My Name Is Daphne Fairfax, By Arthur Smith

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The Independent Culture

This droll and wise comedian's testament almost ends with a joke-free bout of acute necrotising pancreatisis (like "a mad rodent inside me").

As this book's existence hints, Arthur Smith – Daphne Fairfax, if you're from the tax office – survived, the better to redeem the clapped-out name of "alternative" comedy with a memoir that doubles as an acute slice of social history.

Childhood with Syd and Hazel in London's tatty south merges HG Wells with Carry On.... UEA student years and Parisian scrapes lead into the stand-up heyday with mates such as Malcolm Hardee, "a debauched Eric Morecambe".

Smith's tone of mordant pathos touches as much as it tickles. Greenwich, Balham, Bermondsey - be proud of him.