Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My Struggle by Paul Merton

My Struggle by Paul Merton (Boxtree 1995)

As with his much more recent book and accompanying television series on the heroes of silent comedy show Paul Merton has a real interest in the earlier forms of comedy and this book is no different in what is a spoof fictionalised 'autobiographical' account of an East End music hall performer.

Born to theatrical parents, the music hall act Bert and Mary (the Marvellettes) a water stirrer and a cough check girl who surprised a lot of people by marrying very quickly 'the ceremony lasted only eleven seconds', Paul was quite literally shot into fame via a vintage cannon, a rubberised nappy, an overhead smash that would have graced the centre court at Wimbledon and the safe hands of King George V. Baby Paul's early days in Hollywood involved acting in Western's before he could talk and throwing his rattle in a fight with a Sioux Indian. He returns to England in acrimony and life begins a series of ups and downs, entertaining the Germans during the second world war, radio comedy with Peter Sellers, game shows and children's entertainment alongside his faithful hippopotamus. There are of course several murders, a friendship with Prince Charles and a defining relationship with an agent with whom he communicates through the second-hand fridge section of the newspaper 'Dalton's Weekly'.

The jokes start, of course, with the title which needs translation into German for its effect. The book is a very nineties and a very English phenomenon so be prepared for some Bruce Forthsyth and Max Bygraves jokes. It is thoroughly sarcastic and incredibly tongue in cheek and I'd argue that it has also not aged well. There are some passages which made me laugh aloud but as the book goes on you get the feeling that he ran out of enthusiasm with the project and the narrative begins to meander. I am a fan of Paul Merton and his rather unique sense of humor and so have a soft spot for this book but I can't actually contend that it's any good.

I love it despite all its faults: