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
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
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.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?