As part of my continuing effort to rid myself of the constant tide of crap that is social media, I’m going to stop reviewing books on Goodreads and review them here instead.
Date started: 28th October 2022
Date finished: 3rd November 2022
Format: Kobo eBook
Rating: 4.5 stars
Back when I was in the sixth form at school (many moons ago), I remember a lot of my friends getting excited about a new comedy show on Channel 4, and urging me to watch it. I rarely get swept along by hype, but a lot of people liked it, so I tuned in one evening to see what the fuss was about. The show in question was Vic Reeves Big Night Out, and I was a huge fan from the moment the action started. Ostensibly a kind of homage to old fashioned variety shows, it was surreal, bizarre, nonsensical, strange, and full of slapstick weirdness, and was completely unlike anything I’d seen before. It remains something I’m hugely fond of to this day, and I still quote the show regularly. Here’s a favourite moment. 🙂
Anyway…the man behind the paper helmet is Bob Mortimer, and this series was his catapult to fame. He was originally from Middlesbrough, and studied law in Brighton and Leicester. He was training to be a solicitor in London. Not long after getting there, he met a young comedian with a cult live show. The rest is, as they say, history, and this book tells the story of Bob’s rise to fame.
Bob was born in 1959, but begins the book in 2015, when he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition that immediately required major surgery. He had to cancel a tour he was doing to celebrate 25 years of Vic and Bob, and his recovery was a slow process. He uses this as an opportunity to reflect upon his life, how he rose to showbiz fame almost by accident, and learn a few lessons along the way.
I won’t give away too much – I’ll just massively praise this book for being funny, poignant, thought-provoking, warm and fascinating…much like the man himself. Bob proves to be a consummate entertainer throughout, but he’s very reflective and analytical in places, looking at the key events and relationships in his life, and how they affected him. He lost his dad to a car accident when he was very young, he was extremely shy until he began performing as a comedian, and he suffered from depression as a student – he describes these things with literary skill and a lot of insight and wisdom. He describes how he met Vic (referred to throughout as Jim, his real name) almost by accident, after an old friend invited him to see his show, and how he got involved in being a part of it – which saw him abandon law for showbusiness.
There’s plenty in here about how the pair worked together, how they came up with their ideas, and the projects they both worked on. It’s made me realise that, despite being a fan for years, there’s vast swathes of Bob and Vic’s work I haven’t seen, and this book has made me very keen to remedy that.
I ultimately found it quite a moving read, as Bob bares his soul and looks into some of the more difficult things to affect him in life, and I can relate to a lot of them. I loved the book a great deal, and I was almost sad to finish it. I’m so glad he abandoned law and took up comedy instead – the world would be a duller and far more sensible place without him. Brilliant.