Here's what you need to know about my second book.


'A highly readable blend of academia and journalism...erudite but entertaining.'

-William Cook, The Guardian

'Double is informative without patronising those already familiar with the subject...the book is one of precious few taking a serious look at comedy...Getting The Joke is an engaging analysis of the mechanics behind it.'

-Steve Bennett, Chortle

Getting the Joke was named by Ross Noble as 'the book I most want for Christmas' in The Express.

'This is the kind of book that troubles grey-suited committees of academic peers. It's too enjoyable. But that, given its subject, is just what it ought to be, and it treats that subject seriously.' Peter Thomson, Studies in Theatre and Performance

Order Getting the Joke from Amazon here


There's another type of stand-up routine which works in a similar way. The comedian finds something from everyday life, recognises its ridiculousness, then takes it onstage and presents it to the audience. Just as the objet trouvé is defined by the act of designating it as art, so the comedian creates 'found comedy' by presenting something not designed to be funny as an object of amusement.

When I was working as a comedian, I went through a phase when practically every new routine I came up with worked like this. There seemed to be no end to the things I'd take on stage with me to get laughs: an English-French phrase book; a misleading headline from the front page of The Guardian; the Highway Code booklet; a set of inflatable Spice Girls dolls which came free with a pop magazine; a catalogue full of tacky gift ideas.

Best of all was a booklet I picked up in a local government building in Michigan. When I got back from the States, I used it in my compèring at The Last Laugh:

'I picked up this excellent document called "Crack Down on Drugs Colouring Book", right. [laughter] The title, "Crack Down on Drugs", no pun intended, obviously. [laughter] And "Colouring Book", but nowhere in this is there a warning not to sniff the pens you're colouring the pictures in with, right? [quiet laughter] But, aside from that, the thing that caught my eye was this first picture. You probably can't see it, but I've thought of that.'

I unroll a large photocopy of the picture, and the audience laugh as they take it in. It shows a respectable-looking man in casual clothes holding out a handful of pills to a kid in a school playground.

'Now as you can see, it's a picture of a drug dealer selling drugs to a kid. Not your, not your stereotypical drug dealer. He looks more like a Jehovah's Witness, or something. [laughter] And it says, "If someone offers you a drug, say no!" And the kid's saying, "No, I care about myself," but he's actually, if you look closely, already been taking drugs, 'cos here is a dog in an overcoat- [laughter] and checked trousers, you know. [laughter and a few claps]'

Sure enough, there is a dog in an overcoat and checked trousers in the background, and a British audience, unfamiliar with the American character McGruff the Crime Dog, share my amusement at the hallucinogenic implications of the picture.

Hear an audio recording of this routine here