Arts and Entertainment The dark side: Bill Bailey

Cultural Life: The comedian on his favourite music, film, tv and theatre picks

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Radio 4<br>Spinal Tap: Back from the Dead, Radio 2

No Humph, no Samantha, but plenty of quality smut

Black and white and red all over: Left-wing reads

Socialist fiction, feminist theory, even Marxist tracts &ndash; thanks to the recession, the classic left-wing reads of yesteryear are back in vogue. But which titles really deliver power to the people? Andy McSmith finds out

Jerry Dammers' Spatial AKA Orchestra, Barbican Theatre, London

Economic uncertainty, racial tension, a looming Tory government; not much has changed since the heady summer of 1979, when The Specials (then known as The Special AKA) first bounded out of Coventry.

Tom Sutcliffe: Slow cookers rock &ndash; and casseroles roll

I found myself wondering what happened to slow cookers the other day, a feature of late Seventies domestic life which – though my memories are hazy – I recall being touted as a gadget that would simultaneously halve your electricity bill and quadruple your standing as a housewife and mother (it was the Seventies, remember).

Bill Bailey: 'People are obsessed by how I look'

Bill Bailey's talent embraces everything from bloke-in-a-bar gags to Chaucer and Pinter. Where will his quicksilver wit alight next?

Boris Godunov, Coliseum, London<br/>Berezovsky/Kniazev/Makhtin, IndigO2, London<br/>Kozen&#225;/Martineau, Barbican Hall, London

Only a tentative Tsar undermines ENO's arresting new production of Mussorgky's searing opera

The Big Chill, Eastnor Castle Deer Park, Malvern

It sparkles like a rare diamond and its contents are sought after by millions. Yes, ladies and gentleman, Noel Fielding's jumpsuit has landed. It was not a musical act that filled the Saturday night slot of this family-friendly musical festival in Herefordshire, but a surrealist comedy duo who were greeted with as many bamboozled silences as outpourings of laughter. But if there was an element of the emperor's new clothes to 10,000 people standing around slightly confused to watch Fielding and Julian Barratt's Mighty Boosh take us through a "musical journey", then it was just one stop on an otherwise successful weekend.

Editor-At-Large: Naomi, Wrighty, Bono... do what you do best and skip the politics

Why do celebrities feel entitled to spout their opinions? Their bizarre lives make them poor spokespeople for the rest of us

The Museum of Curiosity, Radio 4

Try pitching this to the boss

The Lover/The Collection, Comedy Theatre, London<br />Happy Now?, NT Cottesloe, London<br />Three Sisters on Hope Street' Everyman' Liverpool<br />Uncle Vanya, Rose, Kingston, London

Kinky? Yes. Pinter Lite? Not when the mood can turn on a sixpence: Sex in the Sixties swings back to life in leather and killer stilettos, and Chekhov's girls dream of romance in post-war Liverpool

Back to basics: Forget wallpaper and fancy furnishings, Sally and Mark Bailey make a virtue of stripped paint, old wood and factory-yard finds. Caroline Kamp visits their deliberately undecorated home in Herefordshire

"We understand that people might not get it," says Sally Bailey, co-owner of mail order company Baileys, "but it's what we like." We are standing in her spare room at Whitecross Farm in Bridstow, Herefordshire, and she is pointing to a stack of old solicitor's deed boxes, which are being used for storage. Next to them is a bed with a frame made from old scaffolding, and suspended from the ceiling on a long cord at shoulder-height is a naked lightbulb. The walls are unfinished.

The Odd Couple, Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

Couple lacks oddness but retains terrific one-liners

Bill Bailey: For whom the Bill toils

His refusal to wear a tie saved Bill Bailey from a career in telesales. Now, he's a star on television and his inimitable stand-up is conquering the West End. James Rampton meets a true original
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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'