Books of the Year: Comedy

Bedwetting, race hate, Communist holidays and zombies, according to this latest batch of memoirs

It's not until you sit backstage with a comedian and hear them use every four-letter word under the sun to describe what has been a more-than-adequate performance that you realise quite how miserable – or tortured, as artistic parlance has it – a lot of them are.

So where better to start than with Sarah Silverman, the American who has made her torture the inspiration for her scatalogically inflected act? The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee (Faber, £12.99) relates how she struggled to control her bodily functions through to her teens. Her writing is surprisingly endearing, given her abrasive act, and never less than truthful – especially about the bombardment of hate she received after a "racist" joke she told to highlight bigotry was taken at face value.

Which brings us to another comedian with a penchant for upsetting the masses. My Booky Wook 2: This Time it's Personal (HarperCollins, £20) picks up the story post-Russell Brand's benders, just in time for a fling with Kate Moss. I'm not a fan of Brand's comedy – I find it too consciously wordy – but after an initially grating overuse of rhetoric, he has produced a fascinating insight into a mind that craves fame and, in so doing, leads him to Sachsgate et al. He just doesn't seem to know when funny stops and insensitivity begins. It is one of the best biographies of the year, and not just by a comedian, I'd wager.

Which can't be said for Harry Hill's Livin' the Dreem: A Year in My Life (Faber, £18.99). Comedy is inevitably subjective, and if you like someone's shtick, chances are you'll like their writing, but for me, Hill is this year's anti-Brand. I like his TV Burp. I like it very much. But his made-up diary of a year? Dire. It's a conceit that could work over a five-minute sketch, but not 500 pages.

Alexei Sayle's Stalin Ate My Homework (Sceptre, £20), on the other hand, is tremendous, making his influences manifest as he recalls a childhood spent following his Communist parents on holidays around Eastern Europe. While Sayle focuses on his life pre-comedy, Jo Brand comes over all grande dame in Can't Stand Up For Sitting Down (Headline Review, £20), offering a mine of information about life on the circuit during the 1980s and 1990s; though the book takes a serious downturn once she begins chapters about her friends, family and TV work.

As for Simon Pegg's Nerd Do Well (Century, £18.99), the title says it all: if you love the Star Wars franchise and zombie movies, you'll love Pegg's examination of their minutiae. If you don't, well, don't bother.

The hugely popular Michael McIntyre is the very essence of charm on stage. As he was at school, where I spent two years with him. "They were all the same to me," he writes of me and my classmates in Life & Laughing: My Story (Michael Joseph, £20). "Boring... They were middle-class and lived in Middlesex and destined to be working in middle-management with a middle parting, driving a middle-of-the-range Audi in the middle lane." Michael, I don't even own a car! But enough about me. This is but one instance when he uses his newfound fame to insult those he's met along the way. Certainly, there's plenty of interesting backstory (his father wrote for Kenny Everett), but there's also a haven't-I-done-well smugness running through. Nope, haven't let my personal feelings colour that review – not one iota.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering