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Literary laughs at The Bad Book Project

I couldn’t get further than the first page of The Da Vinci Code. The plot exposition was so heavy-handed in the opening paragraph alone that it made me wince. I know, I know, I missed out on a cracking good yarn but I figure life’s too short and my love of books too great for me to waste time on a novel that makes my teeth hurt.

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When I heard about monthly comedy-led meet up The Bad Book Project, it seemed right up my street, combining as it does my twin loves of reading and stand-up, and – another tick –  it’s held in quirky Brighton café The Marwood. There’s also a podcast made of each evening so you needn’t miss out if you live further afield.

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Jane Postlethwaite

The brainchild of local comedian Jane Postlethwaite, it involves she and a group of fellow comedians and other local entertainers reading from books they’ve brought along which are in various ways bad. Now, before you think it’s a lot of snobby pontificating over grammar, I’ll explain – we’re talking things like bizarre plots, way off the mark descriptions and celebrity cash-in autobiographies. A recent meet was solely dedicated to the participants’ teen diaries.

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The Marwood itself, in Ship Street, is one of those cafes that has a bar vibe in the evenings, with wine on offer as well as their promised ‘kick-ass coffee and life-changing cake’. I settled down to my first Bad Book Project with a glass of red and a chocolate brownie so huge and rich that if not life-changing, would certainly have been sleep-pattern altering had I not given up and stashed the second half in my handbag.

The most memorable thing about the Marwood however is its décor – kitsch and humorous it’s stuffed with retro details and visual gags – a Milennium Falcon and a Space Hopper hung from the ceiling, a vintage Space Invaders game set in a table, a mannequin with the head of Zippy from Rainbow, an illuminated plastic shark’s mouth… The Bad Book Project takes place in the upstairs room, with the audience crammed together on mismatched chairs.

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I first went along, with some trepidation for the ‘smut edition’ put on for Valentine’s week. This featured extracts from a bizarre short story in which a suit shop owner gets his assistants hooked on drug-spiked coffee so that they will agree to seduce shoppers to raise his profits. We were also read to from would-be steamy tales with dubious descriptions – ‘breasts like custard’, ‘provocative knees’… and a fantasy involving a plumber that included more detail about the plumbing than the man himself.

A couple of comedians penned their own hilarious satires and we were given the lowlights of a former Page Three model’s autobiography which featured – without a word of excuse – a picture of her as a scantily-clad Nazi.

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Subsequent nights have included readings from the autobiographies of Victoria Beckham, Ivana Trump and Paris Hilton (‘act dumb’ seems to be her key life tip) and a horror-fantasy entitled The Haunted Vagina, yes, you read that correctly.

Each month the audience votes on its favourite reading and the winner is presented with a suitably ridiculous prize. There are often about seven readers so it’s a long night, though frequent intervals for refuelling mean you could slope off early if you wanted. Best of all, it’s entirely free! The Marwood gets some extra punters in, the comedians get to plug any up-coming shows and you get a good laugh.

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As with any comedy show it helps to be broad-minded but it’s an easy going night which draws a mix of couples, singles and friends and, as it’s always held on a Friday, it’s a fun way to start the weekend.

The Next Bad Book Project will be on 17 June. It starts at 7.30 but it’s best to get there a bit early to bag a seat. You can find more details at facebook.com/BadBookProject and on Twitter @BadBookProject. You can locate the podcast via janepostlethwaite.com

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The Marwood has also recently started hosting street food stalls in its back yard on Friday afternoons beween 12-3, so if you’re in town earlier on you can choose from the likes of some grilled fish, wraps and pulled pork burgers.

The Marwood, 52, Ship Street, Brighton, themarwood.com

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