Books: Drowned out by wisecracks

Comedian Neil Mullarkey wields a relentless schtik on stage as a spoof life coach, but does his act stand up on the page? For Peter York, it's just an alphabet soup.

Don't Be Needy Be Succeedy: The A to Zee of Motivitality
L Vaughan Spencer
Profile Books
£8.99

When the broadsheets wrote up the stand-up comedian Neil Mullarkey's new 2002 act at the Edinburgh Festival, a little something in me died. Mullarkey - in character as L Vaughan Spencer, motivational speaker - was spoofing the whole crazed Anglo-American world of Cool Culture Change and Bonding with Attitude. I was upset because I'd meant to do it for years and here was this stand-up stealing my pitch. I felt rather the same when Lucy Kellaway's funny alter-ego, Martin Lukes, published his Who Moved My BlackBerry? (Viking) in 2005.

Motivational speakers were an obvious target. When business aims for quasi-academic dignity, Creative Industries cool or religious fervour it looks and sounds extra-silly. The natural language of business is often pretty narrow and colourless and there's a huge temptation to elevate it with borrowed interest from the smarter bits of the wider world.

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