Beyond a Joke is a celebration of comedy - one of the modern world's most dominant and compelling art forms - but it is also the story of comedy's dark side, homing in on the scandals that have surrounded some of light entertainment's biggest stars, and telling it as it is, featuring insight from one who was there at the time.
While Beyond a Joke explores the extremes of this world it also addresses another question. Are comedians naturally dysfunctional, or does the stress and pressure of the job make them dysfunctional? Ruby Wax once told the author that she had builders in her house who were just as emotionally unstable as most stand-up comedians she had worked with. But they don't want to go on stage and plead with an audience to love them.
Bruce Dessau is the only person who could write this book. From Russell Brand slashing his chest onstage to Jo Brand trashing a friend's car on the motorway, he has heard it all. Bruce Dessau knows where the bodies are buried.
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An intriguing history of humour's bad boys claims that almost every great comedian is a damaged soul ... Delightful nuggets for the new wave of comedy enthusiasts - Sunday Times
Dessau shows us that comedians tend to be weird, or compulsive, or obsessive; they veer easily towards depression; and they mostly find themselves, at least for a period, desperately out of fashion. Beyond this, he doesn't overanalyse. He simply lines them up, one after the other, and recounts their strange lives - Evening Standard
Many intriguing tales of dark and outrageous dysfunction - ShortList
Entertaining insight and audacity - Dessau has been reviewing comedy for more than 30 years, and knows his stuff ... A fascinating look at the dark side of stand-up - Time Out, 4 stars
Its sporadic vulgarity leavened by wit and insight, the book mirrors the mood of a late-night gig. - Independent
About the Author
Bruce Dessau is the king of comedy critics. He cut his critical teeth during the 1980s Alternative Comedy explosion in smoky rooms in the arse end of London, from Malcolm Hardee's infamous Tunnel Club to The Comedy Store before it became part of the respectable establishment. He has chaired the Edinburgh Comedy Awards panel twice - once when it was the Perrier Award, once when it was the if.comedy Award - and has regularly served on the judging committee, spending dawn to dusk to dawn again seeing stand-up comedy.