Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography

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9780091949358: Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography

A fresh, intelligent and uplifting memoir from one of our best-loved comedians. Very much in the same league as Steven Fry's The Fry Chronicles and Dawn French's Dear Fatty.
Paul Merton is widely considered to be one of Britain's most established and famous living comedians. His weekly appearances on BBC2's Have I Got News For You (which has now been running for 23 years), as well as Just A Minute and a whole host of other Radio 4 improvised shows, have seen him become a household name and national treasure to millions. His humour is (mostly) intelligent, surreal at other times.

It is impossible to précis a life in a short paragraph, but you will be aware of key episodes of which he has little talked about. His upbringing in working class South London is detailed and richly observed. And whether it's about his early work packing meat and or his efforts to try and break into comedy Paul's writing is funny, poignant and revealing. His emergence as a start of the radical and exciting 1980s alternative comedy scene gives great scope for tales of everyone from Fry and Laurie, Smith and Jones, French and Saunders and hundreds of less well known and surreal double acts. You might also know that Paul sectioned himself into the Maudsley Hospital for mental health issues around this time, but he has never written about it in the kind of detail that he does here. It is not an easy subject to write about but he pulls it off brilliantly. And whether it's about his marriage and divorce with the actress Caroline Quentin, for example, or the tragic death of his second wife, Sarah Parkinson, Paul deals with each episode with intelligence, candour and honesty.

The book is both funny, frank and at times deeply moving. Paul is not the sort of man to go rushing to the papers every five minutes, and so there is much about his life that he has not spoken about before. Written in a warm, touching style, he immediately pulls you into his confidence and the book treads that fine line between witty and honest, entertaining and moving, shocking and uplifting.

And that's the long and short of it.

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Product Description:

Known for his intelligent and often surreal humour, 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 meatpacking 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, humour 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.

Review:

"Crammed with laugh-out-loud moments" ( Daily Telegraph)

"A rollicking good read" (Bruce Dessau Evening Standard)

"A thoughtful, understated memoir" (Joe Moran Guardian)

"Witty and enjoyable" (Robert Elms BBC Radio London)

"Compelling" ( Chortle)

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Paul Merton
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