SHELF LIFE a monthly look at the glossies

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The Independent Online
Steve Coogan, Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard ... there is no shortage of comedy talent swelling clubs and TV audiences. So launching a magazine dedicated to the comedy circuit must be a sound bet. Wrong. Many have tried, and many have failed - spectacularly. A recent casualty was the Red Dwarf star Craig Charles, whose Comedy Magazine went belly-up after just one issue last year.

It is surprising, then, that not one but two comedy monthlies are to be launched next month: Comedy Review, backed by Future Publishing, and Deadpan (by comparison a bantam-weight) launched by the comedy agent and publishing newcomer Paul Duddridge. Comedy Review's editor, Andy Lowe, says his title is "Q for the comedy world" and will succeed because "earlier attempts have been too London-focused". Well, a first issue with Paul Morley on Spike Milligan and the unofficial Armando Ianucci family tree is not exactly not London-focused, but there is also a tribute to the late Bill Hicks, an American.

Future has the financial clout to stand its ground, but Duddridge says Deadpan will be more in touch with "dressing-room chat", adding, oddly, "there isn't enough UK comedy to justify a comedy-only magazine". The Deadpan launch does include stories on top TV and live acts, as well as sport and politics. Future issues will include an interview with David Letterman, plus an expose of comedy unknown Rupert Murdoch.

A senior media-buying source expects one of the publications to die at birth or soon after: "There just ain't room in the market." Who'll be the winner? With Comedy Review aiming for monthly sales of 30,000, Deadpan's 10,000 target seems more realistic. Still, as Duddridge admits: "I'm either really right or very wrong."

Comedy Review launches on 2 February and Deadpan on 20 February. Both cost pounds 2.50.

Due to cross the Pond is the trend-setting US magazine Ray Gun, whose UK version, with a little help from MTV, will be a lifestyle and music glossy entitled Blah, Blah, Blah. Ray Gun's founder, Marvin Scott Jarrett, promises: "The music magazine that people have been waiting for to change their lives." Really? For sure: "Blah, Blah, Blah will set new standards in graphic presentation and editorial stance." (Blah, Blah, Blah is edited by the former Vox features writer Shaun Phillips. The Face's Greg McLean will oversee design.)

Enough hyperbole. Nuts and bolts: "A typical story might be snowboarding with The Prodigy." Details of the debut issue remain top secret but, music and style aside, expect new twists on sports and technology. Blah Blah Blah hits the stands on 14 March at pounds 2.50.

The women's glossy-with-a- conscience, Atlanta, due out last month, has delayed its first issue until spring. "We just weren't ready," the founder and publisher, Nikki du Preez, says. "Producing good magazines is as much to do with logistics as creative qualities." Does this explain why the editor, Charlotte Ross, has departed? Whatever, Du Preez is establishing a new team. Luckily, "our backers and advertisers are supportive".

Duo, Britain's "first dual-language Japanese-English magazine" goes international after just one issue. Tower Records will handle distribution in the United States and Japan. Bill Carter, the publisher of Duo - aimed at the thousands of UK-based Japanese visitors and residents with large disposable incomes - hopes to "promote better understanding between Japan and Europe". Though rough around the edges, Duo offers a stylishly presented mix, including an attempt to explode the myth of the "Japanese new woman", an interview with Richard Branson, plus a pull-out section for younger readers. Duo, pounds 2.50, is out now.

The style magazine Blow has relaunched following a distribution deal struck with WH Smith. The title, which moves from quarterly to bi-monthly, is up against The Face, ID and Dazed & Confused. Launched on a shoestring in 1994 by two students, James Pretlove and Michael Oliveira-Solak, Blow began life as a photocopied showcase for new talent. Following sponsorship from Absolut vodka and Bravo and funding from the Prince's Trust, it is now garnering advertisers in the Smirnoff, Levis and Katherine Hamnett league. Out now at pounds 3.

Also gaining wider exposure is the "adult" title Desire: "Fun but serious, rather than masturbatory," says Lesley Sharrock, co-founder. Desire has struck a distribution deal with WH Smith after overcoming the retailer's qualms about "intimate" pictorial portrayals. Presumably, Smith's is happy with features such as "Bringing up the rear: The bottom line on anal sex". Desire, pounds 3.50

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