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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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Independent Travel
Vietnam & Cambodia
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Bruges
India & Nepal
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Berlin, Dresden, Meissen & Colditz
Prices correct as of 17 October 2014
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?