ONE paragraph in, and Kevin Bridges is offering apologies: “Here we are, another comedian writes an autobiography.” You might well groan at that.
In fact you may already be looking forward to spring and an invigorating, ruthless unburdening, the only issue being whether you hand We Need to Talk About … Kevin Bridges (Michael Joseph, £20) to the charity-shop staff or dump it in their doorway overnight with your other embarrassing stuff.
Easy life, these stand-ups. For talking about themselves for an hour using minimal props, they’ll charge rock-star prices. They’ll even try and persuade you that old jokes endure like classic songs and tell theirs all over again on “greatest hits” tours. Needing a break from the, er, slog of the road, they’ll maintain the profile on the 34 TV panel games transmitting at any moment. And then some smartass invents the in-time-for-Christmas celebrity biog and jeezo will these guys grab at the opportunity to talk some more about themselves in the flabby, yabby, solipsistic, like-jazz (and I hate jazz) manner which they call “performance”.
Kevin Bridges, inset, needs to talk about Kevin Bridges for 480 pages. But hang on, he’s funny. Funny and generous, giving away gags this good on Twitter, from when BST was ending: “An exciting time for the wee clock on my oven, about to be proven right after 6 months in the wrong. Stuck to its guns. Commendable.” And, it seems, truthful. While still a Clydebank cult, he told me how he’d demolished a Wendy house at his nursery school. I thought the story too cute for a comedian given they’ve all had the most traumatic childhoods but he devotes a large section to his mammy’s-boy years here. Sure, there’s self-indulgence. Only 27 when he penned these words, he hasnae lived. But the book definitely sounds like him, as if he was chatting to you in the queue for a late-night kebab.
Previously in this round-up of the annual memoir mountain or life-story landfill, I’ve declared rock ‘n’ roll to be the new rock ‘n’ roll, with the music-based reminisce usurping the comedy one after the funsters put together a tyranny of decent length. But in 2014 the rock/pop firmament couldn’t match past heights (Dylan, Richards, Townshend, Morrissey). Once again, the much-anticipated stardust memories of D. Bowie never arrived. The comedy world chose this moment to hit back. Stephen Fry’s More Fool Me (Michael Joseph, £25) listed all the prestigious places he’d snorted cocaine including the Houses of Parliament, Commons and Lords, and Buckingham Palace. Michael Palin’s third volume of diaries, Travelling to Work (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25), listed all his famous fans, suggesting Mr Nice was actually Mr Needy. Graham Norton produced a second memoir, The Life and Loves of a He-Devil (Hodder & Stoughton, £20), which seemed like two too many. And then in October came the big one: John Cleese.
I rather suspect I’ll still be quoting lines from Fawlty Towers when I’m dribbling my care-home soup while waiting for the afternoon bingo. Similarly difficult to forget is the ex who blurted too much information about the state of Cleese’s scrotum. Well, So, Anyway … (Random House, £20) isn’t the big reveal, either about the secrets of genius comedy or his unluckiness in love. Given the book ends as the career gets going, maybe that’s all to come in a second volume. Then again, maybe not. And doubtless, in the 100 pages devoted to Cleese’s schooldays, his big jessie-ness growing up, his scary mum and the fact he’s “always had an extensive collection of soft toys”, the man has already explained quite a lot.
Other memoirs I greatly enjoyed included I Put a Spell on You (Cape, £16.99), John Burnside’s study of the nature of love using songs from his childhood and youth, and Mark Ellen’s Rock Stars Stole My Life! (Coronet, £18.99), which was about loving music all your days. But, while rock gods and comedy titans contested the title of who writes the best books, maybe the sporting memoirists stole in and nicked it.
Three egomaniacs made for gripping yarns. Hugo Borst’s O, Louis (Yellow Jersey, £9.99) was a classic hatchet job on Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, who once shouted at a player so fiercely his dentures flew out. Reviewing the book, Roddy Doyle described the Dutchman with his dark suit and clipboard as looking like a wedding planner. And the same Doyle ghosted Roy Keane’s The Second Half (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20), released within hours of Kevin Petersen’s KP: The Autobiography (Sphere, £20) to see who could cause the most collateral damage to a dressing-room.