S&S buys debut from comedian Kane

Simon & Schuster has bought world rights in an “outstanding” literary début by comedian Russell Kane.

Fiction editorial director Maxine Hitchcock acquired The Humorist from Avalon Management for an undisclosed sum and will publish in hardback in April 2012.

The book tells the story of Benjamin White, a man with the ability to understand humour at its deepest level, while never once in his life having either laughed or smiled. White becomes a comedy critic, lacking all human empathy, but then discovers a formula that enables him to construct the most powerful joke the world has ever known—one with the power to kill.

Kane said: “I love my comedy, but writing has always come first with me. Indeed, the writing of all my comedy is my favourite part of that process. As for the novel, getting inside the soul of Benjamin White, an altogether uncomic character, has been a dark, dark pleasure.”

Hitchcock said The Humorist will explore the “sense” of humour in a similar way to that in which Patrick Süskind explored the sense of smell in Perfume, calling the book “a dark, funny, complex and obsessive novel”.

Kane last year became the first comedian to win both the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award and the Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and has made numerous appearances on TV and radio. Writer Zadie Smith is a fan, calling him “a death defier, the sort of comedian who won’t let a moment pass without filling it with laughter”.