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Book review: <i>A Load Of Old Ball Crunchers</i> by Jo Brand

If this was a stand-up routine, it would be one of those “themed” ones from a festival which is, sometimes despite itself, funny, and actually stands up better than a lot of the other fluff going around.


A big zany photo of the author, as seemed mandatory on the humour shelf for quite some time.


A series of mini-biographies concerning various prominent and/or stroppy female figures throughout history, from Madonna back to possibly fictional biblical figures.

The good

Jo Brand is a decent comedian on the page as well as the stage; her style shares elements with Ben Elton’s, i.e. it’s simple, flowing, funny, and never misses an opportunity to take the piss when one presents itself (“The Tories still practise this special form of Christianity today, called not behaving like a Christian in any shape or form whatsoever”). As such it’s a good fun to read whilst still containing a fair bit of interesting information—this is history of a sort, after all. Illustrations, photos, paintings, lithographs etc are likewise well-used and have hilarious captions to boot.

Despite the title, Brand resists the urge to single out men for too much of a slagging... well, let’s say that everyone gets a dose, not least herself, her parents, her hubby, various nationalities (always fun) and the subjects of the book, which, it has to be said, does make them seem more human (where this is possible—Roseanne Barr may never qualify).

The canned bios are fairly brief, but Brand does manage to fit in differing views and theories, particularly where myth and hearsay are concerned. The brevity of the chapters (and their apparently random order) also helped secure my piscine attention span—this is the kind of thing that could conceivably trick a teenage girl into finding out more about her feminist forebears by making her think she’s laughing at a blowsy old comic with big hair. And that has to be a good thing.

The bad

Not much, really. The more interesting subjects could have stood a tad more evaluation, as role models or otherwise, but I guess the duller entries, of which there weren’t many, would’ve been longer then too. And of course there’s REAL books about all these people anyway, where the chapters follow some rational order.

It is never exactly explained why she has singled out her subjects, especially considering the fact that Jo doesn’t even seem to like some of them very much. A snazzy intro chapter might have done the work on that one.

The title’s a bit shit, let’s face it, even by the standards of early-nineties alternative comedy. It’s a follow-up to a book called “A Load of Old Balls” (the male version), but that’s a bit like excusing those responsible for “Honey I Blew Up The Kids” on the basis that they didn’t have much to work with.

What I learnt

Lots and lots of info-snacks about the lives and loves of an admittedly rather random bunch of well-known women, most of which I’ll probably forget, except the one about Hitler having a groupie. That’s a keeper.

In short

Title: A Load Of Old Ball Crunchers: Women In History
Author: Jo Brand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0684816954
Year published: 1996
Pages: 258
Genre(s): Humour, Non-fiction

This review was written by Tom Vaughan. Tom has his own website, which contains many other reviews and strips and art and other fun stuff here

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