❉ This book is so densely packed and full of attention to detail that you’re going to be finding new jokes to laugh at for a long time to come.
“Creating a world of small towns and villages: Framley, Whoft, Sockford, Codge, the Examiner was a dense collection of reportage, articles and classified ads that brilliantly parodied local newspapers and was utterly hilarious with it… It’s clear that the authors had a deep affection for the tie-in books of Python, The Goodies and TV Go Home which The Incomplete Framley Examiner is more than comparable to.”
On Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley’s podcast Rule of Three, there’s a moment when, during a discussion about Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album with Jon Holmes, the idea of ‘Total Comedy’ is raised. The concept, which Morris believes originally came from Eric Idle, is straightforward: that no corner of the comedy product you’re making, from the credits to the sleeve to small print should be wasted. Every white space is an opportunity for another joke and you, as a viewer, listener or reader, will be rewarded for paying attention to the form and the details. It was a lesson that Morris and Hazeley understood well and was directly applied when they, along with co-authors Robin Halstead and Alex Morris, created The Framley Examiner.
First appearing online in October 2001, The Framley Examiner was a perfect parody of British local newspapers. Creating a world of small towns and villages: Framley, Whoft, Sockford, Codge, the Examiner was a dense collection of reportage, articles and classified ads that brilliantly parodied local newspapers and was utterly hilarious with it. ‘CYCLE LANE “NOT EVEN AS LONG AS SMALL CYCLE”’ shouted the headline of issue one, complete with a photograph of the tiny cycle lane. That opening gag perfectly encapsulated the often frustrating and petty world of provincial life that local newspapers would obsess over.
Inside that first issue was reporting on Framley’s mayor giving the go ahead for a gay pride ‘Mardi Gras’ (“As long they don’t ram it down our throats”), some scouts who were tragically crushed by an oversize novelty cheque, a small ad for a ‘Pick your own’ farm (‘We turn it into SAUSAGES!’) and classified ads (BANK ROBBERY. Every Thursday, Framley High Street. Bring Gun. £15. Box FE8225), and that was four examples out of hundreds. This newspaper parody was packed with gags, generating hundreds of views and shares. Within two weeks the authors had landed a book deal.
Over the next twenty years the website was updated with more issues and led to a number of books being published, however thanks to the Unbound self-publishing platform, the website itself has now been collected in print. The Incomplete Framley Examiner: The Book of the Website of the Newspaper* is now available, either as a coffee table hardback or e-book. The book collects all of the website’s content, adding to the previously available issues which were first published in 2002’s The Framley Examiner.
There is also some fascinating bonus material, including a chapter on how the site came to be. After material the authors had written for Charlie Brooker’s TV Go Home was rejected with the feedback that it was “good and you cunts know it is, so piss off and do your own website” Hazeley, Halstead and the Morris brothers found themselves doing exactly as Brooker had suggested. The book goes on to talk about just how they set about doing this especially when web access was only viable through 56k modems.
The ‘making-of’ material though is only supplementary to the core of the book, near-endless jokes on the minutiae of everyday life in Britain. The authors understood that in order for parody to hit hard, it had to be accurate and so the replication of badly placed ads, inane opinion pieces, crosswords, lonely hearts, reviews of tribute bands and am dram productions are replicated and sent-up in hilarious detail. It’s clear that the authors had a deep affection for the tie-in books of Python,The Goodies and TV Go Home which The Incomplete Framley Examiner is more than comparable to.
Rather than just read me regurgitate bits of the book here on We Are Cult, get yourself over to https://unbound.com/books/framley/ and order a copy. Then order another copy for your bathroom. If you have two bathrooms you may need a third copy and if you do have two bathrooms, you can probably afford it. The material is so densely packed and delivered with such attention to detail and joy that you’re going to be finding new jokes to laugh at for a long time to come.
*On the Rule of Three podcast, Hazeley realised that this title was a lift from The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and if the humour of that appeals to you, then so will this book.
❉ ‘The Incomplete Framley Examiner: The Book of the Website of the Newspaper’ by Robin Halstead, Jason Hazeley, Joel Morris and Alex Morris. 225 page large hardback. Published by Unbound Books, October 2021. ISBN: 9781800180826. RRP: £14.99
❉ John Rivers has been a contributor to We Are Cult since the site’s launch in September 2016.