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Comedy gift ideas



Frank Skinner by Frank Skinner
£16.99. Amazon prize £13.59

This is definitely a book written by a comedian. Not the most insightful review ever, but it means Frank Skinner's autobiography almost has the feel and rhythm of a stand-up routine.

You get the impression, for example, that he's afraid of losing his audience - a risk much smaller in print than on stage - but even so, he doesn't dare write for too long about one subject nor delve into topics that can't be easily explained or joked about, such as his Caholicism

He's also self-referential and topical. So he'll deconstruct passages you've just read, and regularly intersperses formative memories with what happened to him yesterday, giving no more weight to a defining moment in his childhood to a chat he had with David Baddiel in the taxi yesterday.

But while it's an unusual style, it's always entertaining and is, if you'll allow the pun, unwaveringly frank and packed full of revelations - which does make for a cracking read


The Onion: Dispatches From The 10th Circle
£9.99. Amazon prize £7.99

Who said the American's don't do irony? Thanks to their excellent web page, satirical magazine The Onion has won a new legion of British fans.

They won most praise for their post-September 11 edition, a triumph of clear thinking and spot-on satire in the most difficult of climates that put everyone else in the field to shame, including Private Eye.

But the magazine is consistently brilliant, mercilessly lampooning tired journalistic forumulas and ignorant opinions. This latest collection, named after one of their headlines Tenth Circle Added To Rapidly Growing Hell, gathers together the best of the last couple of years. Included are such gems as Arabs, Israelis Sign 'Screw Peace' Accord and Loved Ones Recall Local Man's Cowardly Battle with Cancer - and those are just on the cover.


TV Go Home
£9.99. Amazon prize £7.99

Another internet phenomenon, the savage sarcasm of TV Go Home has now made it into print, and a digital TV show.

Ostensibly a spoof Radio Times, brilliantly mimicked, the book does for telly producers what The Onion does to journalists. And it doesn't use Vaseline.

Rammed together in a book, the harsh comedy is relentless, so dip in and out for an occasional treat and let creator Charlie Brooker's bile take over.

Ideas such as Daily Mail Island - a sort of reactionary Survivor - and the regular escapades of new media tosser Nathan Barley are inspired. But the best bits will always be the ranting appeals from the Kilroy team in microscopic lettering under programme listings.


£17.99 Amazon price £8.99

There can be few people still unaware of the revelations in this biography, by Billy Connolly's wife Pamela Stevenson - the childhood abuse, the drinking and the ultimate escape to a different life amid the sun and glitte of Beverly Hills.

But no one can say that this ex-welder's had an unventful life - and he certainly helped change the face of comedy to the more observational style common today.

Whether you need Stevenson's psychological insights or not, his is still a fascinating tale.


Also recommended

Are You Dave Gorman? £7.99 (usually £9.99). Tony Hawkes's Playing The Moldavians At Tennis £6.99 (£5.59). Stovold's Mornington Cresent Almanac for I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue fans. £5.59. William Cook's history of The Comedy Store. £11.99 (£14.99) And the Private Eye stocking filler The Little Book Of Dumb Britain, about idiotic quiz show answers. £1.99

For books about performing stand-up, check out our earlier feature, here.




Bill Bailey Bewilderness
DVD £18.99

The bug-eyed wizard of surreal comedy has been performing variations of this show - a typical mix of meandering stand-up and inspired musical pastiche - for the last few months.

If you've seen it, you'll probably need little encouragement to get this video or DVD. If you haven't, here's your chance to see why he earned a British Comedy Award nomination for best stand-up this year.

Even without the awesome musical aspect, Bailey would be a giant of the comedy scene. With it, he sets a standard most other comics would trade their voiceover contracts for.


League of Gentlemen: Live At Drury Lane
DVD £18.99

One of the most inventive comedy teams of recent years go back to basics in this impressive live show of two halfs.

For the first part, they perform sketches in dinner jackets and minimal props, just as they did when they started out. After the break, a full-scale Royston Vasey extravaganza.

Familiar characters are greeted with pantomime-like cheers from a devout audience - but there's much more to this dark, intelligent yet supremely funny comedy than Pavlovian responses to catchphrases.

A natural extension to their sublime TV series, yet a fine theatrical experience in its own right, this was filmed towards the end of this year's storming sell-out tour, when the lads esconsced themselves in the West End.


Ali G: Bling Bling
DVD £15.99

Quite how long Ali G will cling onto his iconic status is clearly up for debate. No doubt creator Sacha Baron Cohen hopes his cult following will hold out until the release of the Ali G In Da House movie next year.

But behing the ubiquitous image, the comedy can be fantastically biting, as parts of this, his third video show.

There's also a fair amount of previously unseen stuff (both on the DVD and on the VHS) including his latest creation, Borat.


Bottom 2001: An Arse Oddity
DVD £16.99

The usual mix of knob gags, fart gags and slapstick - yet always threatening to expose something deeper, the fourth Bottom tour is nonetheless entertaining stuff.

Ade and Rik have an effortless dynamic, and their interaction and improvised goofing around is always a joy - though whether it bears repeated viewing on video remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, if you're in the mood for some no-brainer idiocy, you could do a lot worse than this lively romp through scatalogical humour and cartoon ultraviolence


Also recommended

The greatest hits of Billy Connolly's stand up career on one VHS (£12.99) or DVD (£18.99). Victoria Wood All The Trimmings (VHS £13.99 - DVD £18.99). Arnold Brown's laid-back Guide For The Perplexed at £11.05. Robert Newman's political Resistance Is Fertile at £11.05. And complete box sets of Blackadder (VHS £52.99 , DVD £49.99) and Fawlty Towers (VHS £26.99 , DVD £27.99 )




Philosophy: The Best Of Bill Hicks
CD £11.99

The Amazon review for this reads: "The only downside to listening to Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks is that, once you've done so, almost every other stand-up comedian will sound like a waste of your time and an insult to your intelligence"

That might be hyperbole, but Hicks had an energy, style and wit that most comics envy, and in many ways is the epitome of what many stand-ups aspire to.

This new collection gathers together some of the finest moments from this much-missed comedy genius.


John Shuttleworth: One Foot In The Gravy
Double cassette £7.64
Double CD £12.75

Recorded at London's Shepherds Bush Empire, during a sell-out tour said to be the last from Mr Shuttleworth for a while.

Highlights are, of course, the songs, with their clunking, crass lyrics that mistake rhyming for poetry and make awkward metaphors from the dreary minutiae of life - and many of his old favourites are here.

But the acutely-observed observations in Shuttleworth;s unique world are also a delight, and can now be savoured on the in-car entertainment system of your Ford Cortina Y-reg. However, this recording is not avaialable in Super-8 format.


Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy: Collector's edition
Amazon prize £49.99

It's not cheap - but it is comprehensive. This CD box set contains both radio series, plus Douglas Adams's guide to The Guide plus interviews with cast members and Adams. A must for hardcore fans.



The gift for anyone who's always wanted to be a stand-up - a comedy course. Amused Moose Soho's, lead by comedian Logan Murray, has its introductory evening on Thursday January 3 at 8.15pm - and the whole 11-week course costs £168, including five tickets to comedy shows to see the experts in action. Email comedycourses@amusedmoose.co.uk for more info


Published: 5 Dec 2001

Live comedy picks

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