Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography

Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0091949343

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Known for his intelligent and often surreal humor, Paul Merton’s weekly appearances on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You—as well as Radio 4’s Just A Minute and his travel documentaries—have seen him become an artfully rebellious fixture in our lives for over 25 years. He also has a real story to tell. In Only When I Laugh, his rich and beautifully-observed autobiography, Paul takes us on an evocative journey from his working-class Fulham childhood to the present day. Whether writing about school days, his run-ins with the nuns, and other pupils; his disastrous first confession; his meat packing job; taking acid; leaving home to live in bedsit; his early brushes with the opposite sex—and not forgetting his repeated attempts to break into the world of comedy—Paul’s writing is always funny, poignant, and revealing. And when his star finally ascends in the atmospherically drawn 1980s alternative cabaret scene, there is a sense of excitement, energy, camaraderie, momentum, and dramatic impending success. . . And then CRASH! In an unflinching and brilliantly written section that defines the book, we experience the disorienting and terrifying sustained manic episode that he suffered which landed him in the Maudesley hospital. These, and other tougher moments, are written about candidly and with sensitivity and honesty. Yet throughout Only When I Laugh, Paul Merton succeeds in telling his life story entertainingly, with warmth, humor and a big bucket load of wit. Ultimately uplifting, it is the story of a fascinating life, brilliantly told—and one of the best memoirs of the year.

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my stomach doesn’t. We were on a farm and one farmworker had a story we were keen to get on camera. It seemed simple enough. Our friend had at one time worked in a government shoe factory, but he had returned to working on the farm for less money because he enjoyed the camaraderie and being in the open air. Our translator tells me that he is very happy to talk about this. I am sitting around with a group of farmworkers and once the camera starts rolling I turn to my interviewee and say, via

the slightest pretext. Proud to be a grammar school, it saw no reason why the comprehensive kids should be allowed to pollute their world. The grammar school boys occupied sets 1 to 4, while us lot, who had failed our eleven-plus test, were in sets 5 to 7. Set 7 consisting of three boys who were semi-literate. I was in set 5, confusingly called Lower Grammar 5. But sets 1–4 were taught a whole array of different subjects to us. The first day was bewildering. As well as being in Lower Grammar 5,

was in with a group of boys who had risen through the grammar school part of Wimbledon College, so they weren’t necessarily an easy crowd. He looked at me and spoke the words I’d been waiting to hear from a responsible adult all my life. ‘You ought to go on the stage,’ he said. After our discussion about whether I could say ‘I was never seen again’, I finished another essay with something like the following paragraph: ‘So there I was in the middle of the Amazon jungle, surrounded by three

my first experience, which was a Mass conducted entirely in Latin. At the age of five I just really didn’t get the holiness and it all seemed so dull. We used to attend St Augustine’s Church in Fulham Palace Road at the Hammersmith flyover end. It’s still there. At such an early age I couldn’t really grasp what it was supposed to be about. At times you would sit or kneel or stand according to what everybody else was doing around you. On one occasion, the boredom so overwhelmed me I produced a

minutes without a Boy Scout from Lichtenstein getting in. It wasn’t. Our plane was delayed for a further twenty-four hours and so by the time I arrived in Sydney, it was eight o’clock in the morning on Christmas Day. Julie was there to greet me at the airport. It was a boost to my spirits to see her and to have finally landed at my place of recuperation, even though I felt like I needed a holiday to get over the flight. The weather was very warm, a cloudless sky, and it was going to get hotter

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