The unfortunate Manuel in
Fawlty Towers — portrayed by the similarly accident-prone Andrew Sachs

The harrowing, inspiring life of Andrew Sachs

Comedians always like to claim that they started making jokes after childhoods made harsh by poverty; that at a formative…

The 59th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards - Ceremony

Is a new art form being born on Woman's Hour?

In a comic-strip cartoon, beads of water apparently radiating outward from the head of one of the characters indicate embarrassment.…


An utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel

This utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel is something from another age. There are elements of A Handful of Dust…


Don't flog a dead parrot - leave Monty Python in the past

Monty Python was funny once. But a revival is a dreadful idea


Burlesque is not as bad as stripping. It's far worse

A sense of irony doesn’t make stripping feminist. It just makes it worse to watch

A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson, edited by Harry Mount - review

It’s just a guess, but I suspect that the mere sight of this book would make David Cameron gnash his…


The man behind Eric and Ernie

It takes a special sort of talent to turn a good act into a great one, and without John Ammonds,…

Life imitates art

The other evening my wife came home to find me watching re-runs of Steptoe and Son. The washing up had…

A bit of slap and tickle

Hard on the heels of the ecstatically received London revival of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off (currently playing at the Novello…

Deviation and double entendre

If there’s anything full-time novelists hate more than a celebrity muscling in on their turf, it’s the celebrity doing such…


Bookends: The showbiz Boris Johnson

Amiability can take you a long way in British public life. James Corden is no fool: he co-wrote and co-starred…


An existential hero

Sam Leith is enthralled by a masterpiece on monotony, but is devastated by its author’s death

Cross-cultural exchanges

The 18 stories, each around a dozen pages long, in E.C. Osondu’s Voice of America seem to have poured out of him like water. They have a fluency, an evenness of tone and texture, that creates an illusion of transparency and simplicity.


Forgotten laughter

The Radio Times now lists 72 channels, and that’s not all of them.


Twin peaks

It’s that time of year. The great reckoning is upon us. Insurance is being renewed. Tax returns are being ferreted out. Roofing jobs are being appraised and budgeted for. And spouses are being trundled into central London for the annual session of dialysis at the theatre.

Lords of laughter

Great actors and great sportsmen now almost expect a knighthood. Why are great comedians limited to lesser honours?


The sound of broken glass

What do Evelyn Waugh, Peter Cook and Chris Morris have in common? I would have said ‘irreverence’ and left it at that; but the social scientist Peter Wilkin has written a book on the subject, The Strange Case of Tory Anarchism.

Dying of laughter

Marcus Berkmann on the few genuinely funny books aimed at this year’s Christmas market


Anything for a laugh

A hundred years ago, when Britannia still ruled the waves, the Royal Navy fell victim to a humiliating hoax, reports of which kept the public amused for a few wintry days in February 1910.


A couple of drifters

Paul Torday was 59 when his first novel, the highly acclaimed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, was published in 2006.

Quirky books for Christmas

After the Christmas ‘funny’ books, here’s an even larger pile of Christmas ‘quirky’ books.

But then the snow turned to rain

My daughter when small came home from school one night singing these extraordinary lines: ‘Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me/ And will thy favours never lighter be?’

The one that got away

Michael Palin is the meekest, mildest and nicest of the Pythons.

Cries and whispers

Strange Days Indeed, by Francis Wheen