06 November 2013

A thrilling turn for the epistolary

Although Lost in Showbiz doesn't really care to have the effluent of Fleet Street in the house, it is dimly aware that Steve Coogan's been in a bit of a bate with newspapers of late. The temptation to throw the baby out with the bathwater must be immense – and yet, if only the comic and actor would heed the wise words of Andreas Whittam-Smith, former editor of the Independent, who once observed that to write an open letter was an act of journalistic madness.

Last weekend, you may be aware, Coogan opted to respond to a column by the Observer's David Mitchell by writing him an open letter, also published in that newspaper. Mitchell consequently wrote an open letter of reply to Coogan, which was itself published in the Observer – at the very same time at which his frequent comic partner, Robert Webb, was engaged in another, unrelated act of open letterdom somewhere across town. Webb was displeased by something Russell Brand had written to readers in the edition of the New Statesman the latter guest-edited last week, and has written an open letter to Brand about it all, which is published in this week's New Statesman.

What a thrilling turn for the epistolary public life has taken! In fact, it is to be hoped that by 2019, all political debate in this country will be framed by various comedians writing frothingly cordial letters to each other.

Even now, some funnyman or funnywoman could be dipping a fountain pen in to the special open-letter ink, and preparing to join this esteemed fray, like the various unreliable narrators of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. "My dear Vicomte MacIntyre …" "I received your letter, Madame de Millican, but suggest on that contrary that …" "Would you do me the immense courtesy of having a word with yourself, Chevalier Carr?"

- Marina Hyde, 'Calling all comedians: stop writing tetchy open letters to each other', Guardian, 31 October 2013

[Brand has since replied to Webb's reply. Free publicity for all concerned, I guess]

See also:
Comedy: David Sedaris - Entertaining house guests, 29 September 2013
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