‘It’s a love let­ter to the books of our child­hood’

CHUCKLE BROTH­ERS Af­ter 32 suc­cess­ful spoof ti­tles in their Lady­bird Books for Grown-ups se­ries, the au­thors tell Boudicca Fox-leonard why this next one will be their last I

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Feature -

f Peter and Jane, stars of the Lady­bird books of the Six­ties, were all grown up and look­ing for a gift for one an­other, they might con­ceiv­ably be found chuck­ling nos­tal­gi­cally over such ti­tles as The Lady­bird Book of Mind­ful­ness or How It Works: The Hus­band.

They wouldn’t be alone. Since 2015, Ja­son Haze­ley and his writ­ing part­ner Joel Mor­ris have penned 32 spoof books in the enor­mously pop­u­lar Lady­bird Books for Grown-ups se­ries, with more than four mil­lion copies sold and ti­tles trans­lated into 12 lan­guages.

The suc­cess of their in­ge­nious idea of match­ing pic­tures from Lady- bird’s ar­chive of 13,000 im­ages to prose that mocks the mores of mod­ern life has not only been sur­pris­ing, sing, but also joy­ous. Writ­ing their first ti­tle, The Lady­bird Book of the Hip­ster, er, was, says Haze­ley, “like taking our r foot off the brake. We were ca­reen­ing ng down­hill say­ing, ‘ Weee!’. It was just t such fun”.

And be­fore long, ev­ery­one very­one else agreed. When the first eight ght books were pub­lished, Haze­ley and Mor­ris were sent pho­tos taken by friends of peo­ple in book­shops ook­shops read­ing and laugh­ing at their books. As gag writ­ers on shows such as Char­lie Brooker’s r’s Screen­wipe, That Mitchell and Webb Look and the Padding­ton films, they were used to sub­mit­ting jokes and not know­ing how well they landed. “We’re not stand-ups, we’re com­edy writ­ers, so ge get­ting to see the laughs was de­light­ful, de­light­ful,” says Haze­ley. But now, hav hav­ing had a lot of fun, and mad a lit­tle bit of money (“Our cut af­ter you take into a ac­count the im­age rights isn’t huge”), th they’re bow­ing out with a bang. A hardb hard­back com­pen­dium book, The Won­der­ful World of Lady­bird Books for Grown-up Grown-ups, will be their last, al­most. A s sig­nif­i­cantly weight­ier book, at 224 pages, it spec­u­lates what th the Books for Grown-ups back c cat­a­logue might look like if they were to keep writ­ing the s se­ries for years to come, wit with more than 337 new ti­tles tles, from Mansplain­ing and Virtue Sig­nalling to Un­der­stand­ing Croy­don and Na­ture’s Dis­ap­point­ing An­i­mals. “This is a cat­a­logue of the mis­takes the pub­lish­ers would have made by al­low­ing us to con­tinue,” says Haze­ley.

The pair feel they have ex­hausted all the most ob­vi­ous sub­jects, leav­ing them with ideas that would sus­tain only a cover, or a few pages, not a whole book. Al­ready though, one idea from The Won­der­ful World has been com­mis­sioned as a stand-alone ti­tle – The Lady­bird Book of Brexit. Al­though Haze­ley in­sists it’s ac­tu­ally not that po­lit­i­cal.

They cat­e­gor­i­cally refuse to write How It Works: The Teacher, even though its cover ap­pears in the new book. “If we were to write the whole book we would be con­demn­ing every teacher to re­ceiv­ing mul­ti­ple copies from stu­dents at the end of each year. And we’re not go­ing to do that to them. We like teach­ers.”

Their hu­mour, they say, al­ways comes from a place of af­fec­tion. The books are “a love let­ter to the Lady­bird books of our child­hood, which might seem like a strange thing to say when you’re writ­ing about hang­overs and mid-life crises, but it works be­cause, visu­ally, it’s a very colour­ful, happy, sim­plis­tic ver­sion of life,” says Haze­ley. “We just want peo­ple to have a gig­gle.”

‘It’s a happy, sim­plis­tic ver­sion of life. We just want peo­ple to have a gig­gle’

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