Michael McIntyre

I used to think Michael McIntyre was a slightly irritating, slightly posh, and not very funny comedian. I am sure I remember in the early days of his career that he had this rather irritating voice that was most offputting.

Well, either my memory is failing me (quite possible), or he has improved immeasurably in recent years, because he is without a doubt one of the funniest of comedians today, and absolutely the most family friendly.

Michael McIntyre

So, having seen him at the O2 and watched his 'Live & Laughing' tour on television many times, I was very excited to get my hands on his autobiography, 'Life & Laughing'. As a book it's a pretty hefty tome, and if you choose the audio option it will take a little over seven hours to get through it. Actually the audio is pretty good because you have Michael telling you his story and he puts an additional comedic spin on it.

What I found rather surprising was that his early career was pretty awful. He struggled to get paid work for many years, struggling even to get unpaid work in fact, whereas in my mind he had gone from nothing to being successful (even though I did not like him) in no time. Why I should think this I don't know. Most artists struggle at the beginning of their careers, but perhaps it was because he's posh.

And posh he is - there's no denying it. His father was quite wealthy (at least at first) and was a big name in UK showbusiness having being Kenny Everett's producer. Michael's grandmother was also extremely wealthy and consequently Michael rarely had to go without.

Privately educated until his teens, when Michael had to go to a regular school, in my mind Michael is Will from the inbetweeners. In fact as he tells the stories of his arrival at secondary school where he stands up when the 'Master' enters the classroom (yes, that's what they are called at posh schools - that and 'Sir') and his disastrous attempts to get a girlfriend I can picture Will and his briefcase. With just a touch of Charlie Brown.

What is striking is that his early life is not exceptional. Yes, he had quite a privileged early life, but he suffered family breakdown, divorce, bereavement, exam success and failure, romantic success and failure (more of the latter sadly) just like the rest of us during his childhood and teenage years.

As a young man Michael has no idea what he wants to do. He later recognises that he had been trying to make people laugh his entire life, and that his ultimate career was in him from the very beginning, but in those early days he had no idea. Not very successful academically, Michael takes a year off (he had failed to get into university) but then returns to academic life with what I can only describe as a miraculous acceptance by Edinburgh University with a couple of Cs and a D. After a year studying chemistry (with the usual student pranks and laughs, and the unusual lack of romantic success) Michael finds his talent in life. He will be a writer.

Dropping out of University and moving to London (supported largely by 50 notes from his grandmother) Michael's career as a writer is short-lived, and he pursues a variety of temporary and part-time jobs including as a messenger. He tells a hilarious story of his part in the Saatchi and Saatchi split.

Eventually Michael realises that what he should be doing is comedy - he was always trying to make people laugh. What follows is several years on the breadline as he learned his trade. After stints at the Edinburgh Festival, and many weekly slots at Jonglers, Michael finally gets his act together - literally - and connects with the agent who will drive his career forward. It is quite astonishing to learn that it took seven years from beginning to success, with a key milestone being when Michael changed from casual (but funny) interaction with the audience, to having a structured, repeatable act.

Michael McIntyre is not a natural writer. We are used to hearing him tell his stories on stage (his act consists of reflections on the absurdity of modern life rather than jokes) but I certainly got the impression that he was uncomfortable for the first few chapters. His natural humour comes through of course, and this is a very easy read with quite a few laughs along the way - even one or two laugh-out-loud moments which I think are rare in most comedy books. The autobiography covers his early childhood only briefly, with the main focus on his formative years and early career struggles. The book takes us to the present day, with Michael having made the grade as a comedian. He has made a mostly normal life sound amusing and interesting. The big plus of course is that he is not only remarkably likeable, but a sympathetic figure as well. His romantic yearnings and failures, and his relentless pursuit of Kitty make him a chap many of us can identify with.

This is a very good read, especially so for an autobiography, and Michael has not over-burdened us with trivial details. Buy it, read it (or have him read it to you!), and enjoy.