Fantasycon panel: what made you want to be funny?

I was on a very lively panel at Fantasycon talking about Humour in Genre Fiction. It was lively because it was chaired by Donna Bond who whipped things along at a frantic pace and got loads of laughs out of everyone.
Chris Brookmyre talked about the opening scene in Quite Ugly One Morning which features the memorable addition of a “jobbie” on the mantlepiece. Adam Millard described his book Zoonami as “like Sharknado but with the whole zoo”. Duncan Bradshaw and Jen Williams were hilarious and charming.
One of the early questions, put to us all, was “what made you want to be funny?”.

Heide Goody, Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog
Heide and Bob

The answer I gave on the day was to reveal that my uncle is Bob Carolgees, who appalled the nation in the 1980s with a comedy punk dog called Spit.

It’s true that as a teen I craved the laughs that Bob could generate with his stage show and on Tiswas, an anarchic Saturday morning TV show of the time.

Other influences

A grounding in British sitcoms is part of the story as well. Anyone who grew up with Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Father Ted is primed for comedy.


I’m still not sure that’s the whole story though. 

With the passing of Malcolm Young in recent days, I have been reflecting on how AC/DC are layered in there somewhere as a comedy influence. Their music is riddled with double-entendres and corny wordplay.
A live performance by them has always been a masterclass in whipping the audience into a hollering frenzy.

I was alerted this week to a wonderful parody routine by comedian Jim Breuer which captures exactly what it’s like.

AC/DC 2016 Olympic Park
AC/DC at Olympic Park London, 2016

And what about the props? Giant inflatable women, cannons, trains and bells. It’s as if they went to the slapstick cupboard and decided to get everything out. EVERYTHING.
Angus Young still dresses as a schoolboy. He started doing it when he was a schoolboy, but now he’s in his sixties he does it because everyone expects him to. Because it’s funny. He is also famously aware of the reputation that the band has for making formulaic songs. In an interview,when it was suggested that the band had put out 11 albums that all sound exactly the same, he angrily countered the accusations, saying that actually they’d put out 12 albums that all sound exactly the same…


In case you’re not convinced about the corny wordplay, a few years ago I made a crossword for a charity magazine inspired by some of AC/DC’s finest work.

I shall attempt to reproduce it here for your entertainment. See how you get on:
Crossword grid



1 and 3
Quote from an AC/DC song: “some _____ are held for charity and some for fancy dress, but when they’re held for pleasure they’re the _____ that I like best”


1. Sporting equipment made by Gilbert
2. What does the Spanish word Cojones mean?