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Smile…

There are many hierarchies in comedy with some being more apparent than others.

The size of the act, obviously. From the superstar comedian filling arenas around the world all the way down to the anonymous bill comedian on their way up – and as likely, on their way back down again.

And within a bill, there is a pecking order in positioning. The opening act (strong but not so strong so that they can’t be followed), the middle act (a bill-filler, a new act who needs stage time or an act who can’t open or close) and then the headliner (ideally the strongest act – saving the best to last, although not always).

And within stand up itself there are different rankings with most kudos awarded to the straightforward monologist – the act who just talks and is funny. Jerry Seinfeld might be the greatest example of this.

And from here – down we go to a wonderful array of acts who require various accompaniments to generate their laughs: props, musical instruments, playing cards, backing tracks, sound cues, newspaper cuttings, laminated photographs, funny stage costumes…

All of which are quietly frowned upon by the ‘purists.’

Which brings me to an old comedy chum of mine, Steve Best – who happens to be an arch offender of many of these supposed comedic crimes. In essence, Steve is a clown with an array of props, a gurning face and a mad cap persona to support his haphazard and rapid fire delivery. But no matter because when Steve clicks – his act is something to behold. Extraordinarily funny and impossible to follow as I have discovered on a few occasions.

And yet, as a clown, his comedy credibility remains low. TV execs were never interested in clowns and so Steve remained at the coalface of comedy to earn his corn. Gigging in comedy clubs all over the country and putting in a serious shift with his high energy and exhausting act.

Great work then and a noble pursuit to make people happy – but one with ever diminishing returns and like most comedians and practically all exponents working in the arts, Steve faced a reckoning that he needed something else. Something to supplement his funny which can be a chastening reality, because it is accepting that comedy is not working out as planned.

At gigs, Steve started to record dressing room life with his camera. This might have begun as a hobby but quickly he began popping up at shows where he wasn’t appearing and soon with more camera kit and bigger lenses as his photography became a thing.

Completely self-taught, with no ruinously expensive degrees required,  Steve has successfully reinvented himself as a comedy photo journalist. Shooting comedians on-stage and off and creating a stunning comedy archive from his years of clicking. And it makes good sense that he should want to publish his work – to demonstrate his skills, not to mention to make a return on his considerable efforts and investment.

I have a good awareness of photography. My wife, Nikki, is also a self-taught ‘professional’ and I use inverted commas because I know how much effort it requires and how hard it can be.

And I know exactly what is required to independently publish a book. The enormous amount of time and energy it requires. More hours than we should ever log or else we probably wouldn’t ever embark on such a thing. But no matter for the hope it generates and the excitement that accompanies such a pursuit and why I am doubly happy to shine a light on Steve and his fabulous book, Comedians.

A lush publication featuring hundreds of comedians at work – on stage and off. The featured shot above is Steve’s image of me at The Comedy Store in London.

It is an archive that captures the life and essence of comedy and is only available to a clicker with Steve’s eye because he knows what it feels like to stand backstage waiting for his name to be called. Steve has faced the lights and the dark void where the silence of a crowd is heavy with expectation, so instinctively he recognises comedy moments.

And being such a popular and likeable guy, Steve is welcome in any dressing room and he enjoys the licence that this provides.

I love it when people try to do things that are unlikely. When ordinary Joes set about confounding unlikely odds and good luck to them all.

Steve Best is one of these good guys and I hope Comedians is the breakthrough for him that he thoroughly deserves.

Obviously the book has most appeal to my British readers – but I encourage you all to visit Steve’s site – and I thank anyone who might share any social media posts that you see promoting Steve and his beautiful book, Comedians.

www.stevebest.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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