British Comedy Guide

Worst autobiography

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Agnes Guano

  • Tuesday 22nd November 2011, 11:19pm
  • Tediumcester, England
  • 535 posts

I read a piece in this month's Word magazine about some of the least successful autobiographies of modern times. I am pleased to report that I own two of them; Bill Oddie's 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (from a second hand bargain bin so I can be forgiven) and Christopher Biggins' 'Just Biggins' (bought new and signed by the man himself so no excuse whatsover). They are both amazingly bad in their own special way, Oddie's because he doesn't say anything about his early years, glosses over much of the Goodies and then suffers a breakdown midway through the book, and Biggins because well basically he has done little of interest to anyone and may be one of the most pointless people on earth.

However, both of these pale into insignificance alongside Don Estelle's 'Sing Lofty' which may be the absolute nadir of the written word. I'm only half way through the thing but the bland inanities of his life interspersed with insane ranting diatribes against the 'morons' who seem to dog Don's every waking thought are a wondrous thing to a true lover of tat like myself. He moved home more often than Bill Pertwee (a contender for a top/bottom twenty place himself) and his tales of the things his dog got up to would make a paving slab want to take its own life. More when I finish it...

So just wondering, what cringe worthy vanity projects do you have lingering on the bookshelf? I largely buy books from charity shops because I am mean and spiteful and also like buying crap comedy albums, so I am looking forward to the massive haul of unwanted comedy literature given as easy presents that will inevitably await me in the nation's Oxfams and BHF outlets come January.

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zooo

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 12:28am
  • England
  • 68286 posts
Quote: Agnes Guano @ November 22 2011, 11:19 PM GMT

and then suffers a breakdown midway through the book

That sounds rather good actually!

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Kenneth

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 12:51am
  • Australia
  • 4483 posts
Quote: zooo @ November 23 2011, 12:28 AM GMT

That sounds rather good actually!

One Flew Into the Cuckoo's Egg, I believe, is the correct title. It was not good. I was mildly excited when I saw it in an Australian bookstore a few years ago. I browsed through it, found precious few anecdotes about making The Goodies and a lot of stuff about how depression is quite depressing. I didn't even bother to buy it from a charity shop a year later. I have bought Bill's older birding book though and it is a much better read.

Not sure about worst ever autobiographies, but the worst ever 'biography' is called Looking For Enid by one Duncan McLaren. It should never have been published. It was falsely marketed as a biography of Enid Blyton, whereas it is no such thing. It's the most preposterous, poorly written pap that I've ever had the misfortune to read. His themes are stuff like: the Famous Five keep going into tunnels, which are obvious symbols of Enid's sex drive. That sort of rubbish. The few facts in the book are stolen entirely from Barbara Stoney's excellent Blyton biography.

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Godot Taxis

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 8:33am
  • England
  • 5042 posts

Yeah but you have to admit that scene where they push a barrow-load of shit uphill to Sunnydale farm has homosexual overtones.

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Nogget

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 8:45am
  • England
  • 6509 posts

Another terrible biography was one I read on David Bowie* many years ago, which described in some detail David's own reports about his gay encounters, which is odd bearing in mind he has spent the last 35 years denying ever being gay, which I have no reason to disbelieve.

*I do hope the rumours about his failing health are unfounded.

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Agnes Guano

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 2:22pm
  • Tediumcester, England
  • 535 posts

Yes, 'One One Flew into the Cuckoo's Egg' of course. What on earth was I thinking? Jack Nicholson starring as Bill Oddie in a big screen adaptation of his life perhaps.

Estelle's enthusiastic championing of Rochdale as the most 'convenient' place on earth with a lovely town hall is admirable but the spelling mistakes, the appalling grammar, the pointless photos, the inane stories, the lack of any focus and the anger (oh the anger) mark it out as a work of supreme madness. If the fictionalised Alan Partridge biography is a fraction as daft as this then Coogan is on to an absolute winner.

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Stephen Goodlad

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 4:04pm [Edited]
  • Mirfield, England
  • 1939 posts

Not sure about the 'worst' as I have read a lot of autobiographies. I am always sure to get some for Christmas and birthdays, plus the ones I buy.
But two I recall that changed my mind about the person involved were Ian Botham's and Sir Alex Ferguson's.

I had always admired Botham until I read his dishonest diatribe. He had been in the papers for drug taking, infidelity and falling out with team mates.
He denied every claim and blamed others with weak and lame excuses. It was like he was frightened his wife or team mates might read it. If you are not going to tell the truth - don't write the thing.

Whereas I had always thought Ferguson an arrogant and rude man whose job couldn't be easier given the money he had to spend.
What an excellent read of his humble beginnings and getting where he is now by hard work and great judgement.

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Agnes Guano

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 4:57pm
  • Tediumcester, England
  • 535 posts

One of the best ones I read recently was Roy Chubby Brown's 'Common as Muck!'. It helps that he has led one hell of a life and that he is often embarrassingly honest and forthright, but yeah, what a read. I didn't know that much about him before or care much about him but that really opened my eyes. I had just read Eddie Large's autobiography 'Larger Than Life' before that, so I was at a particularly low point in my life as you would imagine, but Chubby really restored my faith in the art of the comedy autobiography.

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fasty

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 5:17pm
  • Derbys, England
  • 264 posts

I read Ricky Tomlinson's and he came across to me as a nasty piece of work.

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Agnes Guano

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 5:27pm
  • Tediumcester, England
  • 535 posts

I thought he came out fairly well. At least he was honest about his National Front membership. He stood up during the building workers' strike and has been a campaigner and charity good guy since so I'll forgive him. Bernard Hill really came across as a twat in the book I thought. I think Ricky used to punch him on a regular basis at one stage.

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youngian

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 6:13pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 1727 posts
Quote: Nogget @ November 23 2011, 8:45 AM GMT

Another terrible biography was one I read on David Bowie* many years ago, which described in some detail David's own reports about his gay encounters, which is odd bearing in mind he has spent the last 35 years denying ever being gay, which I have no reason to disbelieve.

*I do hope the rumours about his failing health are unfounded.

His ex-wife Angie's biography, Backstage Passes, is a stinking piece of work. One chapter starts: "As 1966 rolled into 1967 the Summer oo Love was in full swing in swinging London."

As for Ricky Tomlinson, at least he's been round the block and has a tale to tell. Can't even concieve of having to sit and read the life of Cheryl Cole or some other talent show knob head.

Major Major by the former PM's brother Terry Major-Ball is an odd piece of work detailing his life long passion for making garden gnomes.

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Stephen Goodlad

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 6:44pm
  • Mirfield, England
  • 1939 posts

I read Ricky Tomlinson's too about him being a union activist and going to jail for it.

But I best remember the 1st paragraph where he described the pilot script of 'The Royle Family' landing on his doormat and him taking it to the toilet to read.

He said he read the first few lines and was crying with laughter - they went: Jim is sitting in the armchair studying the phone bill.
Jim: £68, this bill is for £68, good to talk my arse.

He sat on the toilet and read the whole script laughing until he had pins and needles in his legs

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Tim Azure

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 7:28pm
  • Kent, England
  • 2037 posts
Quote: Agnes Guano @ November 22 2011, 11:19 PM GMT


Oddie's because he doesn't say anything about his early years, glosses over much of the Goodies and then suffers a breakdown midway through the book.

Halfway through writing the book or halfway through his life? It's well known he had a pretty lonely childhood, so he wouldn't particularly want to talk about that. Obviously you can't have too much Goodies, so I can see your disappointment there.

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Agnes Guano

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 8:59pm
  • Tediumcester, England
  • 535 posts
Quote: Tim Azure @ November 23 2011, 7:28 PM GMT

Halfway through writing the book or halfway through his life? It's well known he had a pretty lonely childhood, so he wouldn't particularly want to talk about that. Obviously you can't have too much Goodies, so I can see your disappointment there.

Halfway through the book unfortunately which means that the second half of it is packed with all the laughs and giggles of a particularly morbid 19th century Russian novel. He was driving down the motorway at 70 mph past one of those flashing signs that urge you to do 60 despite there not being a single car on the road and was subsequently fined. And then it was downhill all the way. The Word put it bluntly when it described his childhood reminiscences as being particularly "Oedipal", and they were probably right.

I think I would also include 'disappointing' autobiographies in this discussion, those which while not necessarily bad aren't particularly enlightening. I could perhaps see why Robin Askwith stopped in the late 1970s with his 'Confessions of Robin Askwith'. For the next thirty years he pretty much did bugger all except mope around Gozo topping up his leathery tan apart from the odd break to appear in crap like Bottle Boys. But Reg Varney! Well 'The Little Clown', if you ever see it for sale, stops in the late 1930s before he did anything of any interest whatsoever, except hang around East London being short and playing the piano. No memories of being Benny Hill's comedy partner, no Rag Trade or On the Buses, nothing! The rotten short-arsed bus driving nonce.

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Kidda

  • Wednesday 23rd November 2011, 9:08pm [Edited]
  • Birmingham, England
  • 92 posts

I really liked Ricky Tomlinson's book, I read it around the same time as Frank Skinner's, which was equally as good.

Michael Barrymore's book made me want to poke my eyes out, he came across as a moaning old sod who needed to get a grip.

Billy Connolly's one written by his wife was really dull, which is a shame because he had a really interesting life when he was a nipper.

I had Dawn French's autobiography for Christmas the other year but couldn't finish it. I was expecting it to be a laugh a minute but it was depressing as all hell. Especially the letter she wrote to her dad after/about his death.

It's not all bad though. Dave Gorman, Danny Wallace, Shane Richie (yes really) and a few choice others have written some cracking books.

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