Paul Sinha writes autobiography as he contemplates end of his career

ExclusiveFriday 16th June 2023, 10:20am by Jay Richardson

  • Paul Sinha is writing a memoir, set to be published in February
  • The comic says that he fears his latest Edinburgh Fringe show, Pauly Bengali, may be his last
  • He said: "Without wishing to be bleak, I'm in the last stage of my entertainment career ... realistically, I've got a shot at about five more good years and just want to enjoy myself, not really giving a shit about who I upset in the process"
Paul Sinha

Paul Sinha is writing his autobiography as he faces up to the prospect of his career ending, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

The stand-up, star of ITV quiz The Chase and former GP is also about to begin previews of his latest Edinburgh Fringe show, Pauly Bengali, a "pathos-free", "celebratory" hour in which he takes a couple of swipes at fellow comics that have wronged him and simply tries "to entertain the masses".

Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2019, the 53-year-old told BCG that "without wishing to be bleak, I'm in the last stage of my entertainment career. I feel like, realistically, I've got a shot at about five more good years and just want to throw everything at the wall and enjoy myself, not really giving a shit about who I upset in the process.

"There will be stuff I say on stage this summer that will be brutal, genuinely brutal in my opinion, but coming from a moral point of view. I pick my targets very carefully and put a lot of thought into whether the victims are justifiable or not. Because although I'm tired of pathos, I'm not tired of being angry and of trying to make an impression. I've not mellowed. Stand-up is a way I can say things that I can't on social media."

In the show, the former Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee will recount an incident in which he drunkenly insulted a fellow comedian-turned-cultural commentator at an awards ceremony, and how it was subsequently airbrushed out of press coverage. And he closes the hour with a "blockbuster" song about another comic who plagiarised him.

Sinha only began performing songs in his acclaimed 2022 Edinburgh show, One Sinha Lifetime, a risk that paid off. And he's taking further chances this year, upgrading to the 400-seater main room of the New Town Theatre, without the backing of PR.

"I had a really successful run in the 200-seater basement of the theatre last year so it makes sense to gamble, as I can't guarantee I'll ever come back to the Edinburgh Fringe" he says. The sports enthusiast plans to sit out next year to enjoy watching the Olympics. "I'd like to be back in 2025, that's the dream but I don't know what's going to happen to my body in two years. So I've gone for the big room.

"I can't sing. I've always been a failed, frustrated musician because I know I can write good songs but can't necessarily perform them that well. Increasingly though, as long as a joke comes out and people are aware that they're watching a man fighting against the dying of the light from a physical point of view, performing badly, weirdly, has more charm. I used to be a really good pianist and I'm not anymore because of Parkinson's. But I can still write funny, punchy songs.

"It gave me enormous pride that people really liked them last year. And that having been around for so long [after making his Fringe debut in 2004], I could still do something artistically that I'm not known for. It was interesting to me that Mark Steel has started playing piano in his shows. And Al Barrie had a rap in his. It feels like something others are cottoning on to. You don't have to be the comedian you are for the other 11 months of the year.

Moreover, "surprise is a really good comedic weapon, you don't want to give away too much before a show begins. When I did my [2018] show The Two Ages Of Man, when out of nowhere I suddenly introduced the fact that I'd been sexually assaulted the first time I went out on the gay scene, it really shocked the audience.

"I've been mining my personal life for so long that this is fundamentally not going to be about any of that though. None of it is going to be 'look at me: I'm disabled, I'm gay, I'm married'. It's not going to be tugging at anyone's heartstrings."

Paul Sinha

Despite his physical impairment and the "flawed, expensive and unfair" nature of the Fringe that sees artists "struggling to make a decent living", Sinha still "loves the experience of being in one of the world's great cities and performing for an hour.

"And I'm very much a believer in the masochism of the full run. I'm not one of these comedians that despairs in the last week, wandering bedraggled around the streets of Edinburgh, wondering what's going on in my life. I actively enjoy being there for the whole thing."

One Sinha Lifetime featured Sinha reading extracts from Extras star and competitive quizzer Shaun Williamson's 2020 book A Matter Of Facts, which includes two chapters devoted to him, one about him winning the British Quizzing Championships three months after his Parkinson's diagnosis.

"It was surreal having the biggest moment of my life retold by a celebrity's autobiography before I had even written a word down myself" he recalls.

Now he's addressing that in his own memoir, currently untitled but set to be published on the 8th of February by Ebury Press. In contrast to Pauly Bengali, it will "unapologetically be played for pathos", a "conventional autobiography of an unconventional life".

He suggests that "when you write an autobiography, you suddenly realise how fragile everything was.

"Those various moments that made you who you are. If The Chase had decided to go in a different direction. If the comedy award panel in 2006 had rewarded Stephen K Amos or Shappi Khorsandi rather than me. It was my second show. If it had been my first, I'd probably have got nominated for best newcomer and would have had a very different life.

"Middle-class, educated people often give the wrong impression that theirs' was an organised life. I've drifted, from the moment I was pushed into medicine [by his parents], a career path that I was the least suited for, to finding something I'm actually good at and actually enjoy. Stumbling into comedy.

"A lot of people are very depressed about their lot in comedy at the moment. But I would say hang on in there. You never know what skillset you have, what's unique you bring to the party, what is suddenly going to be someone's idea of kerching! Brett Goldstein was doing well received, moderately attended shows in Edinburgh not that long ago. Before Ted Lasso and the Emmys came along.

"At the age of 38, I gambled on taking quizzing seriously, a decision that totally transformed my life. And I would never have done that if Simon Evans hadn't rung me, asking me to join a comedians team on University Challenge: The Professionals, thinking that because I'd been a doctor I'd be good at science.

"I grew up loving stand-up but didn't think I could be a comic. I was five years into it before I realised it might be possible to earn enough money from it to live comfortably. It took me seven years to take the plunge [and go full-time].

When I was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2006, I hadn't realised I was, by some margin, the most successful comedian in Britain who wasn't doing it as his first job."

Paul Sinha - One Sinha Lifetime: A Bengali Boy's Search For The Meaning Of Life

By Paul Sinha

Paul Sinha is an award-winning comedian, a quizzing mastermind and a happily-married husband. But it hasn't always been this way.

As a boy, Paul struggled to find his place in a world where he didn't quite fit. Who was he? A smart young man with the world's knowledge at his fingertips? A traditional Bengali son, destined for a career in medicine that he didn't want? A gay man who couldn't quite come out? A man on a self-destruct mission?

Amid life's chaos, it was general knowledge - the security of clear questions with correct, if not always simple, answers - that kept Paul sane, even as he struggled into a new life as a stand-up comedian. And it was an unexpected introduction to a pub quiz team that took things even further, introducing him to a new life, a new identity, and, eventually, new love...

A hilarious and moving coming-of-age memoir of one man's search for meaning, One Sinha Lifetime is an unforgettable story of love, family, and the joy of general knowledge.

First published: Thursday 20th June 2024

  • Publisher: Ebury Press
  • Pages: 320
  • Catalogue: 9781529908534

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

Share this page