Thirty-Six Short Entertainments
Beginning with flatpack ‘Instructions for Assembling Your Pocket Playhouse’, Michael Frayn’s miniature sketches relish the absurdities of modern life. Here we find a telephone prayer answering service (‘Your prayer has been placed in a queue’); flirting academics in the Working Group on Gender Stereotyping in Indefinite Pronouns; and the nail-biting national semi-finals of the UK TV Watching Championship. Slightly off-mint.
The Pantomime Book
The Only Known Collection of Pantomime Jokes and Sketches in Captivity
After a first chapter of one liners, Paul Harris presents the scripts of more than 40 pantomime sketches and gags and introduces them with notes on history (some of them are very old, but still evolving), theatrical anecdotes and tips on props and performance.
Beast Friends Forever
Animal Lovers in Rhyme
From the perfumed courtship tactics of Babette the Skunk to happily married Rose the Grisly, whose snoring keeps her adoring fellow sleep-deprived, but mellow, these tales are often hilarious, but never too risqué. Juana and Anna, although they cruise the bars in search of likely male iguanas, are only looking for true love. This wonderful collection of friends and lovers is illustrated in manic style by Ronald Searle.
Edward Lear's Nonsense Birds
Coming to life in just a few, seemingly effortless lines and the occasional wash of colour, Edward Lear’s nonsense birds have personality, attitude and, quite often, very human traits. Drawing on the British Library collections, this book presents birds from several of Lear’s original nonsense books, and includes stories, limericks, birds for learning colours and birds for learning the alphabet.
Something in the Cellar...
Wonderful World of Wine
Surveying wine and its devotees in pen and ink, these drawings were created for a variety of publications in the 1970s and early 1980s by the great satirical cartoonist, Ronald Searle (1920–2011). Along with 'The World of Wine' series covering wine ceremonies worldwide, from the fraught Annual Ceremony of Accepting the Kremlin Rouge in the USSR to Spain's joyful Festival of Hoofing the Rioja, are various lunatic methods for opening a bottle of wine and other wine-related mishaps.
Ladies of Letters
Take a Cheeky Peek at Irene and Vera's Private Correspondence
Based on the BBC Radio Four comedy series, which was adapted for TV, Irene and Vera are ladies of a certain age, both widowed and with errant offspring. They reveal details of their lives and families through their highly entertaining – though often acerbic and sometimes downright vitriolic – correspondence.
How to Look After Your Human
A Dog's Guide
Dog owners often seem to arrange their lives around their beloved pets and this manual shows how to train them to maximum canine advantage. Written from the point of view of Maggie Mayhem, a border terrier whose significant humans are Kim Sears and tennis-playing husband Andy Murray, the colourfully illustrated book offers amusing advice on such topics as exercise and socialization, grooming and hygiene. Age 7+
Postcard From The Past
The postcard shows charming views of the Yorkshire Dales, but the sender writes, 'Huge hordes of wild sheep, cows and rabbits ready to attack at any time'; and on the back of four views of Weymouth, one word: 'Murder'. Tom Jackson describes this book of holiday postcards, with captions taken from their messages, as 'a collection of very short and cryptic stories set in that drowned Atlantis of the sixties and seventies'.
Must I Repeat Myself...?
Unpublished Letters to The Daily Telegraph
In this tenth annual edition of Telegraph readers’ letters, Alexa and gender-neutral lavatories join the perennial concerns with good English, cricket and the march of time. Hollingshead, as the departing editor, pays tribute to the letter-writers’ ‘wit, erudition and occasional downright lunacy’ and adds a best of the last decade chapter, including the priceless ‘Sir, It has all been a terrible mistake. We thought we were voting to leave Eurovision’. Slightly off-mint.
Off to the Vet
The YouTube adventures of Simon's Cat, which first appeared in 2008, have attracted millions of viewers and the hapless cat's exploits have since extended to newspaper cartoon strips, books and even a game. Identifying feline foibles that will chime with cat owners everywhere, this collection includes the colour story 'Off to the Vet' as well as other cartoons in the signature black-and-white style.
Did Anyone Else See That Coming...?
Unpublished Letters to the Daily Telegraph
‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends’... The redoubtable readers and letter-writers of the Daily Telegraph confront the era of Trump, Twitter and Brexit in this ninth compilation of wit, opinion and getting the facts right: from Forston in Dorset, a reader asks, ‘How can I distinguish fake reports about fake news from real reports about fake news? Slightly off-mint.
Funny Way To Be A Hero
TV producer John Fisher first published his exploration of the great 20th-century comedians in 1973, tracing the tradition from music-hall pioneers such as Dan Leno and Max Miller through to the radio comics and the last of the breed in Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd. This completely revised and expanded 40th anniversary edition profiles over 30 of the giants of British entertainment and contains over 350 illustrations.
Wallace & Gromit
The Complete Cracking Contraptions Manual
How do the Techno Trousers work? How did Wallace rebuild Preston the Cyber Dog? All is revealed in this two-volumes-in-one manual, with descriptions of how each of Wallace and Gromit's fantastic inventions works, cutaway diagrams and photographs of the machines in action. There are details of 40 contraptions, from the Bed Launcher to Wallace's A35 van, plus cutaways of his house and Invention cellar. Age 9–90
Notes From the Sofa
Award-winning author Raymond Briggs looks back over 70 years with characteristic humour in this illustrated compilation of thoughts, ideas and memories from his column in The Oldie. He recalls the lack of facilities at his spinster aunts’ house during the Second World War, bemoans the irritating ubiquity of football and muses on a game of Shoe a Little Horse, the ‘stuff’ he’s accumulated in his lifetime and the changing nature of rude words.
Oor Wullie & The Broons Through the Ages
Explore the Evolution of Oor Wullie and The Broons!
First published in the Sunday Post in 1936, strip cartoons ‘The Broons’ and ‘Oor Wullie’ are a Scottish institution, providing the nation with the gentle humour of the archetypal mischievous boy and a typical squabbling but supportive family. Demonstrating how the characters and storylines have adapted to the times, this compendium selects the best examples from over 80 years of the cartoons. Off-mint.
How to Keep a Werewolf
And Other Exotic Pets Which May or May Not a) Exist or b) Eat You
Investigating the world of cryptids from the point of view of a prospective pet-owner, this humorous illustrated guidebook outlines the characteristics of a variety of mythological, legendary and fictional beasts from lake monsters and yetis to chupacabras and unicorns.
Sign Language 2
More Travels in Unfortunate English
In these days when everyone carries a camera with them on their phone, few opportunities are missed by eagle-eyed tourists to record humorously mangled translations, unwitting ironies and double entendres on public signs, menus, shop fronts and foreign grocery products. Among the gems in this collection are the impressive premises of Penang's 'Chiap Tatt Enterprise' and the luxury coach run by Barcelona's 'Chavi Tours'.
From Hopeless Hounds to Tyrannical Tortoises: Animal Letters to The Telegraph
Having mined the archives of readers’ letters ‘like a chaffinch in search of the juiciest worms’, Iain Hollingshead presents a hugely entertaining selection that illustrates the British love and respect for animals, whether tame or wild, mammal, bird or amphibian, and the occasional stick insect. Violent dislike is reserved for flying insects, and the Scottish midge in particular. Slightly off-mint.
Monty Python's Flying Circus
All the Bits: Complete and Annotated
When Monty Python’s Flying Circus first appeared on British television screens in 1969, any public outrage was drowned out by laughter as the show’s unpredictable, satirical comedy laid into the outdated foibles of the British establishment. Illustrated by numerous stills, the scripts of all 45 episodes are compiled here, including the episode containing the ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch, and are generously annotated by explanations of obscure references.
Wrinklies Wit & Wisdom
Quotations and Observations for the Chronologically Challenged
‘Young people know the rules. Old people know the exceptions.’ So said Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the many celebrated wits included in this collection of humorous observations on the challenges and compensations of growing old.
Slightly Foxed – But Still Desirable
Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting
‘Ordering from a bookseller’s catalogue without speaking the specialist language’, writes Ronald Searle, ‘is about as dangerous as trying to chat up the promised-in-marriage daughter of a Corsican tax inspector’. For the would-be collector Searle presents an irreverent glossary of 60 bookselling terms, illustrated as only he can with book-loving cats, dogs and insects, lady librarians and manic bibliophiles.
Through It All I've Always Laughed
(An Autobiography of Myself)
Well known from the Radio 4 comedy, Steve Delaney's cult character, Count Arthur Strong, is an ageing entertainer from Doncaster with a deluded sense of his own importance and a talent for mangling words. This memoir, presented as a typewritten script with the great man's own handwritten annotations, is a satire of British show business autobiographies, with stories of childhood struggles, national service, early theatrical breaks and celebrity anecdotes accompanied by the author’s nonsensical thoughts and opinions. Off-mint.
Am I Missing Something...?
Unpublished Letters to The Daily Telegraph
A letters page may seem antiquated in an era of texting and tweeting, yet the Telegraph's letter writers – often bemused, sometimes furious, always erudite – are a breed apart. Here are their wise, waggish and unpublished opinions on everything from gay marriage ('Sir – Gays should be able to marry so they can suffer like the rest of us') to royal babies ('Sir – Maybe the hospital could release pink or blue smoke when the baby is born').
Has the World Gone Completely Mad...?
Unpublished Letters to The Daily Telegraph
A vintage year for readers' letters, 2015 offered up Poldark on TV (an excess of chest hair), Fifty Shades of Grey, Nicola Sturgeon vs the English, a royal birth and, to cap it all, a general election starring Labour's pink bus and David Cameron with his shirt sleeves rolled up – but not much gets past a Telegraph reader: '... the fact he has no breast pocket shows that he is truly a toff.'
The Old Man and the Knee
How to Be a Golden Oldie
‘I’d like to get one thing straight. I am not old. I know what old is, and I’m not it.’ This light-hearted guide to retirement discusses the amusing and exasperating points of ageing, from what to do with your spare time and coping with the changing attitudes and manners of younger generations to worrying about declining physical fitness and the perils of social media.
The author of eleven novels such as Headlong and the Booker-longlisted Skios, and many plays including Noises Off, Michael Frayn is also a prolific newspaper columnist. Dating from 1962 to 1994, this selection of his pieces deploys his characteristic wit, razor-sharp observation and offbeat comedy on a range of topics from bureaucratic absurdity to pretentious productions of Shakespeare. They are arranged in alphabetical order ‘because I couldn’t think of any more rational system’. Slightly off-mint.
I Don't Believe It!
Original Complaints of Tunbridge Wells
The British used to be better at complaining, as this sequel to the bestselling Outraged of Tunbridge Wells demonstrates. Before the internet debased the subtle art of invective, newspaper readers would take up their pens to inform editors of their disgust and outrage, perfectly balancing insouciance with sarcasm. The letters collected here appeared in Kent newspapers between Georgian times and the Second World War, and range from the pedantic and humorous to the poignant and political.
Baffling & Bizarre Inventions
This humorous multiple-choice quiz features 45 extraordinary inventions – including a talking watch, a mechanical golf instructor and a steam-driven bus, drawn from 200 years of American ingenuity – and challenges the reader to guess each object’s use from an illustration and description.
'You're nearly old enough to be dead, aren't you, Grandma?' 'If teachers keep asking you questions, does that mean they don't know much?' Compiled by former school inspector Gervase Phinn, this collection of children's disarming observations and impossible-to-answer questions proves Phinn’s point that 'on the whole' children are an amazing source of amusement and wonder.
I Think I Can See Where You're Going Wrong
And Other Wise and Witty Comments from Guardian Readers
Gathered from the daily crop of some 47,000 online comments on the Guardian website, this compilation ranges between heartfelt opinion and daft puns. It is unfailingly entertaining as Guardian readers air their views 'below the line' on everything from the pronunciation of quinoa to theatre-going: 'I can't resist a good nap during a visit to the theatre. Comfy seats, warmth, people talking in the background – lovely.'
The jacket assures us that ‘No dogs were harmed in the making of this book’, but some of them do look a bit apprehensive, some are loving it and the bull terrier is just humouring the odd photographer lady with the Frisbees and the wind machine (therein lies the trick). We dare you not to smile. No jacket.
The New Dictionary of Things There Should Be Words For
What should we call 'something that looks like minced beef but isn't'? Minsk, of course! 'Luxuriant nostril hairs'? Utrillas! Three decades after Douglas Adams and QI creator John Lloyd compiled The Meaning of Liff, here is a new collection of more than 900 familiar things that have hitherto remained unnamed, an oversight now corrected by recycling the appellations of places near and far.
This handsome collection of work by the veteran Political Cartoonist of The Times reproduces more than 100 savagely satirical sketches covering tumultuous events from autumn 2013 to the aftermath of the 2015 General Election, and includes the rise of Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon; the fall of Ed Miliband (drawn to resemble the eccentric inventor Wallace from Wallace and Gromit); crises in Greece, Syria and the NHS; and a heartfelt response to the Charlie Hebdo attack.
The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva
and Other Morsels of Misinformation from the History Books
Was there a real Lady Godiva? Yes. Did she ride through Coventry in the nude to persuade her husband to lower taxes? Probably not. David Haviland sorts fact from fiction in this entertaining compilation of historical trivia ranging from the Trojan War, the Delphic oracle and Julius Caesar to Sandringham's clocks, Kim Jong-Il's record-breaking round of golf – and even modern wireless technology. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
The Banned List
A Manifesto Against Jargon and Cliche
John Rentoul's polemical essay, which highlights annoyingly pretentious and hackneyed phrases, might make uncomfortable reading for those who exhibit a tendency to issue cast-iron guarantees while pulling out all the stops and proactively strategizing going forward. This is followed by the full 'banned list' of such objectionable locutions, which Rentoul has diligently compiled to save his fellow writers from annoying their readers.
Welcome to 'Just a Minute!'
A Celebration of Britain's Best-Loved Radio Comedy
Alongside regular players of the Radio 4 panel game Just a Minute such as Clement Freud, Peter Jones, Sheila Hancock, Kenneth Williams, Paul Merton and Jenny Eclair, Nicholas Parsons has appeared in every edition as chairman or (in the early days) panellist. In this celebration he recalls some of the funniest exchanges through the years, remembers the well-known personalities who have played the game and discusses how the show has evolved over its nearly 50-year history.
The Secret Diaries of Almost Everyone
This collection of revelatory, though utterly made-up, accounts from The Times includes new introductions from the author, whose satire skewers luminaries like Ed Balls, David Cameron, EL James, Prince Harry, Vladimir Putin, Oprah Winfrey – and Jeremy Clarkson ('Wednesday: A day in the Top Gear studio with Hammond and the other one, brainstorming new ways to be mean about the Germans').
The Customer's Always Wrong
Stupid Things Shoppers Say
Will cinemas pause films while you pop to the toilet? Can you get a refund after cutting the legs off new jeans? Is pouring butter into your computer a good idea? This book contains some of the most bizarre queries and complaints that staff have faced from the kind of customer who spends two frustrating days 'rewinding' a DVD or is upset when an omelette smells of eggs.
What It Is, and How to Retain it.
'Much dignity is given by long and sweeping skirts,' advises the anonymous author of this 1873 guide – and, perhaps more surprisingly, 'A little gin may be used instead of eau de Cologne.' With illustrative quotation from classical authors and English poetry, she identifies the features most admired in feminine beauty and gives tips for Victorian ladies wishing to improve their daily beauty regime.
In this extraordinary vision of the feline world we encounter a 'circus cat secretly rehearsing Hamlet', an 'unusually repulsive cat startled by a gesture of affection' and 'the exhausted Persian cat contemplating the advantages of monogamy'... three of the weird and wonderful creatures captured by Searle's inimitable illustrative style and vivid imagination.
Or, The Happy Land!
Author and illustrator Mary Frances Ames (1853-1929) produced several quirkily patriotic books at the turn of the 20th century. This example, first published in 1902, consists of a series of short humorous verses facing colour illustrations that celebrate such symbols of Englishness as cricket and golf, the Lord Mayor and First Sea-Lord, roast beef, ping-pong and bank holidays.
Manners for Millionaires
Aimed at readers who still have fewer than 17 spare bedrooms, this satirical guide from 1900 explains the best ways to progress through the more elevated ranks of late-Victorian society. Its tips range from money-making schemes for paupers to the easiest means for the rich to rid themselves of those cumbersome spare millions. The book is surreally illustrated with woodcuts depicting (alleged) British fish.
Conkers for Goalposts
To preserve the memory of the 1970s' best-loved playground games, this not entirely serious guide gathers together the rules, techniques and etiquette of such classic pastimes as Fighting, Football and French Skipping, Conkers, Para-Shorting and GBH Biking. With a foreword by 'sporting legend' Barry Wardrobe and spoof adverts for such bodies as the British Association of Schoolboy Hooligans (BASH), it is an affectionate celebration of childhood past.