BOOK REVIEW: Comedy Rules by Jonathan Lynn

Posted on June 20, 2014


 lynn Comedy Rules; from the Cambridge Footlights to Yes Prime Minister

Jonathan Lynn

Faber and Faber Limited



Jonathan Lynn is not a household name to many of us. But a lot more of us know his work from the Yes Minister series that he co-wrote with Antony Jay. But as is usually the way, the writers and creators of films and television are not nearly as well known as the actors playing the roles, despite the symbolic relationship. Understandable but lamentable all the same. And I am no different as it was only when I became a writer that I began taking notice of things beyond the immediate visual on the screen.

I first became aware of the names of Lynn and jay when I bought an omnibus version of the print edition of Yes Minister. This included a brief bio of both men. But it was not until reading this memoir by Lynn that I realised just how prolific Lynn has been as a writer, director and performer.

So much of the British dramatic and comedic scenes seem to be dominated by waves of performers coming out of university reviews. This really comes through with Lynn’s entertaining accounts of working with the likes of John Cleese, Grahman Chapman, Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and more. And their paths kept crossing over. We sadly do not have anywhere near the same tradition in Australia and I suspect we are all a little poorer as a result.

This memoir is also a form of instruction manual for people wanting to be comedic writers or performers. Lynn has structured the narrative under 150 headings which are the rules he has formulated by experience. Seem are entertaining, others purely instructional.

The book was released in 2011 although I only recently laid my hands on a copy. I don’t know just how available it is in print any longer but Comedy Rules is now on my ‘must read’ list for aspiring comedy writers and performers. And people who just enjoy an entertaining memoir of a fascinating few decades will also appreciate this book.


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