I've received several "comedian-based" annuals over the years - from Lenny Henry's Well Hard Paperback to Harry Hill's Fun Book. None of these (well, perhaps excluding the Spitting Image Book) have made as much of a lasting impression, however, as Russ Abbot's Fun Book.
Why was the five-year-old version of myself gifted this? Was I a junior Russ Abbot's Madhouse fanatic? Were things getting desperate on the 24th of December in 1990? Those are questions I'll probably never get around to asking. It's still a book that lives up to its "fun" title, though.
Allow the blurb to give the first impressions, if you'd be so kind:
So what have we got? According to the credits page, all of the stuff inside this book's adapted from the BBC's Russ Abbot shows, in the sense that it's all been converted into comic strips, text stories, puzzles and infographics, with varying results. Fatman Vs. The Joker, for example, is a bit of a dud:
This Oliver Twist parody's a bit more like it - funny wordplay and all that, I like that sort of thing.
The Fencing Master, meanwhile, whilst a favourite of mine at the time, soon enough turned out to be a straight Monty Python rip-off. At least this fencing instructor's got a bit more patience than the Black Knight:
As mentioned, there's more than "just" comic strips in here - there's a cookery section:
And a gardening page too!
Wait for the punchline...
There's a script for a Basildon Bond film in here too, which goes on forever (well, six pages). The poster's nice enough:
A sampling from the "script":
CUT TO Z'S LABORATORY. Z IS P'S EQUIPMENT EXPERT. THE LABORATORY IS THE SIZE OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY. IN THE BACKGROUND, THE WELSH GUARDS ARE ATTACKING TANKS WITH GIANT, LASER-FIRING TORTOISES. A KILLER WHALE IS BEING TAUGHT TO JUMP BY PARACHUTE AND AN ARMY OF TECHNICIANS IS ASSEMBLING A FULL-SIZE QE2 MADE OF POT NOODLE. Z IS DEMONSTRATING HIS LATEST DEVICE TO BOND, WHOSE ATTENTION IS TAKEN BY A TEAM OF MEXICAN GIRL SYNCHRONISED SWIMMERS WHO ARE FIRING PIRANHAS FROM BETWEEN THEIR TOES.
Pay attention. Bond. These...
HE HOLDS UP A PAIR OF METAL Y-FRONTS.
...are the very latest underpants. Made of titanium alloy. When you press this button at the back, an atomic-powered midget submarine will self-inflate and burst out of your trousers, destroying anything in its path.
Looks lethal. I trust there's no reverse gear. What's the name of that Red Indian? Ah yes... Geronimo.
HE ACTIVATES HIS LITHIUM-FILLED ROCKET BOOTS AND HURTLES TO A HEIGHT OF 5000 FEET IN 30 SECONDS, LEAVING A LARGE, JAGGED HOLE IN 14 FLOORS OF THE MI5 BUILDING. WE CUT TO BOND, FLYING THROUGH THE AIR, AT ONE MOMENT, LIGHTING HIS CIGAR FROM THE STATUE OF LIBERTY'S TORCH AND THE NEXT, ZOOMING BETWEEN TWO STARTLED LIMBO DANCERS. HE HURTLES INTO THE MOUTH OF THE CHANNEL TUNNEL. THERE IS A PAUSE AND THEN HE RE-APPEARS, HAVING OBVIOUSLY DONE A U-TURN. HE SPEAKS TO AN ASTONISHED WORKER.
So sorry. I didn't realise it was early closing.
DURING THIS WE HEAR KYLIE MINOGUE, SHIRLEY BASSEY AND THE PET SHOP BOYS SINGING THE BASILDON BOND THEME.
And so it goes on...
Here's another comic strip, my favourite one (actually). It's called East Side Story. Ignore all the other stuff on these pages, they're the answers to some of the various puzzles that Russ Abbot's Fun Book contains.
Twenty-three years ago, this following thing was my favourite part of the book for the bizarre illustrations. Older now, and being able to read (which helps), the text is also my favourite part of the book. Who saw that one coming? It's a parody of that old body-horror favourite, The Fly:
Finally, there's this Barrett Holmes yarn, full of mystery and suspense and all that:
"Continued next year" it says! That's probably definitely a joke, but I remember, "at the time", seeing this and thinking something along the lines of "I hope Father Christmas remembers to get me this book again next year so I can see what happens". He didn't, obviously, and there wasn't another book. It was all a cruel hoax. Still, it amused and perplexed me enough to form a liking for Russ Abbot's silly brand of humour - which is more than Lenny Henry's Well Hard Paperback ever achieved.