Last Week’s Late DAILY SHOW Reunion…

Last week on the Late Show, Stephen Colbert hosted a reunion of The Daily Show correspondents and Jon Stewart. Here are some clips:

A great segment. If you like them, then I’d highly recommend The Daily Show: The Book, a fantastic oral history of the show (and one of my favourite books of last year).

Here’s the book’s synopsis:

The complete, uncensored history of the award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as told by its correspondents, writers, and host.

For almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today’s most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and garnered 23 Emmys. Now the show’s behind-the-scenes gags, controversies, and camaraderie will be chronicled by the players themselves, from legendary host Jon Stewart to the star cast members and writers-including Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, and Larry Wilmore-plus some of The Daily Show’s most prominent guests and adversaries: John and Cindy McCain, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, and many more.

This oral history takes the reader behind the curtain for all the show’s highlights, from its origins as Comedy Central’s underdog late-night program hosted by Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart’s long reign to Trevor Noah’s succession, rising from a scrappy jester in the 24-hour political news cycle to become part of the beating heart of politics-a trusted source for not only comedy but also commentary, with a reputation for calling bullshit and an ability to effect real change in the world.

Through years of incisive election coverage, Jon Stewart’s emotional monologue in the wake of 9/11, his infamous confrontation on Crossfire, passionate debates with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, feuds with Bill O’Reilly and Fox, the Indecisions, Mess O’Potamia, and provocative takes on Wall Street and racism, The Daily Show has been a cultural touchstone. Now, for the first time, the people behind the show’s seminal moments come together to share their memories of the last-minute rewrites, improvisations, pranks, romances, blow-ups, and moments of Zen both on and off the set of one of America’s most groundbreaking shows.

There are more clips up on the Late Show’s YouTube page.

Audio Review: TRUTHS, HALF TRUTHS & LITTLE WHITE LIES by Nick Frost (Hodder)

FrostN-TruthsHalfTruths&LittleWhiteLiesAn amusing, at times moving, memoir of a life up to stardom

“No life can really be all black, right? Even during the darkest times, what got me through that bleakness was laughter and time. With enough of both of these things I reckon you could get over just about anything.”

Nick Frost burst onto our screens in a blaze of camo fatigues and weaponry as the Territorial Army obsessed loveable idiot Mike Watt in the hit cult comedy Spaced. Since then, fans around the world have watched him with a fervent devotion as he fought zombies, rescued aliens and salsa’d his way to box office smash after smash.

It’s quite a story. But it’s not this story. This story isn’t the romp from movie set to Hollywood party. This is a story of a life like no other.

With blistering candour Frost recounts his childhood growing up in Essex in a household full of love and optimism but tragically blighted by alcoholism, illness and sudden life shattering misfortune. 

Dogged by his own personal demons, Nick tells of the hilarious, jaw dropping and at times heartbreaking experiences that have punctuated his tumultuous life.

Nick Frost is possibly best known for his roles in Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and Paul. He’s probably also best known as Simon Pegg’s best bud. After reading (or listening) to this audiobook, though, you’ll know him as a very funny, friendly, yet introverted fellow, too. I didn’t know anything about him outside of his film roles, so I was very interested in listening to this audiobook. I was not disappointed — this could be one of the top five audiobooks I’ve listened to this year. Continue reading

Review: SO, ANYWAY… by John Cleese (Doubleday)

CleeseJ-SoAnywayAn interesting, if surprising biography

Candid and brilliantly funny, this is the story of how a tall, shy youth from Weston-super-Mare went on to become a self-confessed legend. En route, John Cleese describes his nerve-racking first public appearance, at St Peter’s Preparatory School at the age of eight and five-sixths; his endlessly peripatetic home life with parents who seemed incapable of staying in any house for longer than six months; his first experiences in the world of work as a teacher who knew nothing about the subjects he was expected to teach; his hamster-owning days at Cambridge; and his first encounter with the man who would be his writing partner for over two decades, Graham Chapman. And so on to his dizzying ascent via scriptwriting for Peter Sellers, David Frost, Marty Feldman and others to the heights of Monty Python.

Punctuated from time to time with John Cleese’s thoughts on topics as diverse as the nature of comedy, the relative merits of cricket and waterskiing, and the importance of knowing the dates of all the kings and queens of England, this is a masterly performance by a former schoolmaster.

This biography was not at all what I was expecting. For one thing, Monty Python plays a relatively tiny part in the story. Instead of So, Anyway…, this book could easily have been called “The Road to Monty Python”. Despite this, I found it interesting and, after Cleese moved on to his university days, absolutely engaging. Continue reading

Audio Review: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS by Neil Patrick Harris (Audible/Crown)

HarrisNP-NeilPatrickHarrisAutobiographyA very good autobiography

You’ve already made a great choice by picking up the audio edition of Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Autobiography. This hilarious book has been adapted especially for the audiobook edition so you’ll hear all of the same fun and humor from the printed version but you don’t have to make any decisions or jump around – just kick back, relax, and listen. Plus, it features exclusive bonus audio of young Neil delivering an adorable speech! That’s audio you won’t hear in any version of this book other than the audiobook!

I only recently finished watching How I Met Your Mother, which I thoroughly enjoyed (save for the… disappointing ending). Naturally, I found Barney to be a stand-out element of the show (he and Marshall were my favourites). So, when I was able to get this for review from Audible, I was very much looking forward to diving right in. Unlike the book, which is a Choose Your Own Autobiography, for the audio edition NPH narrates in a far more linear style. He offers a few alternate options, which were amusing, but for the main he sticks to the story. Continue reading

Quick Review: THINKING ABOUT IT ONLY MAKES IT WORSE by David Mitchell (Faber)

MitchellD-ThinkingAboutItOnlyMakesItWorseA superb collection of Mitchell’s Observer columns

Why is my jumper depreciating? What’s wrong with calling a burglar brave? Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing? Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it okay? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? Why is every film and TV programme a sequel or a remake? Why are we so reliant on perpetual diversion that someone has created chocolate toothpaste? Is there anything to be done about the Internet?

These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell as he delights us with a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Downton Abbey, sports day to smoking, nuclear weapons to phone etiquette, UKIP to hotdogs made of cats. Funny, provocative and shot through with refreshing amounts of common sense, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious nation.

David Mitchell is a comedian, actor, writer and the polysyllabic member of Mitchell and Webb. He won BAFTAs for Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, and has also starred in Jam and Jerusalem, The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff and Ambassadors. He writes for the Observer, chairs TheUnbelievable Truth, is a team captain on Would I Lie To You? and has been in two films, neither of which made a profit.

I have long been a fan of David Mitchell’s television work – That Mitchell & Webb Look, Peep Show (which I was actually didn’t love at first), the all-too-short Ambassadors mini-series, and his frequent guest spots on QI and Have I Got News For You being my favourites. After I listened to the audio edition of his superb memoir, Back Story, my respect for him grew even more (it’s among my top ten ‘reads’ of the year, easily). I didn’t know how frequently he had been writing for the Observer, however, so I was pleasantly surprised when I received a review copy of Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse. This is a great read. Continue reading

Audio Reviews: MICHAEL PALIN’S DIARIES, 1969-1988 (Orion/Audible)

PalinM-Diaries-Vols.1-2

A fantastic pair of memoirs, covering some of the best of British comedy

Michael Palin has kept a diary since being newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter (for David Frost, the Two Ronnies, etc). Monty Python was just around the corner. In this first volume of his diaries, he tells for the first time how Python emerged and triumphed. Perceptive and funny, it chronicles not only his struggle to find a niche in the world of television comedy, but also the extraordinary goings on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Monty Python team.

The second volume of Michael Palin’s diaries covers the 1980s, a decade in which the ties that bound the Pythons loosened as they forged their separate careers. After a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, they made their last performance together in 1983, in the hugely successful Monty Python’s Meaning of Life…

Continuing my consumption of comedian memoirs, I turned to Michael Palin’s excellent Diaries. These first two volumes (I’m listening to the third at the moment), details much of Palin’s most famous work with the Pythons – as part of that group and also the projects that involved just one or two of them. They’re abridged, which sometimes made me wish for more. At the same time, though, they kept the story moving, and I was never bored (in fact, I blitzed through them in three days). If you’re looking for an excellent comedian/celebrity memoir, then I would absolutely recommend these two: The Python Years and Halfway to Hollywood.

Palin takes us through the Python movies, touching upon the different dynamics that evolved between the members of Britain’s best-known comedy group. Whether it was the wild years and antics of Graham Chapman (who seems rather self-destructive and reckless), the rather serious John Cleese, the savvy and fame-hungry Eric Idle, and the more sedate Terrys (Jones and Gilliam). Palin’s comments on Life of Brian and The Holy Grail will be of interest to anyone who enjoyed those movies, as will his thoughts on A Fish Called Wanda (one of my favourite movies). He talks of the highs and lows of his career; his joy at seeing his family grow and succeed around him; his respect for his fellow Pythons and frequent happiness for their individual successes (Fawlty Towers, for example).

He wrote much of the dialogue and acted in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and acted in his next film, Brazil. He co-produced, wrote and played the lead in The Missionary opposite Maggie Smith, who also appeared with him in A Private Function, written by Alan Bennett. For television he wrote East of Ipswich, inspired by his links with Suffolk.

The second book finishes around the time that Palin was starting the first of his hugely popular and successful travel programs for the BBC. (Sadly, I have yet to see these, but after hearing him talk about them, my interest has certainly grown.)

Overall, then, these two Diaries audiobooks are a delight to listen to: Palin comes across very much as his reputation would suggest: kind, calm, and frequently amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed these, and didn’t hesitate to pre-order the third volume. A must-read/-listen if you a fan of Monty Python, or any of Palin’s other great projects.

Very highly recommended.