Chess grandmaster writes rookie book on how to be funny

Jonathan Levitt

Jonathan Levitt's book Contemplating Comedy analyses various aspects of humour - Credit: Jonathan Levitt

Have you heard the one about a chess grandmaster writing a book about how to be funny? 

Well, it’s no joke – because Ipswich’s Jonathan Levitt has made a checkmate move into writing about humour. 

The 57-year-old says his new book, Contemplating Comedy, is “on the surface a compilation of funny lines and little jokes”. 

There are plenty of laughs in the 330-page Conrad Press book, including some topical references to the Covid-19 crisis and the likes of Donald Trump. 

For those keen to understand a little more about humour, Mr Levitt – who was part of the England chess team which beat Russia 6-4 in Reykjavik in 1990 – unpacks some comic techniques. 


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During his humorous analysis, he has a crack at malapropisms - using incorrect words in place of those with similar sounds - and spoonerisms, where two letters or sounds are switched between words, to name just a couple. 

Don’t take offence, but the Oxford maths graduate also writes about insults and not just the psychology of humour, but motivation, logic and resilience – things all aspiring stand-ups arguably need. 

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But the rookie author says to see it solely as a book about comedy is a little black and white – because: “It’s about how I see the world.” 

As someone who isn’t joking when he says he’s made a living out of betting on live cricket for 20 years, his chapter on risk management might be one which knocks you for six. 

However, having written the book during the pandemic, he said: “Even serious chapters are done in a humorous way. 

Jonathan Levitt

Jonathan Levitt's book is 'on the surface a compilation of funny lines and little jokes' - Credit: Jonathan Levitt

“I had a complete stoppage in my usual work, so it was the ideal time to get down to writing the book. 

“It outlines how people develop their thinking and significant influences on it.” 

The book is described by publisher Conrad Press as a “fabulous compilation of laugh-out-loud funny lines, guaranteed to have readers in stitches as they browse the book”. 

It adds: “Beyond the comedy, the author also shares some insights and ideas honed from a lifetime of offbeat experience.” 

Contemplating Comedy is available from bookshops, priced £9.99. 

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