Last-minute stocking stuffers

Round-up of a few Christmas comedy books

Gavin & Stacey: From Barry To Billericay

A well put-together tie-in to the hit of the moment from original writers James Corden and Ruth Jones, this is presented as a scrapbook of contributions from all the show’s key characters.

Facebook and Bebo pages, postcards, newspaper cuttings, letters between Nessa and her admirers from John Prescott to Richard Madeley, literature from Pam Shipman’s community campaigning, Smithy and Gavin discussing their fantasy England XI, Uncle Bryn’s travel tips… the list goes on in this coffee-table volume.

It doesn’t really stand alone, however, and many of the in-jokes will be baffling to those unfamiliar with the warm-hearted sitcom. But Corden and Jones excel at creating fully-formed characters, and this book adds yet more flesh to their subtle creations. It’s sweet as the TV series, and something fans will be able to dip in and out of repeatedly.

Hardback, 224 pages
Published by HarperCollins, priced £17.99
Buy from Amazon at £7.99


Isle Of Wight To Get Ceefax – And Other Groundbreaking Stories From Newsbiscuit


Satirical American website The Onion has a lot to answer for, spawning a plethora of substandard imitations, which completely miss the nuances and skill of putting together a fake news website.

Newsbiscuit, launched in September 2006, is clearly meant to be a British Onion; but although derivative, the vital difference is that they get it right. Writer John O’Farrell, who created the site, has used the skills he’s developed in his books and on shows from Spitting Image to Have I Got News For You to hone contributions from readers.

The result is a wry, knowing site that’s often laugh-aloud funny; and this book collects the best of a year’s worth of tongue-in-cheek stories to create one of the funniest reads this Christmas

Hardback, 128 pages

Published by Doubleday, priced £12.99
Buy from Amazon at £6.99


Lyttelton’s Britain

Also in the running for the funniest Christmas book is this timeless collection of geographic gags from I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Although the Radio 4 show has become best known for its filthy double entendres and long-running in-jokes such as Mornington Crescent, the monologues with which dear Humphrey Lyttelton introduced each episode were arguably the funniest bits of the show: gag-heavy routines based on the week’s recording location.

Written by Iain Pattinson, these have now been collected into this spoof gazetteer, that, page-for-page, contains more delightfully silly gags than you have any right to expect. There are plenty of well-deserved tributes to Humph around, but this is a reminder of the industrious talent who put the words into his delightfully laconic mouth. As you read, you can hear Humph’s delivery – but the scripts are funny on their own merits, too.

Hardback, 224 pages
Published by Preface Publishing, priced £14.99
Buy from Amazon at £9.89


Peep Show: The Scripts And More

Why anyone – other than budding writers studying their art – buys a book of scripts has always been something of a riddle. Surely watching on screen, as intended, is by far the best way to enjoy a favourite show.

Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain have attempted to put some ‘added value’ into this comprehensive catalogue of script from all five series. As well as roping in Mitchell and Webb to pen a foreword, there is a smattering of scrapbook style extras (emails, school reports, PostIt notes etc, as per the Gavin & Stacey book above), as well as an insight into the genesis of one episode that was proving particularly troublesome to write.

Give me the box set any day, but this is an exhaustive collection of very word spoken by Mark, Jeremy, Sophie, Super Hans et al – so does exactly what it says on the cover.

Paperback 372 pages
Published by Channel 4 books at £14.99
Buy from Amazon at £8.99


Stand-Up: The World’s Funniest Quotes

What a shamefully exploitative book. A cheaply produced collection of one-liners stolen from great comedians and treated with contempt by money-grabbing publishers who couldn’t even stretch to employing a work-experience kid who spoke English to compile it.

The amount of care that’s gone into this is pathetic. Scrappily compiled biographies culled from the internet introduce a couple of pages of quotes from the largely American collection of stand-ups. There’s scant regard to spelling or punctuation, with comments from the likes of ‘Whoppi goldberg’ and ‘Kelsey grammer’. The Marx Brothers, we are reliably informed ‘later became a movie’, while John Cleese starred in ‘Monty Python And The Flying Circus’.

A quote from ‘Peter cook’ begins: ‘I became a coal minor…’ The gag ‘I think animal testing is a terrible answer: they get all nervous and give the wrong answer’ is printed twice, attributed to both Stephen Fry and Peter Kay [who also has an Emo Philips gag under his section]; and, as usual, Tim Vine’s jokes have been attributed to Tommy Cooper.

What a waste of trees.

Paperback, 160 pages
Published by Nicotext, priced £6.99
Buy from Amazon at £5.49

Published: 23 Dec 2008

Today's comedy-on demand picks

HAPPY HOUR Q&A WITH IAIN STIRLING

In the latest in the series of interviews to aid the Leicester Comedy Festival, its director Geoff Rowe talks to the stand-up and Love Island voiceover guy about his career in comedy.

Click for more suggestions
... including a comedy writer's workshop with Joel Morris and Neil Webster and a documentary about black comedy in America.

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