Book Review: Comedy Rules by Jonathan Lynn

Christmas is over and the New Year has not yet begun. The chocolates have gone but there is still turkey in the fridge.  And for those of us lucky enough to have some time off, this stretch is a wonderful “no man’s time” – a chance to catch up with friends, family and all the things you meant to do all year but haven’t quite got around to yet.

Like writing a book review of Comedy Rules (From the Cambridge Footlights to Yes, Prime Minister) by Jonathan Lynn, to give a purely hypothetical* example.

Lynn is probably best known now for co-writing Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister with Anthony Jay. (If you haven’t seen these, they are sort like The Thick of It without the swearing and wobbly camerawork. In fact if you haven’t seen them go watch them now. Go on. What are you waiting for? Seen them now? Good.) But he also acted and directed in the theatre for many years and has directed a number of films including The Whole Nine Yards and Nuns on the Run.

The book is structured as a list of comedy do’s and don’ts, some more tongue in cheek than others. But mixed in with the advice are anecdotes of Lynn’s life as a writer, actor and director, including his disastrous trip to New Zealand with some of the future stars of Monty Python, and a rather intimidating lunch with the Inland Revenue which could be straight out of Yes Minister.

This book isn’t a step by step how-to guide. But it is full of hints and tips about what makes funny and what doesn’t  from the long experience of a comedy practitioner.

This isn’t the “one book you must read to make you a comedy genius”. But it will encourage, inspire, and entertain. Definitely worth a read

Right, now I should start reviewing some of the comedy books I got for this Christmas…

* It’s not actually hypothetical. But it is a Yes Minister reference.

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