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Open Book's presenter Mariella Frostrup

Between now and Christmas, Open Book is on a mission to dispel the gloom that's all around us by celebrating the enduring pleasure of classic comic writing. Mariella Frostrup and her guests will celebrate funny books, funny writers and the much under-rated virtues of laughter-inducing literature.

She'll be engaging the talents of some top writers and comedians to help uncover Open Book's Funniest Book, and asking listeners about the book they'd recommend to put a smile back on people's faces.

In the five Open Books leading up to Xmas, listeners can follow a mini history of funny humour, when Mariella, with the help of academic John Mullen, romps through centuries of comic writing.

In the programme this week is ex-Python Terry Jones on the enduring chortle power of Chaucer - raunchy, risque and strangely contemporary. Coming up are Fiona Shaw on Shakespeare, Jenny Uglow on the 18th century, Roy Hattersley on the 19th century and Ronald Harwood on the 20th century.

Mariella will also invite listeners to join her for Open Book's Funniest Book balloon debate, happening in the Radio Theatre (recorded 8 December and on Radio 4 in an Open Books special on 24 December). She'll be joined by Jo Brand, Tony Parsons, A L Kennedy and John Sessions amongst others as they try to convince the audience that their book is the most consistently rewarding funny read.

Their choices are:

And each week our panel will take it in turns to come onto the programme to tell us more about their funny writer and give some background to their lives. Too often maligned as a sub-standard genre, Open Book wants to elevate comic writing to its rightful place.

Fiona Couper is editor of Open Book and Bookclub

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  • Comment number 26. Posted by Paul Murphy

    on 1 Dec 2011 16:01

    Hello everyone

    Thanks for all the great suggestions.

    This thread is now closed for comments but you can still leave your suggestions over here on this more recent post from Fiona, Open Book's Editor:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2011/11/open_books_funny_books_whats_y.html

    All the best
    Paul

  • Comment number 25. Posted by 3arn0wl

    on 27 Nov 2011 21:03

    "The British Museum is falling down" by David Lodge is pretty good.

    And

    I found "Any fool can be a dairy farmer" by James Robertson achingly funny as a teenager.

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by Little Old Lady

    on 27 Nov 2011 17:05

    Ian Macpherson's The Autobiography of Ireland's Greatest Living Genius (Fiachra MacFiach) is the funniest book ever. Complete book published 2011 - so it's a new kid on the block. Website is hilarious too. www.irishgenius.me

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by susieb

    on 27 Nov 2011 16:59

    I also agree with Peggythepirate that Diary of A Nobody is very funny indeed. I was disappointed that it ended so quickly.

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by susieb

    on 27 Nov 2011 16:55

    Peter Kay's The Sound of Laughter is not highbrow or considered 'readerly', but during a Summer where I spent three months with a broken leg and had nothing much to laugh about, the garden was at last filled with the sound of MY laughter. Kay's witty tales and observations about life really made me feel better.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Peggythepirate

    on 27 Nov 2011 16:51

    The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith is my favourite funny book. I read it again and again. There are so many really funny bits but I'll just mention how afronted Pooter is when he meets his grocer at the mayor's ball.

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by fiona barnard

    on 27 Nov 2011 16:29

    My recommendation for funniest book is Janice Gentle gets Sexy by Mavis Cheek. The story of a spinster romantic novelist told by her publisher to go beyond the bedroom door.

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by Jenny L

    on 26 Nov 2011 22:15

    Funniest books - two: Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse; remember having to leave the University Library for laughing too loudly over this book; brilliantly funny about the myth of The North. Second one, The Serial by Cyra McFadden, about alternative types in 70s San Francisco, a marriage falling apart amid the zen mediation and rolfing sessions.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Lofty

    on 25 Nov 2011 15:47

    Mrs.Caudle's Curtain Lectures: written by Douglas Jerrold and first published in 'Punch' iin 1845.
    'The lectures are a war of attrition between the irresistible force of Mrs. Caudle's tongue and the stamina of her poor husband's tortured ears.' The wife sees herself as martyrdom personified, a label that the husband has earned. Nothing is too trivial to not be worthy of a tirade. The writing is wonderfully evocative, one feels like an eavesdropper in the room with the pair.
    Each lecture (taking just a few pages) is unfailingly funny, and I think , that together, they are ideal for a 15 minute radio slot.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by PaulineEyre

    on 24 Nov 2011 18:26

    Cold Comfort Farm - every word a joy. Stella Gibbons manages to have her cake and eat it: she pokes fun at the literary world in laugh-out-loud ways and still manages to bring the novel to a shamelessly romantic close. She delivers prose that is both tight and hilarious. A timeless classic of comic fiction.

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