Rehashing painful moments is expected in celeb memoirs, but this goes further than most. Comedian Simon Day, the creator of characters such as “Competitive Dad” and Tommy Cockles in The Fast Show, had a solid middle-class upbringing, but after his parents divorced he ended up unwelcome at both homes, mostly due to getting hooked on fruit machines and stealing to pay for his habit. “It’s horrible being homeless,” he writes. “You walk around like a ghost all night.”
After leaving school without qualifications, Day ended up doing three months in a borstal, then wasted his 20s getting fired from minimum-wage jobs, masturbating a lot (catalogued in detail), and hating himself. In the early 1990s he got lucky and met Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer after working in a fireplace shop below their office, and tried standup. “I was unemployed, hungry and angry and I had issues with women and my parents,” he writes. “I was a natural.”
The woes don’t end there. While touring with Vic and Bob, and then on The Fast Show, Day swapped his gambling habit for ecstasy, cocaine and then crack. At the height of his success, he didn’t make it to a standup show he was headlining because England beat Spain at football earlier that day. He refused to apologise to the support act, Dave Gorman. Though Day at times justifies these mistakes, citing undiagnosed dyslexia, ADHD and his addictive personality, he paints a resolutely unlovable picture of himself. As a kid, he was “an awkward, ungrateful little sod”. On standup: “I’ve always been a self-serving cunt, and now I was going to get paid for it.” He calls himself “shallow” and a verbal bully with a “broken moral compass”.
The redemption part comes when Day meets his wife, Ruth, in the book’s final pages. She kicks him into shape, and they have a couple of kids. “I found I could do nothing with her and still be happy,” Day writes. “Time moved on. I got less famous; she remained good-looking.” The highs can’t match the lows, though, and the thrills this book offers are all of the car-crash variety. If all memoirs were this candid we might know celebrities better, but like them less.