Radio 4’s Open Book celebrates comic writing

Date: 14.11.2011     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.10
Category: Radio 4
Funny books, funny writers and the often over-looked art of funny writing in general will be the focus of a series of programmes on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book.

Presented by Mariella Frostrup, Open Book will run a search for the its funniest book by inviting a selection of top comedians and writers to argue the case for their favourite funny work. And, leading up to Christmas, Open Book will broadcast a mini-history of humorous literature, starting on 13 November.

Mariella will engage the talents of a selection of top writers and comedians - to include Jo Brand, Tony Parson, A L Kennedy and John Sessions - in the search for Open Books' Funniest Book. These 'advocates' will argue which is the most consistently rewarding funny read and make their case in a balloon debate, in front of a Radio 4 audience. The search for Open Book's Funniest Book will be broadcast on Christmas Eve.

The confirmed 'advocates' - Tony Parsons (The Virgin Soldiers by Leslie Thomas), A L Kennedy (The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh), John Sessions (1066 And All That by W C Sellar and R J Yeatman), Jo Brand (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka) - will put forth reasons why their chosen favourite is the funniest book.

In the build up to the balloon debate, Mariella and academic John Mullen will discuss different aspects of the history of comedy writing and literature, from medieval times until the present day. Guests to contribute to the discussions will include Terry Jones talking about Chaucer - 13% funny, according to Jones, but a great influence on the Pythons. Fiona Shaw discusses Shakespeare and Jenny Uglow considers humour in the 18th century. Roy Hattersley will cover the 19th century and Ronald Harwood will discuss comedy writing in the 20th century.

Anyone wishing to apply for tickets to see the recording of the balloon debate at BBC Broadcasting House in central London on 8 December should visit

Listeners can also take part by telling Open Book about the funny books that they love, and join Mariella in celebrating "…laughing out loud, at a book that is funny… one of the most delicious pleasures known to man or woman."