Young, gifted and worrying about the footie

Helen Stevenson reads a boys' own tale of frogs in the tandoori and toe nails in the tea; Time for Bed by David Baddiel, Little,Brown, pounds 14.99

If I'm interested in football and I love funny men, by rights I ought at least not to dislike David Baddiel. And if I like David Baddiel, I ought to be just crazy about Gabriel Jacoby, who is standing in for David Baddiel here, because this is a novel and not a comedy routine. You know that, because it comes between covers and costs pounds 14.99. Otherwise it's much the same, except there is no infectious laughter here, no peer pressure to giggle and identify. A reader is harder to please than a member of an audience.

One of the conceits of the new bloke persona of which David Baddiel, among others, has become the spokesman, is a deep rooted insecurity about the world, women, and his team's chances of league success, all wrapped up in the ironic bashfulness of the man who is just lucid enough to recognise that what he's really worried about is whether he's any good in bed. Here's the straight answer: any man who talks about himself this much can't be.

Gabriel is Jewish, insomniac, anxious to be seen to be educated in spite of himself, nervous, sentimental, in love with his half-brother's sister Alice, who is black. He doesn't have a job at the start of the novel, and makes the occasional trip to the job centre to sign on, until he gets his arm twisted to write a trendy sports column for a glossy magazine. He may be capable of deep felt emotions towards women, which are meant to make us feel he is as enlightened, somewhere in his heart, as he is priapic in his trousers, but his compassion and sensitivity do not impede on his conception of the world outside his own. An employee in the job centre is ridiculed for his ordinary sadness and hopelessness; the only real reference in the novel to a member of the labouring classes reads as follows: "I'm not sure it's possible for the labouring classes to consume any other beverage (than tea), just as it seems to be part of the social contract they have struck with us bourgeois that, as they mend things in our houses, we must make them endless cups of the stuff." I read this sentence several times, I read it ironically, and straight, I read it post-ironically and I read it critically, and I still could not think how it had crept into a novel by one of Britain's major comedians. I could phrase that indirect question differently, of course.

I don't ask that men grow up to be serious. It's just a bit dull if the jokes remain the same 15 years on. For a woman, the football has to be good and the jokes have to be funny. It's quality that counts, not just how long you bang on about it. At times there was even a distinctly sub- Wodehousian tone, circumlocution being the last refuge of the man who isn't sure he's made a joke: "Had Dr Johnson been there at that point he would have noted my expression, got out his quill, opened his enormous compendium and completely rewritten his definition of the word 'blankly'."

A good read? Maybe. I wasn't bored, but I wasn't moved either, except occasionally to a slight smile. There are some good jokes, a lot of bad ones, a sort of plot, an extended description of anal sex, a flatmate relationship gone wrong, frogs in the tandoori and toe nails in the tea, the occasional striking apercu, a Jewish funeral and a lot of presuppositions about the kind of things graduates think are funny.

The problem is that in this kind of genre humour, there is no room for eccentricity, only for types. Humour does depend on types, to a certain extent. But surely in a novel they need to be flexed and modulated to create character, otherwise you end up boring your reader. David Baddiel must know this already. Contrasting two female characters, one of whom corresponds to his platonic ideal of womanhood (ie she knows everything about football) and the other who doesn't (ie she knows nothing about football) he eventually allows the latter to emerge as the more interesting and subtle character.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders