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Stalin Ate My Homework, By Alexei Sayle

Never mind the Beatles...this is the Red Army Choir

The comedy boom of recent years has led to a glut of dull autobiographies by stand-ups eager to cash in on their celebrity.

Michael McIntyre's insipid bestseller Life and Laughing is a case in point. One could be forgiven, then, for approaching Alexei Sayle's Stalin Ate My Homework with trepidation, but this touching, elegantly written memoir stands out from the dross.

Sayle grew up in a "two-thirds Jewish atheist communist family" in Sixties Liverpool, and he looks back on his unconventional youth with comic bewilderment. "I was an oddly wired-together child," he recalls. No wonder – while his friends were going mad for the Beatles, Alexei's mother insisted that he listen to the Red Army Choir instead.