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 a psychiatric 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.