The Germans have the perfect word for Jimmy Carr's face. His is a Backpfeifengesicht. It's a face you could happily punch until the cows come home. Sadly though, after reading this wonderful book there's an audible lowing at the farmyard gates, and that over-exposed smugness suddenly seems almost tolerable. Almost.
`The Naked Jape' is a warm, lucid and delightfully enlightening look at the history of The Joke, its mechanics, and its place in human culture. The authors deal with the entire spectrum of humour, from the childish to the bigoted. Where the humour is off-colour, the authors explain rather than revel in the shock, and they have a real knack for condensing academic and amateur studies of jokes and condensing them into an argument that's both cogent, readable and very human. They also get points for not resorting to hagiography when mentioning legends such as Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce. Theirs is a very balanced view.
After finishing this book I think I understand more clearly why we laugh, and why that's important. I'd like to think Lucy wrote all illuminating bits, but Jimmy and his face probably provided a fair share. His evocation of what it takes to be a standup - putting yourself up there in the hot glare of an audience's expectations and judgment - is especially vivid.
If you're curious about comedy and its wider cultural resonances, put to one side that wave of nausea at seeing that name on the cover, read the book, and you may well change your view of the man and his - gulp - art. But just in case you don't I'll keep my foot on his neck `til you're finished...