THE annual Hay Festival is renowned worldwide for wheeling out the best writers, thinkers and philosophers, but while there are dozens of heavyweights on this year's line-up, the literary festival is equally proud of its lighter side.
The 2014 programme is no exception, boasting a wealth of comic talent in a variety of guises - from comedians as authors, comedians in conversation, writers of comedy, comedy for kids and unadulterated laugh-out-loud comedy from the best stand-ups.
There are also comedians as you've never seen them before. Kicking things off is Al Murray, with an evening in two parts, the first focused on 'Watching war films' with his dad, with whose help he became fascinated with World War Two, growing up as he did in its cultural wake, enjoying a childhood that was all about Airfix, Action Man and Where Eagles Dare. Then, in Part 2, Al is transformed into his legendary stand-up creation The Pub Landlord for a serving of bar-room buffoonery.
Another legend arrives in the shape of Barry Cryer, with yet another farewell tour - Twitter Titters - on Wednesday, May 28, and the late-onset superstar and stadium-rocking comedian John Bishop will discuss his extraordinarily happy memoir How Did All This Happen? with Dylan Jones.
If you're as intrigued by the stories behind the comedy as you are tickled by the performances, you won't want to miss Tom Hollander, James Wood and Jon Canter presenting The Rev Diaries, the thoughts of Rev Adam Smallbone - ‘I went into the newsagent’s for a packet of fags and I saw the exercise book, and I thought, yes, that’s got your name on it. Or it soon will. Buy it and fill it with your thoughts. Make a diary of your time at St Saviour’s."
And Helen Fielding, whose Bridget Jones is surely one of the most iconic of comic creations, will be talking to Peter Florence about Bridget's struggles with single motherhood and rediscovering her sexuality in what SOME people rudely and out-datedly call ‘middle age’.
While stand-ups including Frank Skinner, Robin Ince, Greg Proops and Scottish comedian and News Quiz favourite Susan Calman, Jon Culshaw, Marcus Brigstocke are joined by the best bits from this year's Machynlleth COmedy Festival to provide the laughs for the grown-ups, there's plenty to tickle the kids funny bones too.
King of kids' comedy Jeremy Strong will be providing a sneak preview of the 100 mile an hour dog's latest adventure, children's comedian James Campbell talks about his hilarious children’s book Boyface and the Quantum Chromatic Disruption Machine and in Murderous Maths Kjartan Poskitt introduces you to the people who really did put the Murder into Maths with ‘A stand-up maths routine has children and teachers in fits of laughter'.
And, just as a comedian kicks the festival off, another gets the last word as Bill Bailey Bill Bailey explores the gaps between expectation and reality in his Remarkable Guide to Modern Living.
For full details of these events and the complete Hay Festival 2014 programme, go to hayfestival.org. Book online or call the box office on 01497 822629.?