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Humour

From Stephen Collins’s Some Comics

The 10 best loo books of 2014: why we sing so much better in the shower and what became of Queen Victoria’s children’s milk teeth

22 November 2014

Nancy Mitford would not call them ‘toilet books’, that’s for certain. Loo books? Lavatory books? One or two people I know favour ‘bog books’. And having written one or two… Read more

John Cleese Book Signing

Was John Cleese ever funny?

1 November 2014
So, Anyway... John Cleese

Random House, pp.424, £20, ISBN: 9781847946966

Like many of my generation I was enchanted by the surrealistic irreverence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, until I overheard other boys — it was never girls — excitedly murdering… Read more

killing-jokes-castro

Should I report my boyfriend to the police?

28 June 2014

Driving along in the car, listening to the radio news, the boyfriend turned to me and said he thought the Michael Fabricant row a very strange one. Fabricant was being… Read more

George Saunders Photo: Getty

Samuel Beckett walks into a nail bar

29 March 2014
Tenth of December George Saunders

Bloomsbury, pp.288, £8.99, ISBN: 9781408837368

It isn’t very often that a writer’s work is so striking that you can remember exactly where and when you were when you first read it. I was in a… Read more

Dear Mary: What can I do about guests who don’t know how to wash up properly?

Q. I have three spare bedrooms in London and I welcome friends to come and stay. Unfortunately, some of these frequent visitors seem never to have been taught how to… Read more

Dear Mary: How long must I wait to tuck in?

Q. I am always making or receiving phone calls which get cut off. When I ring the person back their line is engaged as they are trying to ring me… Read more

Dear Mary: Is there any way to wriggle out of a phone invitation?

Q. Is there a tactful way to keep one social offer on hold while waiting to see if you have made the cut for something ‘better’ you know to be… Read more

Flann O'Brien (on right) in the Palace Bar in Dublin (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty)

Was Flann O'Brien at his best when writing about drink? (Answers on a damp stressed envelope, please)

1 February 2014
The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper (eds)

Dalkey Archive, pp.435, £9.50, ISBN: 9781564788894

On his deathbed in Dublin in the spring of 1966, Flann O’Brien must have been squiffy from tots of Paddy. A bottle of the amber distillate was smuggled in to… Read more

Dear Mary: How to stop cinema iPhone pests

Q. At a private screening of a documentary about the artist David Bomberg, a woman sitting near me in the hand-picked audience carried on using her iPhone to send and… Read more

The view from the trapped ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy

Global warming's glorious ship of fools

11 January 2014

Yes, yes, just to get the obligatory ‘of courses’ out of the way up front: of course ‘weather’ is not the same as ‘climate’; and of course the thickest iciest… Read more

Woolley Grange

Tanya Gold: Child-friendly, sex-free, nut-heavy – just the hotel for my 40th birthday

11 January 2014

Woolley Grange is a child-friendly country house hotel that seems, at first, entirely monstrous — a grey Tudor house in Wiltshire, with gables like teeth and a pond outside, possibly… Read more

new_Yorker_Cats

Curtains for kitty! How to care for cats — and how to kill them

7 December 2013
The Big New Yorker Book of Cats The New Yorker (with a foreword by Anthony Lane)

Heinemann, pp.329, £30, ISBN: 97803943587950

The New Yorker has always had a peculiar affinity with cats, perhaps because they have a lot in common — an elegance, an abhorrence of sentimentality and an innate sense… Read more

Peter Brookes depicts the two Eds

Hugo Rifkind's My Week reminds me why it's worth getting up on Saturdays

7 December 2013
My Week Hugo Rifkind

Robson Press, pp.368, £14.99, ISBN: 9781849545518

‘Nothing’s funny any more’ has become the daily mantra of this magazine’s cartoon editor, Michael Heath. Thanks to Leveson, political correctness, taste and common decency, lampooning public figures in particular… Read more

(Photo: Hal Jeayes)

Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, by Count Arthur Strong - review

16 November 2013
Through It All I’ve Always Laughed Count Arthur Strong

Faber, pp.328, £16.99, ISBN: 9780571303380

Fans of Count Arthur Strong (and yes I know he’s so Marmite you could spread him on a cheese sandwich) love the failed performer because he does what we all… Read more

David Bowie with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in 1973 (Photo: Keystone/Getty)

One Leg Too Few may be one biography too many

16 November 2013
One Leg Too Few William Cook

Preface, pp.704, £25, ISBN: 978184809333

It’s no joke, writing about comedians. Their work is funny, their lives are not. Rightly honouring the former while accurately relaying the disasters of the latter is a challenge few… Read more

From Private Eye: A Cartoon History edited by Nick Newman

The best funny books for Christmas

9 November 2013

Books do furnish a room, and quirky books for Christmas do furnish an enormous warehouse somewhere within easy reach of the M25. There are more of them than ever this… Read more

Marcus_140381281

My 50 weddings

21 September 2013

A couple of weekends ago, I went to my 50th wedding. Everyone I have mentioned this to has pulled a rather strange face, as though to say, ‘You count the… Read more

Outdoor Umbrellas

Jeremy Clarke: The day I walked into a postcard

31 August 2013

This time last year the postman delivered a picture postcard depicting a village square in Provence. The photograph on the front of that postcard was contemporary, but the colours were… Read more

Dear Mary: How can I stop this bore reading his novel aloud?

Q. Is there a polite way of halting a wannabe novelist from reading his oeuvre aloud to an unwilling audience? A neighbour on the residents’ committee happened to be leaving… Read more

Douglas Murray’s diary: My gay wedding dance-off with Julie Burchill

27 July 2013

The pilot refuses to get going until everyone is seated and quiet. When we take off there are raucous cheers. I am on a midday budget-airline flight to Ibiza. Louder… Read more

Dear Mary: What must I do to reclaim the best poolside chair?

Q. I know this seems petty but last year, on our villa holiday, my brother-in-law always took the best chair at the pool. This was a teak lounger with flat… Read more

Mind your language: Who says there's a 'correct name' for the penis?

27 July 2013

In a very rum letter to the Daily Telegraph, the Mother’s Union of all people joined with some other bodies to demand that ‘primary schools should teach the correct names… Read more

Dear Mary: Why it's fine to crash funerals

Q. Regarding the writing of ‘no presents’ on an invitation (Dear Mary, 6 July), my own experience is that many people ignore ‘no presents’ anyway. Some will not even ask… Read more

Dear Mary: How can I stop friends from coming to my book launch?

Q.  I have far too many friends to be able to invite them all to my forthcoming book launch. How can I cull the numbers without causing grave offence? —… Read more

James159006782

It’s the secret of a successful marriage: my wife treats me like a dog

6 July 2013

‘Here, Wolf,’ says the Fawn to me, showing me a saucer. ‘Look at this! This is the new place where you put your mouth things. See! See the saucer? Look… Read more