Your response to the title of this autobiography will likely mirror your wider opinion on the work of Brian Limond, the Glaswegian comedian known as Limmy. Fans will recognise it as the mock-tribute he regularly posts on Twitter when news of a celebrity death breaks. Take one example: “Had the pleasure of meeting Peter Stringfellow at a charity do once. He was surprisingly down to earth, and very funny.” Limond, to the best of my knowledge, never met Peter Stringfellow. The gag is a comment on the modern phenomenon of fake-sincere tributes posted on social media to people we have little, if anything, in common with. It’s one example of his talent for meshing the frequently absurd world created by digital media with age-old insecurities like social anxiety.
Limond is a 21st century entertainer. His early realisation of the creative potential of the internet led directly to his TV show. This multimedia career now extends to books. A short story collection has now been followed by this memoir. What makes it different is that many of the personal hardships Limond has overcome in his life will already be well-known to his fans. He has long been candid about his struggles with mental health, and spoken at length in interviews of overcoming alcoholism while in his 20s.
Young Limmy was raised in Carnwadric, a council estate on the south-western edge of Glasgow. Compared to other inner city areas of the post-war era, it had none of the notoriety associated with nearby Castlemilk. He enjoyed the kind of childhood that will be familiar to many urban Scots. School was a short walk away and there were plenty of other children to play with.
“It was maybe a wee bit rough. Maybe,” Limond explains in his characteristic style. “If there’s one thing I don’t want to do, it’s make out that my childhood was rougher than it was. Carnwadric was alright.”
That being said, Limmy does wonder whether local childhood customs are to blame for his sometimes bleak worldview as an adult. “(If) something bad happens... I might find it entertaining,” he admits – which explains the joke behind the book’s title.
He recalls older boys making homemade crossbows – albeit only to fire clothes pegs – and putting stones on train tracks just to see what happened. Then there was their occasional habit of stealing tractor tyres, the kind big enough to fit small boys in and roll them down hills.
While such antics may seem shocking to some parents in the 21st century, the kind who would never dream of letting their darling children play unsupervised on wasteground, we should remind ourselves it wasn’t so long ago that children were still expected to amuse themselves outdoors.
Two factors changed this. One was the concept of anti-social behaviour, picked up by the Tories in the 1980s and later embraced by New Labour – ASBOs and all. Kids congregating outdoors were viewed as a nuisance at best and potential criminals at worst. The other factor – although few kids would have realised it at the time – was technology.
Limmy was a fan of the fast-developing world of home computing. He enjoyed tech more than schoolwork, failing his Highers and leaving school with little hope of gainful employment.
By the age of 24 he was bored and looking for work. It would be technology that offered him a path away from shelf-stacking. This was the late 1990s and a college course taught him how to build websites. By now, the ambition and energy that would drive his entertainment career was beginning to appear.
Work placements followed. This experience led to Limond setting-up his own website, Limmy.com, which was a platform to showcase his creations, from short videos to animations. It was eventually spotted by the Comedy Unit and a pilot show with BBC Scotland was agreed.
This memoir works best when Limmy faces his demons and explains how he moved past them. It’s also refreshing to hear the story of a genuine self-made man, a rare TV talent who didn’t attend the Royal Conservatoire or private school. But it remains a book for his fans. Those who don’t find the title funny are unlikely to change their minds after reading it. - Chris McCall
Surprisingly Down to Earth and Very Funny – My Autobiography, by Limmy, Mudlark, 352pp, £14.99