Arts and Entertainment On the cutting edge: Johnny Vegas, from the Face of Satire exhibition at the BFI

On 26 February, Spitting Image will celebrate its 30 birthday. BBC Four will mark the occasion with a special episode of Arena which promises to tell the “vexed and frequently hilarious story” of the sketch show which ran for 21 series between 1984 and 1996 and marked a high point in British satire.

The executive with a talent for raising the most laughs

It is not hard to see why the BBC was so keen to hire Geoffrey Perkins - virtually nobody else in television or radio can match his comedy pedigree and talent for making hit shows.

TELEVISION Paul Merton in... (ITV)

Jasper Rees propounds the novel theory that comedy is, in fact, the new opera

Media: Serious about funny business

Is BBC comedy stale? No, says its new head, Geoffrey Perkins. Well, he would, wouldn't he? By James Rampton

TELEVISION Heroes of Comedy (C4) He's dead brilliant that Arthur Haynes. Brilliant but, alas, dead. By Jasper Rees

Heroes of Comedy is an essay on the fickle nature of posthumous fame. While posterity has been kind to Tommy Cooper and Joyce Grenfell, it has danced on the grave of Arthur Haynes. Arthur who? I hear you ask, and indeed - though a reviewer of television courts unemployment to admit it - you hear me ask.

Boys' night out

If it's Sunday it must be the Comedy Store. Mark Wareham tagged along with Merton, Mullarkey, Sweeney and company

How to improvise

Do you like to speak in strange accents, or sometimes complete gibberish? Fancy telling the story of King Arthur in the style of Raymond Chandler? Feel the urge to stick your arms through someone else's sleeves, and pick their noses for them? If so, impro may be your only hope.

Young (and old) pretenders

One noteworthy thing about the Tory leadership contest is that the declared contestants are not half so interesting as the undeclared contestants, so today I am ignoring the two men already with their hats in the ring and bringing you a list of some of those who will be slugging it out in the second ballot.

But seriously, Bob

Bob Monkhouse said he thought it might be 14 years since he last played Cheltenham Town Hall, but he couldn't be sure. "I do remember one thing, though," he added. "I died on my arse."

Heard the one about the drainage system?

Raoul Heertje is Holland's 'best circumcised' comedian. That may be so, says James Rampton, but what is he doing here and what does he want with our politicians?

Have we got news for Deayton?

The problem with quiz shows is that they tend to hang around. Once settled on a winning formula, the quiz show clings to it for dear life, refusing to alter the smallest detail. If Frank Muir had ever switched his bow tie for a cravat, Call My Bluff would have been doomed at a stroke. If Question of Sport went out without David Coleman making a complete hash of a question, the BBC would be forced to flash up the "Do Not Adjust Your Set caption".

THEATRE It's cold in bed

Live Bed Show Garrick, London

REVIEW : Spoofing me, spoofing him... with Mrs Merton

After the chat show came the chat-show spoof, in which bland, lazy sofa opera was mercilessly ridiculed. Now there are no more chat shows left, and the only competition the spoof faces is from its own kind. We can shortly expect the chat-show-spoof spoof, in which those who mercilessly ridicule bland, lazy sofa opera are themselves mercilessly ridiculed.
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' by John Constable
art
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
musicYou'll have to ask Taylor Swift first
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness