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Armando Iannucci recently said that the UK falls behind the US  when it comes to female comedy writers. Do you find it to be a male-dominated industry?

John Sergeant: Fancy footwork

If the judges had their way, the former political reporter would have exited 'Strictly Come Dancing' long ago. But audiences love him

Urban Gardener: Lavender blues

"People often say to me: 'What the hell are you doing in my garden?'" A great opening line (well I thought it was funny) from a stand-up comedian at our local pub many years ago, before the likes of Eddie Izzard (compère that night) and Jo Brand (also in the line-up) were famous, and just around the start of my career in gardening, when all I could be trusted with was a lawn mower and a pair of shears. The words came to mind recently while watering plants in my next-door neighbours' garden. They'd gone to their son's wedding in Muir Woods, California and we were to look in every few days to check the post. To my surprise, they were insistent that we didn't need to water the garden; but when two days of intense heat began making containerised plants in our own garden gasp, I simply had to go and check theirs.

Should you be a Good Samaritan – or walk by?

Boris Johnson, London's Mayor, says the streets are now so dangerous that he has told his children never to intervene in trouble. Is he right?

Last Night's TV: Mary, Queen of Shops, BBC2: A Taste of My Life, BBC2: The Victorian Sex Explorer, Channel 4

My latest book, The Pheasants' Revolt, received one rather brutal review, in The Independent on Sunday of all places (thanks, guys). The reviewer took strong exception to the "grotesque punning" title, so it is perhaps a little rich of me to pick on Mary, Queen of Shops, for the same reason. The pun calling the kettle black, if you like. But really. Mary, Queen of Shops? I can't remember wincing so much at the title of a television programme since Rosemary and Thyme, which starred Pam Ferris and Felicity Kendal as secateurs-wielding detectives called Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, and which I refused to watch on principle.

The Pirates of Penzance, Gielgud Theatre, London

Peter Mulloy's feisty period stagings of the Savoy Operas have proved beyond reasonable doubt that you don't need elaborate and gimmicky stage values to raise the necessary chuckles with these well-worn pieces. An experienced crew of singing actors and a strong sense of English eccentricity will do nicely.

Call my agent

An elite group of fixers are the hidden players behind the careers of many of the media's leading lights

Jo Brand: Stand-up and in 'Mental', Edinburgh Festival

Play's the thing for a slick but jaded Brand

Sunday success

SALES OF the Independent on Sunday are booming. The latest circulation figures released last week reveal that sales in October jumped by more than 16,000 to 267,762, a 6.7 per cent increase on the previous month and a rise of 3.6 per cent on the same period last year. The daily Independent also continued to grow, with October sales of 230,677, up 8,000 on the previous month and an increase of 3.4 per cent on last year.

Rugby Union: New Sale unveil a winning Brand

Sale 16 Wasps 8

THE LAST WORD: JO BRAND

Christians have always been fodder for comedians who have tended to portray them as anoraks - slightly clammy, beatifically smiley dullards with barely a personality between them. In my experience this is not a particularly reliable stereotype, having met Christians whose disturbed personalities would quite easily have earned them an invite to Hannibal Lecter's coming-out party, or others whose wildness matched that of that bloke in The Prodigy who drags round half an ironmongers in his sinuses.

Television: Fine unless you'd like some facts

David Aaronovitch on the glaring omissions from the autumn TV schedules as the BBC braces itself for the digital onslaught

Who's Hughes?: Sean Hughes interview

He feels uncomfortable in expensive suits and pays more attention to the hair up his nose than the hair on his head. Yet novelist, actor and comedian Sean Hughes still considers himself a serious person

SPORT ON TV: Doctor Eubank a new recruit to ranks of fistic thinkers

JAKE LA MOTTA and Muhammad Ali wrote poetry; Nicky Piper's got A-levels, for God's sake. Now there's a new recruit to the ranks of fistic thinkers. In BBC2's history series Leviathan on Wednesday, Professor Christopher Eubank of the University of Hard Knocks In The South-East (the former Brighton Poly) travelled to Greece to explore the history of the marathon in the run-up to tomorrow's race in London.
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music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution