Books: Christmas books

Funny books

Poor old Santa. If he stopped to read some of the "funny" books he stuffs into stockings, he would jack in his annual delivery and reverse the reindeer into the North Pole recycling dump. Scraping around the bottom of the sack, he would find the stuff with "Humour" printed on the cover, in defiance of the Trade Descriptions Act.

That kind of dross will not detain us here. What a sneak preview into my own Xmas stocking reveals is a pile of Jokes for Anoraks - that is, humour for fans already on the wavelength of a particular cult. The only way to stamp out the worship of Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers would be a mass suicide of the Goon Show Preservation Society. If, like me, the voices of Eccles, Min and Major Bloodnok still ring in your ears, the selection of old scripts reprinted in The Goons: the story (Virgin, pounds 16.99) remain as insanely brilliant as when first transmitted on steam radio. Also featured in this wide-ranging - or, to be accurate, wide - hardback are reminiscences of how they met; and the original Bluebottle. Some of the yarns are so familiar that fans will be able to join in but what the hell, the page numbers are different. The whole is edited by Norma Farnes, who has been Spike's manager for over three decades.

If there is a Goon family tree, Harry Enfield can claim to be one of its twigs. Harry Enfield and His Humorous Chums (Penguin, pounds 9.99) reveals some of the nuts (yes) and bolts of his inspiration; it also outs the original of Tory Boy. Unlike the oeuvre of Jim Davidson, for example, Wayne and Waynetta Slob, Mr Cholmondley-Warner and Tim Nice But Dim work on the page even if you missed them on the box.

The same may be true of Homer, Maggie and Bart Simpson. Unfortunately The Simpsons (by Matt Groening, HarperCollins, pounds 14.99) cannot be used to test the theory because it confines itself to the highlights of each show, together with a list of references to the echoes of scenes in Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind. Presumably anoraks tick off every episode known to mankind as it eventually appears on BBC1. Still, the book does full justice to the family at Dysfunctional Avenue.

The Essex Files (Fourth Estate, pounds 5.99) is an example of stand-ups who fail to make the transition from stage to page. I'm not saying that this paperback, by Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss of The League of Gentleman, is Jim Davidson-type terrible; but it did not shift my laughometer dial much. Some of the ideas look ingenious - the Wivenhoe Triangle, the Harlow Nightie, the Chingford Faeries - but they are, like the Brentwood bypass in a blizzard, hard going.

Yet that very slim volume is an easy run compared with Philosophy Football: Eleven Great Thinkers Play it Deep (Penguin, pounds 6.99) by Mark Perryman. Knowing nothing about soccer or philosophers, I found this fantasy soccer wheeze to be relentlessly offside (geddit?) and about as pleasurable as being stuck in a saloon bar between Roger Scruton and Jimmy Hill. Yet it shines in comparison with the badly-written cuttings- job entitled Christine Hamilton's Bumper Book of Battleaxes (Robson, pounds 14.95), a dire round-up of women whom, for the most part, you would not care to meet in a dark Ladies: Barbara Cartland, Ann Widdecombe, Fanny Cradock and Teresa Gorman. In the chapter on Shirley Porter, a mere two sentences are devoted to the scandal of council tenants being eased out to pack Westminster with Tory voters. But then the self-justifying chapter devoted to herself and Neil doesn't mention cash in brown envelopes either.

The Hamiltons pop up again, this time as "Top TV Double Act The Sleazies", in The Private Eye Annual (pounds 7.99) edited by Ian Hislop. I was going to say that this is lively, hilarious, cruel, topical and essential reading; but, having once been lunched by the Eye, any praise would look like merely repaying a favour. And one can't be too careful. Ask Neil Hamilton.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

    Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

    £6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works