The Humorist by Russell Kane

Is Russell Kane brewing over a bad review? His debut novel is narrated by a tormented, repellent comedy critic who can deconstruct jokes in a flash but cannot laugh. It opens with a slaughter at the Comedy Store, and then backtracks to tell the story of the reviewer’s discovery of a secret blueprint for humour previously known only by Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks and members of Monty Python. It turns out that it’s not the material but the way it’s delivered that’s crucial, and the ideal set involves pelvic thrusting, the “Hicks brow” and a pose that’s equal parts dinosaur and porn star.

As with Kane’s own comedy, overstatement rules. Characters swear graphically. Violence is described in lavish detail, with snapping bones and leakages of every conceivable bodily fluid. Strangely, though, the jokes aren’t funny – not even snippets we hear of the routine so potent it makes listeners bleed from the eyes and die. Under all the gore there’s a point about the elusive spark that makes some comedians great, but the story reads more like wish fulfilment than satire.

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