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The Independent Culture
Videos of live comedy performances simply don't capture the atmosphere of the dingy, nasty little beer-flecked clubs where they began (make that Wembley Arena if you're Newman and Baddiel). The public realise this. To sell a comedy video you have to be either Newman and Baddiel, in which case all the girlies will buy it so they can press pause and pretend Rob's their boyfriend, or you have to be a major name like Robin Williams or Steve Martin. Even then the format is generally unconvincing. Subtle nuances just don't work on video. The notable exception is Eddie Izzard. But apart from the majestic miniskirted one, and perhaps Derek and Clive (because Peter Cook was still beautiful then), comedy videos are mostly unsatisfying.

A much better bet is comedy on audio cassette. You let the comic's patter seep into your brain, and create your own facial tics accordingly. For added amusement you can place the voice to the face of your choice - Ben Elton's routine coming out of Virginia Bottomley's mouth. Laughing Stock, Britain's only all- comedy record label, was set up in September 1992. It is now laughing all the way to the bank, thanks to its alternative methods of distribution. They targeted garages and petrol stations and found, as the world has long known, that if you're stuck in a traffic jam on the M40 to Birmingham, you would rather listen to Rowan Atkinson than Sue Lawley. So successful have they been, they are now planning to place comedy-tape vending machines in airports, undergrounds and hospitals (which seems kind of sick). But in the words of the great John Hegley to the crowd gathered around the stroke victim: 'Stand back please, I'm a comedian.' Emma Forrest

Laughing Stock Productions Ltd (071-498 0102)

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