The Incomplete

Key’s collection is a wealth of unapologetically blue humor, by a stand up comedian-come-writer who has been called “one of the funniest, smartest, comic minds in the country” .

Originally released in 2011 in a “big, cumbersome, old sod” of a hardback, Key’s work has now been revamped into a slighter, paperback edition with seven new introductions and an extra poem thrown in. Nothing is held back in this collection, Key has poured 10 years into these creations and it is reflected in the diverse nature of his subjects. Nowhere else would you find such an obscure compilation: from ‘a star struck doctor, a fat chap kipping on a mate’s sofa…[to] a teenage lesbian who, after baking, uses the pastry off-cuts as a playful centre piece for some slap-and-tickle with her new girlfriend’, it’s all there.

Key’s intentions are to use poetry as an extension to stand up, stating in interview with The Guardian’s Harriet Gibson:  “I don’t want to be studied! If I write a poem and smile, that’s enough. It gives me the confidence to think other people might as well”. Yet this transition, from comedian to poet, is not fluid as what is funny in a performance sense does not necessarily correspond with what is funny to read. In this sense his poems are rather hit and miss. Whilst some are gently risqué and warrant laughter, others, with their extreme crudity, are uncomfortably awkward to read.

One aspect that never fails to entertain, however, is the detailed anecdotal footnotes and the thematic introductions. These act as refreshing interludes and, although bizarrely random, at one point Key reminisces about his dreams of “getting [himself] a bee” as a pet: they are wittingly written and arguably overshadow the poems themselves. This book is what I would call inedible marmite, subject very much to your own sense of humor, but what can be said for it is that if you are looking for some light relief, maybe some obscure comedy then it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Key certainly has a set formula and aims for the shock factor so some advice would be, do judge the book by its first poem, if you don’t enjoy that, then there is little chance you will enjoy the next 299.


Image by Hermann Traub on

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