Wednesday, March 3, 2010

driving sense of humour

Niki Bruce reviews comedic columns from Clarkson and has a good laugh.

I LIKE cars. I like to drive, I like the look of them, I like the convenience; but I have no real idea of the difference between a V8 and a V12, or why I should prefer one over the other.

So, I'm not obsessed by cars, I don't LOVE them but strangely enough, one of my absolutely favourite TV shows has got to be BBC Two's Top Gear.

This is a show by boys, for boys and run somewhat like an adolescent male's perfect fantasy – before he's quite reached puberty though, as there's no skimpily-dressed pneumatic blondes on this show.

What makes Top Gear one of the most watched info-tainment shows around is the group of slightly dorky, middle-aged, funny blokes who host it – James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson.

Richard Hammond is probably most famous for being short, having blindingly white teeth and surviving an horrific crash while he was driving a jet-powered car for a segment in the show in 2006. The car was reportedly travelling at 300 miles per hour when the crash occurred.

James May, on the other hand, is more a traditionalist. He's been nicknamed 'Captain Slow' on the show, despite being a qualified pilot and having taken a Bugatti Veyron to its top speed of 253.45 mph; but he's basically the straight man for the other two presenters.

Jeremy Clarkson, however, is nominally the 'head boy' of Top Gear, known for his scathing hatred of the British Labour government, the environmental movement, speed limits and just about anything that stops him from driving very expensive cars, very fast, where ever he wants to.

Which is why his latest book, Driven to Distraction is so very, very funny. Clarkson has a very dry sense of humour with that particularly British ability to be self-depreciating and pompous at the same time. This book, if you enjoy clever word usage and rubbishing stupid people and/or government policies, has "laugh out loud" moments on almost every page.

Driven to Distraction is a collection of Clarkson's columns for the Sunday Times

There's a semi-topical intro and lead-in to a description of a car, before a pronouncement of judgement. Generally the columns blend quite well, but some are obvious attempts to link one of his pet issues to a particular car review; still, they are all immensely entertaining.

Clarkson has a particular turn of phrase that offers a mix of public schoolboy enthusiasm with deliberate word-play. His dedication is a prime example: "To everyone who made my Range Rover. Well done, chaps. It's brilliant."

While I enjoy the humour, Clarkson's contempt for political correctness and his tendency to 'stir the pot', I'm not that interested in his detailed descriptions of particular car engines, gear boxes or top speeds.

Still, those sections are easily skipped over if you're not interested and the humour returns. The fact that the book is a collection of columns means that you can read it in convenient snatches of time – it's great for the bus or taxi.

Driven to Distraction will, in fact, make the perfect Christmas present for any male person in your life. I'll probably have to buy a number of them; this year it will be my gift-de-jour for male family members and friends.

Driven to Distraction by Jeremy Clarkson is published by Penguin imprint Michael Joseph and is available from good books stores and online. 

First published in The Straits Times blogs on October 28, 2009 



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