How to Be a Stand Up Comedian, by Simon Cavalli

Jack Thompson
7 min readSep 26, 2021


Bad grammar, frequent typos and hard to understand sentences. Strangely enough, I’m not talking about one of my reviews.

This is about a short book for wannabe comedians, by Simon Cavalli.

Who is he?

Your guess is as good as mine. Either way, it’s no problem, if the information contained in the book is good and usable.

And with that said, it’s time to wrap up this review.

Seriously, this analysis needs to start somewhere. It’s a bit different this time, with a look to the near middle of this 105 page masterpiece.

Start with the Masters is the title. The sub heading, Copying Jokes: Understanding the Ethics.

The book advises to take other comics’ themes, not their jokes. Work your own material. And gives you two important reasons why.

Fine so far.

Rewind to page 12, Stand-Up Terms, and the sub heading, Common Stand-Up Terms.

Read through this, and you’ll quickly see bullet points — with short explanations — of things like; 1st story, 2nd story, alternative reinterpretation, Critic Spot, Joke Map, Joke Mine.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve read a few books of this kind, you’ll know these come from Greg Dean’s book, Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy. If you want to know more, and how the terms apply to stand-up, read that book (which looks at them in depth), not this one.

That aside, even after they’re listed here, you might only see fleeting references to a few later on.

So for someone who’s asking you not to steal, which is good advice, what the hell is this about? It’s like an AA meeting run by alcoholics. With no secrecy. You go in the door to talk about your problems, and they offer you drinks. The worse your problem, the stronger the drink.

Returning to the review… which I’ll trie annnnnnnnd finsi

Unless the info from Dean’s book that found its way into How To Be A Stand Up Comedian was given the go ahead (there’s no mention of it), this is not ok.

Simone Cavalli is a former Italian footballer. He has nothing to do with this book.

Back to the start of the book. Strange sentences are a frequent occurrence, with odd choices of expression,

Stand-up comedy is a sort of comedy in which there would be a person telling jokes on stage. As simple as that.”

Why wait for someone on stage, when you can get them on the page? Buy this book now.

Even on the back cover, there’s,

If you ever wondered about getting into the stand up comedy career, you can now.”

And trust me. After reading this book, you will be wondering.

With so many errors, how a bout calling the book, How to Bee a Stand-Up Comedian, with a cover photo of a hornets nest.

Yes, ok, bees and hornets aren’t the same. Well guess what? It’s the kind of error this book might have. And if you pay for a copy, you’ll feel the sting.

Ooh, I bet that hurt. Mentally.

Right, enough. I’ve been harsh so far, really quite harsh.

The above mistakes can be excused. Simon Cavalli’s mastery of the English language doesn’t change the usable content of the book, so it’s time to look at that.

Sometimes, there’s a bit of helpful advice, as the book tries towards the analytical. A little piece at the bottom of page 40 with four bullet points to consider. Page 50, with its 9 questions on observing other comedians.

Four more questions you might find useful on page 81, which can be used to diagnose a bad joke that has potential. That’s four of five questions, because the first of the bunch might be hard to follow, without experience.

And then back to the bad.

One page has a short — 5 item — list of what audiences find funny. The top item advises you to joke about sensitive topics, like politics and religion.

Sounds reasonable, if you’re just starting out and want a hard life. So give it your best shot, and if your jokes don’t land, a double whammy by insulting the audience.

Of course, there’s no better comedy than one with no laughs and many broken bottles.

The other items in the list make sense — common sense. If you’re wondering what kind of things to joke about on stage, watch other comedians, have a poke about online. Think for yourself.

This is where I’ll go back to the book’s beginning again.

And it’s off to a rocky start. Pages that have no value other than the paper they’re printed on.

After the first 26 pages are more or less wasted, with lifted terms and fantastical wondering about the state of stand-up in 2015, its on to the best part of the book; pages 27 to 64, which are reasonable.

Cavalli tells you about the correct attitude to adopt if you want to succeed in the business. What follows is a logical progression as he asks you observe other comedians, which ends with a list of 10 great stand-ups you can learn from.

The 3 ½ pages on developing personality are fine. They just happen to lack a more thorough examination of its subject and examples aren’t included.

Then comes Writing Jokes, which is far too short and simplistic. Building and Punch Line offers a tiny bit, but doesn’t go deep enough. Testing Your Jokes offers sensible advice.

The rest of the book continues this way, until the end, with little tips and ideas to help you for when you get up on stage.

And that’s that.

So after my initial outrage, the book carries on with reasonable — if pretty basic — advice. Which makes the book’s biggest problem exactly that — it touches on topics with little to no further examination.

In that regard, the saving grace for the book is its subtitle, ‘Beginners Guide’.

My beginner’s guide to cooking chicken would tell you to take it out the packet and wouldn’t mention the safety aspect. Which is the same sort of nature as this book, minus the raw meat and infected dining area.

Before you finish reading this, there’s a half hearted attempt to fill a couple of pages with a successful stand up checklist.

Just so you know it’s badly done, one of the questions asks,

Have You Improve Your Jokes?”. And another, “Do You Have the Guts to Try Again and Again?”

Maybe ending the review here would be logical, but I haven’t mentioned the final chapter. That is, Resource: Killer Stand Up.

What is this? Is this something free and something in depth related to this book? A downloadable thing with extra content, perhaps?

Afraid not.

For those who don’t know, Killer Stand Up is a comprehensive comedy course designed by former stand-up and ex corporate comedian, Steve Roye.

So the credibility of this book by Simon Cavalli takes another hit. The inclusion of the Terms of Comedy mentioned above, and now this 3 ½ page advertisement for an expensive item/items by another person.

Which makes me question the existence of the book in itself. How much of this was simply written as a prelude to sell something else?


A simple guide, which if you stick with it, does contain some useful pointers for stand-up comedy.

Otherwise, the book would benefit from a complete rewrite, edit and general clean up. As it is now, a glance at the chapter headings shows a good book layout, but it’s hardly taken advantage of.

Recommended for:

Starting out.

The questions in Observing Comedians is solid information.*

* This made me think of Comic Insights, The Art of Stand Up Comedy, by Franklyn Ajaye. Could this be too similar to someone else’s work again?

I had a look, and although the idea of observing comedians is shared, this time Cavalli approaches the subject differently.

Not for:

Joke writing.


Other parts which could offer more information, like writing jokes, testing them and polishing your jokes.

Other thoughts:

If you can pick it up cheaply, you might find some insight here. The bit on the thought process you can use for analysing existing comedians, might be beneficial.

As for the author not wanting to go into depth in some parts, because he wants you to develop your own techniques, due to the creative nature of the craft… then not even four pages later he’s selling you a complete course that does those things.

My head is shaking. In a controlled way, showing disbelief.

It makes you wonder about the effort that went into this book.


One of the shorter books out there, with 105 pages listed. It uses a slightly larger sized font than most books and double spacing throughout. It’s more like 70 pages, but add in some blank spaces, and even that’s a stretch.

If you’re a quicker reader, expect to be over this in a couple of hours.

Slower dedicated people, no more than a couple of days.



Jack Thompson

Writes serious book reviews. Other ideas in the works.