Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Life And Laughing: My Story - Michael McIntyre

Firstly, apologies to any non-UK readers who don't know who Michael McIntyre is! He's an extremely popular English comedian - just look him up on YouTube and there's loads of clips of his performances on there, and I'm sure you'll love him!

Everybody loves a good laugh, and Michael McIntyre is a national treasure. Also, everybody seems to love a good 'celeb' autobiography - these days you only need be in the spotlight for a few months before your rags-to-riches life story adorns every bookshop's shelves. That's why, when I realised that Michael McIntyre hadn't released a story of his life until 'Life and Laughing' was published in October 2010 (with the paperback version coming out at the end of March 2011) I was very surprised...and keen to read it!

This book tells the story of Michael's life, from his birth, right up until he found fame, and with a brief commentary on what has happened since. It has been a life of laughs and love, trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and this book has shown the public a side to Michael which very rarely gets seen.

Being an autobiography, it is written by Michael McIntyre himself, which is very obvious from the style of writing. It is written exactly like he talks, and often I could even visualise him saying the words! He hasn't tried to be fancy or a flouncy well-practised writer, with an extraordinary vocabulary and meticulous grammar, the story edited to within an inch of its life. No; he has managed to put down on paper, quite simply, himself. It is a very honest account, and it's clear that the words have come straight from his mouth - no ghostwriter in sight!

Michael is a comedian - his job is to make people laugh, and by all accounts it isn't forced or put on, he is a naturally funny person. This really comes across in his book, as it's very funny and there are jokes on each and every page. I'm not one for laughing out loud at books, but one of Michael's talents is that he turns ordinary, everyday events into hilarious moments, in a way that just captures life - he does this both on stage and in the book, and it really had me giggling several times at the things he says.

Of course, if you're not a fan of Michael McIntyre or his comedy, firstly what is wrong with you?! And secondly (and more seriously) this book may not be for you as it just oozes with his comedy style.

Once Michael finds his passion for comedy, he gives several examples of his scripts and jokes, to give the reader an idea of the types of material he was coming up with at the time. This is a nice touch, which takes us from simply reading about his life to actively getting involved in it. The reader goes from being an onlooker to an active participant, a member of his audience.

However, before he even gets that far, in the first half of the book he uses some of his jokes to describe events - jokes which he has performed on stage. This only happened two or three times, but as I was reading I was sure I already knew the rest of what he was going to say...until I realised I'd seen him perform them on TV. This isn't a problem and of course he's allowed to pepper his work with his own comedy material, but in a way I felt a bit cheated. Couldn't he have described those events in his own, honest, factual words, rather than lifting them from a performance and making the events into a show? Perhaps I'm being picky, but I thought it was worth mentioning...

As a rough estimate, I would say that the first third of the book is dedicated to Michael's life as a youngster, and there's a lot to do with members of his family and what they get up to. By the sounds of it they too led very interesting lives, and without doubt it impacted on Michael and the way he grew up and began to see the world, but maybe it would have been nice to have more of his childhood memories. How did he spend his Sunday afternoons? What did he think of his teachers? Did he ever hide his peas under some other food? His family obviously meant the world to him and played and essential part of his life, but he did devote a large portion of this book to them. It should be his story, not theirs.

Furthermore, the third quarter (or so) talks a lot of Michael's struggle to succeed in the comedy world, and of his efforts at the Comedy Store and Jongleurs. I found that this part was - dare I say it - a little boring? It seemed to drag on a bit, but you could argue that this is a good thing. From what Michael says, it is an incredibly difficult thing to succeed in comedy and very few make it to real stardom, so perhaps this section drove home this point. His life was routine and unexciting, dragging on from day to day, and this is reflected in this part of the book. Hmm...maybe it isn't such a bad thing after all, but is actually a very clever, well thought out writing tool!

I did get the impression on several occasions that Michael McIntyre was exaggerating some events. He's a funny man, and I know that his job is to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, but on occasions I felt he took things too far. I wanted to read about his life and what actually happened, not what could have happened if everyone was exuberant and everything was exaggerated. Again, this didn't happen a lot, but when it did I just felt like he was trying too hard and could have just expressed things as they really happened, honestly, without all the show.

Nevertheless, I feel like I'm picking away at this book and finding faults with it at every turn, and I get the feeling I'm giving you that impression too... However, these are only occasional things I noticed, which only result in me knocking one off the rating. It really is a very honest, captivating read. I said at the beginning that he hadn't tried to be perfect, he had tried to be himself, and that's why I think I can overlook these minor details. Had the book come across like he was a word-perfect author as well as a fantastic entertainer, I think I would have criticised it for not being personal enough. As it is, it's a remarkable personal account.

The first half of the book is very jokey - it's a joke a sentence, or just about. It is very funny to read, but at times I just wanted a bit of seriousness. You know those people who laugh at everything and can never take anything seriously? And after a while you just want to shake them and tell them to not make a joke out of every little thing? That's how I felt once or twice through the first half, but by the second half the tone of the writing had changed completely. It was not such funny, laugh-a-minute type reading, but more serious and important. I guess Michael grew up and realised that life can be tough sometimes... This second, more serious half was actually very touching. As I said, the life of a comedian is far from easy, which Michael really manages to convey. He has experienced dejection and rejection, and I found myself feeling very sorry for him. His writing is very honest and conversational, which draws the reader in, so I went on his difficult journey with him. That's a very difficult thing for even the most successful of writers to do, so I commend him on his ability to convey his feelings! Behind all the gags and showmanship, there are some very endearing moments. If you look behind the performance at the man himself, this is a really touching piece of writing which gives insights into the life of Michael McIntyre which I had never guessed would have happened. Onstage, he is the ever-happy, chubby Chinese man when he smiles...but behind that life hasn't always been easy for him.

I should warn you that there is some occasional swearing, which I felt was a bit unnecessary. In fact, it shocked me a bit at first, as I haven't seen him swear on stage, so I didn't think such profanities could escape from such a nice, posh man's lips! They are few and far between (well, maybe quite common when he tells of his wife going into labour!), but I got used to it. However, I'm not sure I'd be happy about youngsters reading it...perhaps you could censor it when you read it, by blacking out the rude words first, before you give it to your children to read! :P

Also included at intervals in this book are pages of photos from throughout Michael's life, right from one of the first pictures ever taken of him, right until the moment he stood on stage under the spotlight in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. I love the photo parts of autobiographies - in this case there aren't too many pictures, but just enough to illustrate and document his life so far.

Overall, despite what it may seem, I actually really enjoyed Michael McIntyre's autobiography. I am a huge fan of his, so enjoyed finding out how he made it to where he is today. It may not be perfect (which could lead me to believe that it had been put together pretty swiftly - if they had taken more time over the book's production maybe more of those little niggles could have been ironed out) but it's a really open account and I thank Michael for being so honest. If you are also a fan of his, I would recommend you read this as it won't take long to read (it's only 384 pages long) but will show you the man beneath the bouffant hair.

At the time of writing, you can purchase a hardback copy for £10, a paperback copy for £4.49, or a Kindle copy for £3.99, all from Amazon. Audiobook versions are also available from Amazon at around the £10 mark.

Summary: Meet the man behind the man drawer! (The man drawer features in one of his most popular and well-known routines - look it up if you don't know it as it's brilliant!)
Rating: 4/5

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  1. Sometimes, when people write their own autobiography, things go a little wonky with the retelling and exaggerating. That's one of the benefits of having someone help with it. I can understand why it's annoying - it's one of the main reasons why I don't read autobiographies that often - but it's just a sign that he wrote this on his own with his own intentions.

    And if I ever blacked out a word in a book, I'm pretty sure my (non-existent) child would probably come running at me and beat me with the marker. (:

    Thank you for the awesome review!

  2. Yes, swings and roundabouts... Write it by yourself and be accused of exaggerating, or get help and be criticised for not writing it completely by yourself I suppose. I guess it's a difficult one to win, sorry Michael! That's also one reason why I virtually never read autobiographies, although as far as they go I'm sure there are some far worse ones out there.

    Heehee I'm sure I would attack someone with the marker too if I ever came across a blacked out word! :) I meant it in jest, though; in all seriousness the swearing was glaringly obvious and I just wanted to make sure adults were aware of it before they give it to youngsters to read :)


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