Doctor Who: The Romans by Donald Cotton (Target, 1987) Without reference to the televised serial, this odd and irreverent epistolary novelisation comes across as something of a fever dream. Even in context, it takes liberties in elevating and expanding upon the plot’s farcical elements. Nonetheless, a funny and uncommonly erudite read.
Hello, Darlings! The Authorized Biography of Kenny Everett by James Hogg & Robert Sellers (Bantam, 2013) Kenny Everett once wrote an autobiography; or rather, he didn’t. It was ghost-written by a friend and Kenny didn’t even read it. He wasn’t interested in the past. For those who are, Hogg and Sellers’ comprehensively researched biography is well worth reading.
The Two Ronnies (BBC Audiobooks, 1976/2010) Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker were at their witty, rip-roaring, wordy best in this mid-1970s LP collection of Two Ronnies sketches, faux news items and assorted titbits – an uproarious comedy hodgepodge of what should have been said (‘and it’s goodnight from him’).
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (Heinemann, 1996) Hugh Laurie is a funny man, and his only novel to date — a cynical, conversational, fourth-wall-breaking take on the conspiracy/thriller genre, submitted pseudonymously to the publisher — is very witty, very British, and a very accomplished romp, boldly self-deprecating where Bourne only bores.
All Three Of Us dir. Kheiron (2015) [subtitled, from the French “Nous trois ou rien”) Hibat, a young Iranian activist, survives the autocratic regime of the shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the religo-political purges of the ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, before finding a new life and purpose in France. A sombre story made uproariously palatable in the telling.
Lolly Scramble: A Memoir of Little Consequence by Tony Martin (Pan, 2005) The best comedians are those whose humour derives from perspective. Kiwi turned Aussie Tony Martin is one such person, shunning the celebrity world to glean amusement from his everyday life. (Read aloud, his recounting of an amateur theatre mishap becomes life-threateningly funny.)
Monsters vs. Aliens dir. Conrad Vernon & Rob Letterman (2009) Monsters vs Aliens is an animated comedy with a surplus of incidental humour but a concomitant deficit of cohesive, character-driven plot. The jokes are funny enough but the heroine’s journey of discovery is no more compelling than a walk to the shops.
Despicable Me dir. Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud (2010) Amidst a glut of animated films, Despicable Me is one of the few that remain consistently funny and engaging. Gru, the ingeniously drawn and distinctively voiced (by Steve Carell) Cold War -styled supervillain, is one of the great characters of modern cinema.
The Goodies, Season 1 by Graeme Garden & Bill Oddie (with Tim Brooke-Taylor) (BBC 1970) In 1970 comedy trio the Goodies arrived under their own names, riding a trandem bicycle and pioneering a freeform sitcom where they claimed to do anything, anytime. Exuberant, irreverent, chaotic: Tim, Bill and Graeme soon found themselves (to quote their song) needed.
‘Allo ‘Allo! (Series 1 & 2) by Jeremy Lloyd & David Croft (BBC 1984-1985) Repetitive, formulaic (think Get Smart) yet often uproarious, the convoluted tribulations of a café-owner in German-occupied France rose to long-running comedic heights thanks to the incomparable Gordon Kaye (as René Artois) and the premise of rendering all languages as badly accented English.