Vintage comedy – with Stokes Croft Writers

A few months ago I made the longlist for Christopher Fielden’s To Hull and Back humorous short story competition whose anthology is being launched at next Saturday’s Talking Tales in Bristol.


Knowing this was sure to be a fun affair ( yes, I got my TT badge in October!) I saved the date to go along and listen – then I heard that more submissions were being invited.

to-hull-back-2016-front-cover-188x300Well  nothing ventured! And now I’m  on the programme for Saturday too, not with my shortlisted story (“the one about the ukulele”) but A Fork Less Ordinary the very first  in what has become an occasional series of reflections on ordinary life teetering  on the edge of sanity (doesn’t it always?) Think domestic noir without  blood  (though this one comes closest to carnage).

Now, the  eagle-eyed amongst you (do these people really exist?) may notice A Fork was highly commended for a prize –  in 2007 – !!!  Yes, apparently it has been that long. So if you can make it along I can definitely promise you an evening of vintage comedy from many wonderful writers.

Let’s hope my bit isn’t showing its age.

Talking Tales - nights drawing in!
No music this time but plenty of laughs

When? Saturday  10th December

Where?  Leftbank, Stokes Croft (BS6 5RW)
When? 6.30pm


Making Sense of Humour

On a lighter note, this month’s reading group theme is humour, and so I’ve spent some time scouring the library shelves for something of a lighter nature. However, recent comedy books (John O’Farrell, Joshua Ferris) all seemed to have thirty-something casts that didn’t quite appeal, which is why I turned to a familiar name – Nick Hornby, and a story about suicide – A Long Way Down.

A Long Way Down CoverI did have my doubts about this from the start, but the first few pages, in which four characters choose the same time and place to end their lives, were in Hornby’s usual engaging style and most certainly comical, and so to my surprise I found myself hooked. For a while the main characters (a gruesomely tanned celeb who has fallen from grace, a manic and foul-mouthed teenager, a lady grown old before her time through caring for a disabled son and a failed musician) did seem a little two-dimensional, but Hornby quickly shows us all is not as simple as it might seem for any of them. He also finds a couple of good plot twists to move things along when it looks like the story might shudder to a halt, and manages to work out a satisfactory endng without resorting to anything too pat. Not one of Hornby’s best, but a good read from a pretty challenging premise.

Talking to other group members, we’ve all come up against the problem of what is regarded as a funny book. Straight away there are different kinds of funny: funny poignant, funny satirical, funny ironical. Then there’s schoolboy hunmour, graveyard humour, black humour, slapstick … But it’s harder, I think, to find pure comedy in what we read  compared to looking for , say, a comedy in the theatre or on T.V. Few novels, when it comes down to it, have no humour at all (thank goodness) and few are pure comedy – or perhaps they’re just not to my taste. 

As well as Hornby, other old favourites of mine are David Lodge and Barbara Pym, but looking for somerthing new,  my other ‘humour’ choice was  Alison  Wonderland, kindly sent by Helen Smith.  With a light touch and  quirky characters this has a cartoonish quality with many comic touches, but still satisfies in the portrayal of the main character and her journey to some unexpected places, not least her final destination.

A final thought.  P.G. Wodehouse really was (and still is) a comic genius. His golf stories still makes me laugh. Or would do if golf weren’t such a serious matter.