Best comedy books and DVDs of 2018

Bruce Dessau
Confessional: Romesh Ranganathan: BBC PICTURE ARCHIVES

The world may be going digital but DVDs still have their place at Christmas.

Gifting a download code will never feel the same as handing over a lovingly or hastily wrapped shiny disc. This year big stand-ups dominate the releases.

The DVD is certainly cheaper than a ticket to see them in an arena. Whether you are watching or reading, giving or receiving, laughs are assured.


The League of Gentlemen Live Again!

Two decades after their breakthrough, this reunion finally happened. Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton dust off their classic grotesques, from monstrous patriarch Pop to tragi-comic rocker Les “I was an emergency Womble” McQueen. The comedy is warped yet also prescient. Royston Vasey’s local shop for local people feels like a foreshadowing of Brexit.

£12.99 | HMV | Buy it now

Jon Richardson The Old Man — Live Universal

Thirtysomething fusspot Richardson has already developed a penchant for non-ironic cardigans alongside an air of constant irritation. A visit to the barber feels like descending into Dante’s Inferno. Heaven help him if he doesn’t know where the nearest toilet is. And don’t mention Nick Knowles. Not edgy but you do get helpful household tips. As Richardson says: “There might be better comedians, but not one of them will tell you something about a baking tray that will change the way you look at Sunday roast.”

£12.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Kevin Bridges The Brand New Tour — Live Universal

The superstar Scot recently hit the headlines for attracting hecklers. You can shout to your heart’s content at home but instead just sit back and laugh as Bridges riffs brilliantly on dieting, social mobility and ageing, but the highlight is his painfully acute recollection of waiting for a takeaway in preDeliveroo days. Let’s hope Billy Connolly keeps going for ever, but in case he doesn’t, Bridges is his natural heir.

£9.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

John Bishop Winging It Spirit Entertainment

The Liverpool motormouth cements his status as a raconteur par excellence, even if the observations have changed since his early days. He now jokes about meeting Bono and acquiring a mini-zoo of pets. Like Kevin Bridges, Bishop is also big on nostalgia, yearning for the days before Tinder when people actually had to speak to each other if they wanted a date.

£10 | Amazon | Buy it now

Joe Lycett I’m About to Lose Control And I Think Joe Lycett — Live Spirit Entertainment

This former graphic designer is starting to appear regularly on TV producers’ wish-lists, and you can see why here. He is certainly versatile, he tells stories, he paints, he sculpts — the DVD artwork includes pictures of things he discusses onstage. Best of all, though, Lycett likes to make mischief, playfully trolling local authorities and Olympic swimmers. His show might seem a bit scattershot at times but stick around, it fits together perfectly in the end.

£10 | Amazon | Buy it now


The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies Deborah Frances-White Virago

How easy is it to be a feminist in the 21st century? Can you be a feminist and still enjoy Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman? Deborah FrancesWhite, who fronts the acclaimed podcast of the same name, tackles the complexities of feminism in the post-#Metoo era with wit, wisdom and honesty. An eloquent, entertaining read that does not shy away from serious issues including pornography and the gender pay gap

£10.49 | Amazon | Buy it now

I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes Us Human Robin Ince Atlantic

Accessible, intriguing analysis of comedy (and the human condition). Cerebral comic Robin Ince looks at what makes certain people want to stand onstage and make others laugh. Is it a defence mechanism? A coping strategy? Alongside discussions about taboo and offence Ince peppers this smart, laugh-out-loud book with casestudy nuggets about himself and colleagues including Ricky Gervais, going way beyond exploring showbiz to dissect the very essence of consciousness.

£8.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

The Pub Manifesto: A Comedian Stands Up for Pubs James Dowdeswell CAMRA Book

A book about watering holes by a comedian? Al Murray’s Pub Landlord missed a trick as James Dowdeswell is first in with an impassioned account of the ups and downs of drinking holes. The West Country comedian literally knows his subject from the inside, having grown up in a hostelry, and takes inspiration from George Orwell’s description of the perfect pub in an article published in this very newspaper in 1946.

£12.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Today South London, Tomorrow South London Andrew Grumbridge and Vince Raison Unbound

If you have yet to come across the Deserter website’s glorious celebrations of south London loafing you can catch up with this spin-off. The writers offer their own distinctive and genuinely useful guide to London’s underbelly from crazy golf to arty hangouts, getting into various scrapes along the way. Do I like this? For transparency, reader, I contributed to their crowdfunder campaign. That’s how much I like it.

£9.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

The Holy Vible Elis James and John Robins Trapeze

These good friends have parlayed their Radio X show into a hit tour, and now this book, in which they offer their version of the Bible. But a bible in the very loosest of senses, one worshipping snooker icon Ronnie O’Sullivan, spicy curries and, in Robins’ case, Queen’s back catalogue. The unapologetically Welsh James and the unashamedly obsessive Robins make a formidable doubleact, sometimes affectionate but mostly bickering like an elderly couple.

£13.15 | Amazon | Buy it now

Straight Outta Crawley: Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human Being Romesh Ranganathan Bantam

Romesh Ranganathan gets confessional. From his weight issues, anxiety and lazy eye to his father going to prison, this account boasts all the classic hallmarks of the standup wanting to triumph over trauma. Ranganathan is candidly amusing about the lows and highs of comedy. After an early storming show he says: “I came off the stage feeling like a superhero.”

£13 | Amazon | Buy it now

Next Up Subscription

If you do prefer the modern option, pioneering streaming service Next Up is offering membership that gives the lucky recipient access to more than 100 live shows. The current roster includes sets from The Mash Report’s Rachel Parris, Lou Sanders, Fern Brady, Gina Yashere, Daliso Chaponda, Lauren Pattison and Miles Jupp. Annual subscription is £49.99, less than £1 a week.

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