Books of the year 2013: Comedy

 

Stand-ups are good value when it comes to memoirs. Show-offs by profession they combine a knack for self-lacerating storytelling with an often chaotic private life and zero sense of embarrassment. Ideal. As Russell Brand put it in My Booky Wook: “My life is just a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents.”

This year’s pile of booky wooks includes Becoming Johnny Vegas (HarperCollins, £20), a characteristically in-yer-face narrative of how Michael Pennington became Johnny Vegas, or how an 11-year-old trainee priest from St Helens wound up passed out in the doorway of an Edinburgh creche, and on the cusp of the big-time.

Frankie Boyle: Scotland’s Jesus (Harper NonFiction, £20) is less autobiography than one big rant – or 19 rants, in chapters headed Royals, Religion, Science. It is bracing stuff but there’s a certain hysterical (in both senses) poetry to some attacks. “David Beckham really has lived the dream. That weird dream in which you’ve got a voice like a castrated parrot and you’re married to a skeleton.” Etc.

The pick of the bunch is Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. (Blackfriars, £8.99). This slim memoir from the LA comedian voted the funniest on Twitter (his best tweets begin each part) is a series of fist-chewingly embarrassing incidents glued together with bodily fluids and jokes. There is bed-wetting, alcoholism, near-death scrapes and rehab. It is mercilessly biological at times,  but also very funny, raw and quite tender, like all the best stand-up. Not for the faint-hearted, though.

Also scoring high on the cringe-factor is I Laughed, I Cried, by Viv Groskop (Orion, £11.99) which charts the journalist’s quest to do 100 comedy gigs in 100 nights. The fact that she was “pushing 40” at the time is not coincidental and the book reads like a tear-soaked, sequinned mid-life crisis. It also captures the dowdy grind of the circuit with a painfully clear eye: you can almost feel the sticky carpets and smell the fear. Not to mention the rivalry – as when she asks a more established stand-up for some advice after a gig: “He was silent for a while then replied, ‘Maybe just be funny?’” Yowch.

For those interested in the Craft, A Good Bullet (Short Books, £9.99) by Freddy Syborn is a self-consciously cerebral attempt to unpick why we laugh at awful things. Syborn is Jack Whitehall’s long-time collaborator and co-writer on Bad Education; Whitehall’s illustrations pop up to lighten the mood, which gets quite dark at times. Comedy nerds will also enjoy Alan Partridge Alpha Papa: Script (and Scrapped) (HarperCollins, £12.99), the original script of the film with foreword by Steve Coogan. Writers Neil and Rob Gibbons, who co-wrote the bestselling spoof autobiography, I, Partridge, provide footnotes, including how they chose Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” for the opening credits and the unseen story of DJ Dave Clifton.

This year’s top spoof is Ron Burgundy’s Let Me Off At The Top! (Century, £16.99), kind of a big deal for Anchorman fans. As well as the story of the San Diego newsman’s “classy life”, there are myths about his hair, juvenile love letters and gossip about Katie Couric. It’s impossible not to hear every line of the purplish prose – “I have over 300 handcrafted shoes of all sizes.” “I don’t give a damn about broccoli” – in Will Ferrell’s booming voice.

For dipping in and out, Private Eye: A Cartoon History (Private Eye Productions, £25) scores the most laughs per spread with 300 pages of cartoons from the 1960s up to now. More visual gags can be found in The Married Kama Sutra (Sphere, £7.99), probably the world’s least erotic sex manual by the brilliant Simon Rich with illustrations from The New Yorker’s Farley Katz. Egghead (Orion, £14.99), the debut poetry collection of the young American comedian Bo Burnham, is like Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, for not-quite grown-ups. And After Liff (Faber, £9.99), a new dictionary by QI’s John Lloyd and Jon Canter collates 900 daft definitions based on place names: “Dunstable: a retired police officer”, and so on.

Finally, Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen (The Friday Project, £7.99) is a 1925 rarity renowned as the “least funny joke book ever written”. Now reprinted, it includes zingers from the dour Scot like, “An Irish Censor Recorder on enquiring – ‘How many males in this house?’ received the reply – ‘Three of course; breakfast, dinner and tea!’” Well, it’s no worse than most cracker jokes, I suppose. 

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam