RIP XIII – Book 2

Dead Funny – ed. Robin Ince & Johnny Mains

Horror Stories by Comedians

This little book is my second read for R.I.P. XIII (more about that here). It comprises sixteen ‘horror stories written by comedians’ and was published by Salt in 2014, and followed up two years later by Dead Funny: Encore.

Short stories and horror make a potent pairing – a short sharp shock treatment – and I was expecting some mordant black humour from the authors, who, as Robin Ince says in his introduction:

And while you are reading this book, remember that the goriest deaths will have been created while the writer was imagining their worst heckler.

This collection is bookended by two gems from comedians who already write in the horror genre.  Reece Shearsmith, of The League of Gentlemen and Inside No 9 kicks things off with a revenge tale (or should it be tail?!) that goes wrong in ‘Dog‘ which begins:

I have NEVER liked dogs. I find them dirty and stupid and totally worthless. I don’t understand the mind of anyone that has a dog. How can you possibly find time to care for it? Let it stink out your home? Walk alongside it, scooping up its hot shit off the pavement and grass?

We soon find out why the narrator hates canines so, and what he does about it!

The story that ends the collection is by Charlie Higson who, apart from being one of the Fast Show gurus, has written some extremely nasty and funny adult thrillers (see here) and a long-running zombie series for middle-grade children, The Enemy (see here).  ‘Filthy Night‘ stars an aged has-been horror film star, (who comes over as a cross between Peter Wyngarde as Jason King and Vincent Price) who is persuaded to visit the home of one of his superfans.

My favourite of all was by Stewart Lee, who contributes ‘A Christmas Ghost Story’ called A View from a Hill.  This metafictional narrative features Lee himself and his calamitous worst Christmas as he struggles to complete various writing commissions in time, and as he recalls his increasingly unhinged friend Julian alongside a vision of the Uffington White Horse coming to life.  He writes brilliantly about how he, as a ‘niche art-comedy turn’ has to perform ‘degrading’ promotional duties for his products – something that if you’ve seen any of his TV series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle,  you know he can take the piss out of everything in an existential way. Loved it!

Phill Jupitus made me chuckle; Sara Pascoe made me remember a nasty story that did the rounds back in the 1970s about spiders laying eggs inside people’s cheeks while they slept; Mitch Benn’s story had a creeping inevitability to it, as did Katy Brand’s; Rufus Hound and Matthew Holness told bizarre tales; and Al Murray surprised me with how sad his tale was, amongst the others in this super collection.

Comedians and horror is indeed a potent blend.  For adults only due to the language as much as horror, this was great fun.

Source: Review copy – belated thanks!

Dead Funny, ed Robin Ince & Johnny Mains, (Salt, 2014) paperback, 224 pages.

BUY at Amazon UK (affliate link)

6 thoughts on “RIP XIII – Book 2

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Behind every comedian is a tragedian trying to get out … or to get their own back. We saw Robin Ince at the Crickhowell Lit Fest recently and in amongst the funny and occasionally acerbic comments there lurked depression and a hint of the macabre, so your characterisation of this book doesn’t surprise me. And what a constellation of Pagliacci types the editors have drawn together — I must check this out, for definite!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I concur! Your description of Ince rather matches his own story in this collection, which I forgot to mention above – he is a bit of an strange comedian compared with some of the others – although perhaps Stewart Lee is the most acquired taste of them all – I love his twisted but always thought-provoking take on the world though. I’ll definitely look out for the sequel – but really I ought to read more Robert Aickman, whose ‘strange tales’ are undoubtedly an inspiration to many here.

      • Calmgrove says:

        I should add that Ince is a very humane and compassionate man, which came across in his at times almost hyper but definitely wide-ranging talk, grasshopping from one topic to another.

  2. buriedinprint says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun. The tone seems so readable! The idea of mixing these two genres is terrific: I will definitely have a look for this one.

  3. johnny mains says:

    thank you very much for the review – there is a second book called DEAD FUNNY: ENCORE that might pique your interest also!


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