else about stand up was covered in great detail. The author is supportive and nice, and he uses a lot of good examples.
I
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comedy
I listened to the Audiobook version of this book and couldn't get enough of it. I have always had an interest in comedy and tend to try and find humour, in most things, regardless of politically incorrect it is. This book explains everything you need to know about comedy, as well as being a historical repository of great comedians and their work over the last hundred years.
Anita Hicks
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully crafted, and concise book, for aspiring, and seasoned comedians alike . . . A MUST read!! Stephen Rosenfield, is a masterful comedic teacher. Following his plan, you can make your dreams, of becoming a successful stand-up comedian, come true! Brilliant!!!
Vishal
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Not the most comprehensive book on standup for beginners, but a decent starting point. Assumes you'll be hitting clubs and real audiences soon, which you won't. Has a couple great tools packed in, though.
Fred Platten
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book with a wealth of detailed information about the craft of becoming a stand-up comedian. This book is worthy of multiple readings.

Note about the audiobook: The author reads his book at an extremely slow pace and I ended up listening at 1.5x speed which actually sounded normal.
Arnaldo
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome!

I am thinking about doing stand up for fun. This book is an easy and engaging read. I finished it in three days. I learned a lot from this author, and I highly recommend it!
Sasha
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to, on-writing
Although stand-up isn'tone of my performance styles, I appreciated how much Rosenfield had to say about building stage persona. There were a lot of great tidbits about that development process in addition to the mountain of advice on joke writing and testing.
Nari' B
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I read this book I thought it was really interesting. I didn't realize how had it was to be a comedian, the thing I found important in the book is that you almost always need a skit to do a show. When finished the book a felt like I had a better understanding of being a stand-up comedian, the chapter I liked the most is "no", he stated in the that it was ok to say no to people if they asked you to tell you a joke when you told them you are a comedian. I believe the important aspect is that ...more
Jen
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charming! And helpful in a very tactical way.
Kirk Sheppard
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comedy, purchased
I found the advice in the book very helpful!
Shahbaaz Uddin
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very detailed book on the art of stand up. It keeps you motivated is well.
Tristan Williams
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book made me rethink why I do stand-up, and I really owe it for that
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Stephen Rosenfield is the Founding Director of the American Comedy Institute. The New York Time’s heralded him as “the best known comedy teacher in the country.” Marc Breslin, owner of the Yuk Yuk’s, the largest chain of comedy clubs in Canada, said “Stephen Rosenfield is the best standup comedy teacher in North America.” Starz produced and aired the mini-series, Standup or Shutup, about his stand ...more

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