IN AN attempt to add a bit of a variety to my seemingly endless stream of blog posts centred around my work for The Dandy, I thought I’d start throwing in some other bits and pieces here and there, sometimes comics related, but sometimes – like today – they’d be based around some of my other interests and fancies, such as comedy, writing, and books.
Happily, the book I thought I’d bring to your attention today ticks all three of those boxes. Hooray, job done! We can all knock off early.
What? Oh yeah, you’ll be wanting the review, then.
Mr. Lonely was a novel written by the late, legendary comedian Eric Morecambe, after his second heart attack made him consider slowing down and turning his talents from television performing to writing. It’s been out of print for about thirty-odd years, but was recently re-released by those fine folk at The Friday Project, giving Morecambe completists and fans (such as myself) a chance to finally read the novel.
The old axiom ‘write what you know’ holds very true with this book, as the novel centres around the misadventures of Sid Lewis, a working-class comic who starts off performing in the music halls and clubs, before landing a BBC gig that sees his career skyrocket. Sound familiar?
There is a lot more that will be familiar to fans of Morecambe and Wise throughout the book. The quips and gags can almost be heard in Morecambe’s voice (a man is described as looking ‘old enough to remember Madame Butterfly as a caterpillar’, another is described as talking ‘only to prove he’s alive’ for example). All that’s missing is a ‘wa-heeey!’, a turn to camera and some extensive glasses-waggling to punctuate them.
The jokes and occasional slapstick, along with a reference to Des O’Connor and a fleeting appearance from one of Morecambe and Wise’s producers, leave the reader in no doubt as to who the author is, but if you are expecting the book to bring you sunshine, then prepare yourself, dear reader.
For you see as well as being funny, the book doesn’t shy away from the darker side of showbiz, covering the trials and tribulations of working on the comedy circuit, performing to drunks in the dingiest dives imaginable. Sid himself is not an entirely sympathetic character either, cheating on his wife with a selection of girls he meets backstage or at Television Centre, and who is in possession of some attitudes that are, shall we say, less than politically correct . There’s also a fair amount of tragedy among the titters, all of which give the book a darker edge than one might have expected from a man who danced with Michael Aspel and who played piano badly with Andre Previn.
How much of the book’s content reflects an author who was increasingly disenchanted with the showbiz life we shall never really know, especially with so much of Morecambe’s DNA shot through the novel. Indeed, even Eric himself appears in one chapter!
However, perhaps that is to read too much into the novel. What we DO know is that the book is by turns tragic and comic, and throws a (sometimes) unforgiving light on the world of showbusiness. It’s a great read which maybe runs out of steam towards the end, in which some of the characters may be rather simply drawn and it’s possibly not for those who are easily offended, but overall I’d say it’s far from (wait for it…) ‘ruggish’. Ithankyew.
Now cue the song…