The Week in Comedy: Fancy a laugh? Go to a book festival

 

"Have you actually read the book? You're asking me a lot of questions about it." This was, quite obviously, no ordinary literature festival talk. How could it be, when the author in question was Count Arthur Strong?

Strong, a self-regarding, out-of-work actor from Doncaster is the comic creation of Steve Delaney. So it came to pass that Strong was being interviewed, in character, at The Independent Bath Literature Festival. Rather than appear at the Guildhall, the festival's rarefied central venue, he took to the stage at the Komedia, a wonderfully seamy, red-lit comedy club.

Over the course of the hour, he tried to raffle off his bookmark, sang a tuneless song about Doncaster and read badly from his masterwork, breaking off one extract midway through ("I'm not reading anymore, you'll have to go and buy it.") and offering another snippet of just two sentences. In contrast to the usual faux chumminess between chair and guest at book festivals, he ribbed his questioner, the festival's artistic director Viv Groskop, relentlessly.

When invited to share well-worn anecdotes, he either made them up (claiming to have been in a wartime band with Glenn Miller, Jeff Beck and Keith Moon, "or near enough") or became oddly vague. "One of my great acting roles was one of the kings in one of the plays by, I think it was, Shakespeare. They said it was a tour de france." It was surreal, hilarious, and an antidote to the sales-driven to-and-fro of most book festival talks.

Comedy and book festivals are a good mix. Not simply because so many comedians write books – the Bath programme features Jennifer Saunders and Mark Watson talking about their writing, among others – but because the lines between author and stand-up are becoming blurred. Another Bath speaker, AL Kennedy, has moved from novel-writing to stand-up in recent years, but even for those who have not taken to the club circuit, the act of appearing at a book festival is not dissimilar to doing a turn.

"Lionel Shriver calls it 'being a ham'," agrees Groskop. "There are so many book festivals now and authors realise that it has become much more performance-centric.

In Bath, the focus on comedy this year is largely down to Groskop, a stand-up by night, whose book, I Laughed, I Cried, details her nutty quest to perform 100 gigs in 100 days. Her programme fizzes with non-traditional book festival events. Lucy Porter appeared at the Komedia last weekend, with stand-up about her love of books.

And tonight is the main comedy event – a gala evening at Komedia featuring Mary Bourke – whose show, Muffragette, tackles modern-day feminism – Rachel Parris, Bethan Roberts, Ellie Taylor and MC'd by Viv Groskop. Mark Watson will be the one "token male", on the bill. Fancy that, a female-dominated line-up. Perhaps book festivals can teach the comedy world a thing or two, as well.

Comedy Museum

 London is to get its first Comedy Museum, which will contain everything from Charlie Chaplin's cane to the Two Ronnies' spectacles. The museum, in the crypt of a Bloomsbury church, will trace the history of British comedy from court jesters to the stand-ups of today. It is an intriguing project and it is probably about time the art form got its own temple. Then again, London's Theatre Museum, in the heart of the West End, struggled to flourish and closed in 2007 due to a lack of funds. It's a tricky business trying to trap the glory of live entertainment in a glass case, but good luck to them.

What I Watched...

The One

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is by turns hilarious and hateful in this tricksy relationship drama. Very much a talent to watch. At London's Soho Theatre to 30 March.

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle

On BBC2. Simple but effective. Lee just sticks a camera on his stand-up and it's still one of the most inventive and memorable half hours of comedy on TV. Watch out for Chris Morris' return as his shady therapist.

Inside No 9

Also on BBC2. This anthology of creepy stories from two of the League of Gentlemen is like nothing else on television. Although Steve Pemberton's booming thespian in this week's Macbeth-themed episode did have shades of Steven Toast…

www.twitter.com/alicevjones

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
Arts and Entertainment

Grace Dent on TV

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

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

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

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.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us