THE BLOG
11/11/2013 13:16 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Why Comedians Write the Best Memoirs

For book publishers, we are in the middle of autobiography season, the scramble to get celebrity memoirs on the shelves in plenty of time for the 'primary gifting period'. Or Christmas to the rest of us.

It might sometimes seem as if anyone with a public profile has a book out, but the best of them, will surely come from comedians.

Why? Because those in this most egotistical of professions are used to talking about themselves, for one. And with a degree of honesty that is increasingly uncommon in risk-averse public life. Rare is the politician who will honestly say what they think, or the mainstream entertainment personality, who might risk ridicule or causing offence by owning up to their truly embarrassing secrets or daring to venture an opinion. But for a comedian, this is bread and butter. They know how to own their shame.

What's more, any half-decent anecdote they have will already have been tried out in front of a live audience, forcing them to hone down their amusing yarns and make them as entertaining as possible. I'm not sure Alex Ferguson, writer of the current bestselling memoir, would have tested out his bon mots midway through the half-time hairdryer treatment.

And any comedian who gets as tediously pretentious as Morrissey does in his self-deigned Penguin 'classic' autobiography would be laughed out of the Comedy Store - and not for the right reason. Writing clearly, wittily and in a distinctive voice is what makes any comedian great, and any author, too.

This year's comedy big-hitters include Jennifer Saunders - who has a lifetime of comic achievement to draw upon, from the groundbreaking days of alternative comedy as part of the Comic Strip troupe to the runaway success of Ab Fab - and former pharmaceutical salesman John Bishop, whose redemption through stand-up, which he embarked upon after a chance visit to a comedy club, has already proved an entertaining tale on the talk-show circuit.

Possibly the best of the the bunch comes from Johnny Vegas. Or rather his alter ego Michael Pennington, who describes how this raging, bitter Mr Hyde monster always lived inside of him - only to be let loose on the consumption of the right amount of his special elixir: Guinness.

There are two voices, too, in Jack Whitehall's book: Him and his father Michael, a veteran showbiz agent and larger-than-life character in his own right. In Him And Me they take turns to write passages, conversing with each other through the medium of print.

Pub Landlord creator Al Murray, meanwhile, uses his book to relive childhood memories of watching war films with his father. Or rather witnessing his dad, a World War Two buff, pick apart the factual inaccuracies in the movies - and so instilling a fascination with history that stays with him to this day.

And Count Arthur Strong, legend in his own mind and star of a recent, eponymous, BBC Two sitcom, has shares unreliable memories of a long, if never illustrious career, in Through It All I've Always Laughed.

Of course, not every comedian wants to expose their life on stage - nor in books. And Mock The Week regular Stewart Francis has dodged the biographical root to present 500 of his most wonderful one-liners in Pun Direction. Evidence that there are as many ways for a comedian to write a book as there are comedians - and one reason why we at the comedy website Chortle have set up the UK's first comedy book festival, to take place in Ealing, West London, from November 22 to 29, featuring many of the comics mentioned above.

Pre-Christmas the bookshop shelves are filled with dubious 'humour' titles... but the best comedy work is often to be found in the biography section.

• Steve Bennett is editor of Chortle and artistic director of the Chortle Comedy Book Festival. Visit comedybookfest.com for details of the 20-plus events, and to book tickets.