I am taking a break from I’m With Geek for the week as I take in the delights of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But while I’m basking in comedy glory (for stand-up comedy is my main reason for attending) I pity the people back home who are denied the laughter. But fear not, I am here to provide with literature! In the first of a semi-regular series, we look at three comedians who made the leap to the fiction world.
Mark Watson may be a regular face on the panel show circuit, and his marathon 24 hour shows are legendary amongst comedy festivals, but he is also an accomplished novelist. He published his first book, Bullet Points at the age of 24 in 2004, and followed this up with 2007’s A Light-Hearted Look at Murder, about a Hitler lookalike, Eleven in 2010, a cleverly-intertwining tale with a more serious tone, The Knot in 2012, following a wedding photographer, and the recently released Hotel Alpha. Watson’s novels showcase his wit, but also his intelligence and his knack for an interesting and involving story structure, especially in the case of Eleven.
Mitch Benn is a musical comedian primarily known for his regular appearances on Radio 4’s The Now Show, and for being a hero of geek culture with his passion for Doctor Who (listen to his song Dr Who Girl for proof). At a loose end one day on Twitter, he was told by Gollancz editor Simon Spranton to drop by and discuss the sci-fi novel he was going to write. And write he did. Last year saw the release of Terra, a novel which comfortably sits in the realms of comic sci-fi along with Douglas Adams, but with an 11-year-old protagonist, also appealing to the young adult market. Praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Benn reveals himself to be skilled with more than just a guitar.
It would be remiss not to include Stephen Fry in this list, as his writing career is almost as prolific as his numerous appearances on the BBC. Amongst his back catalogue are two autobiographies, Moab is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, along with his poetry-writing guide The Ode Less Travelled. But it is his fiction we are concerned with, of which there are four novels: The Liar was Fry’s first novel back in 1991, about an exceptionally good liar who takes part in an espionage game purely to avoid boredom. This was followed by alternate universe novel Making History, in which Adolf Hitler’s father was rendered infertile, The Hippopotamus, set in a Norfolk country manor, and a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo called The Stars’ Tennis Balls.