Aside from the very few simplistic illustrations, Zen And The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy by Jay Sankey is a good beginner's and sophomore's guide to stand-up comedy. Chapters are logically divided and subdivided into short capsules even someone with ADD can focus on. Sankey does not break new ground in Zen And The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy but he knows what he is talking about and all of his advice, based on personal experience, makes sense.
Jay Sankey is as well known as a magician as a stand-up comic through is comedy CD Odd Little Man. This guy has been there, has faced the audiences, and his advice is sound and easy to understand and apply. Sankey clearly states in the introduction that he cannot make you funny, he does not believe funny can be taught, but if you are funny, he can definitely warn you about the bumps on the road, tell you how to overcome them, and help you plan ahead in terms of what to expect next.
There may not be much Zen in Zen And The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy but there definitely is a lot about standup. Chapters on What is stand-up, writing, character (a stand-up act is an act), delivery (and how changing it can sometimes win over a crowd, performance, set structure (with lots of solid advice to beginners who tend to trust what worked yesterday and not the audience), audiences and how to read them and win them over when things are going badly, and, finally, professional stand-up.
Jay Sankey's writing style in Zen And The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy suits the title well. It is an intimate, conversational approach that purposefully sounds like a good buddy talking to you about his own experiences and slipping in advice smoothly and elegantly. What he has to say does not sound groundbreaking and makes so much sense that some may be tempted to dismiss it as obvious, but personal experience watching and listening to numerous stand-up comedians has shown that a lot of what Sankey says in this how to book on stand-up comedy is often forgotten by beginner and even almost established stand-up comedians.
Perhaps the most important line in this really good how to book on stand-up comedy is that a stand-up comic is basically an actor, a stage character, and not a real person. Many young comics put themselves out there forgetting that the key word in the comedy business is act. Zen And The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy is the kind of book you read a little at a time and then keep around to refresh your memory when the road gets hard.
This is good stuff.