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

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy