I like Adam Hills as a comedian and as a TV host. Spicks And Specks, even being repeated for the nth time, is mandatory viewing. It was one of the few shows my then wife and kids all liked and would watch together. And The Last Leg has some pretty cool moments (Ed Miliband re-eating the bacon sandwich on that motorbike springs to mind). But a book?
Now, I read quite a bit. As a writer, it helps if you read. And I've read lots of books by comedians. George Carlin's and Woody Allen's are masterpieces; John Cleese's and Denis Leary's aren't too bad; Bill Oddie's, Tim Allen's and Jerry Seinfeld's are okay; most of the rest are crap. Notice - none I mentioned are Australian.
So, I have to admit it was with some trepidation I sat down to read Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills.
I read it in one sitting. Could not put it down.
Now, first of all, it's not a classic. It's not going to change the world. But it is an easy, pleasant read. The Adam Hills persona he puts forward on stage, on radio and on TV is here in full force that is so clearly his personality, judging by this book, that he now comes across to me as an even more genuine, nice guy.
Adam Hills in 2008 (wikipedia)
The book is an autobiography. Sure. But there is a word that comes up, a quote from a review of one of his gigs, and that is "celebratory". This book is celebratory. It celebrates the positives. It is so damn good to read a book by a comedian who did not have a shocking upbringing. That whole "you need tragedy/depression to be funny" thing does not ring true as you read this. He uses another word positivity. That is the tone of the book.
And it is something I have tried to do while writing here for Weekend Notes I have vowed to only write about something if I like it.
I like this book.
The start is the standard growing up stuff. He does not harp on about his sporting achievements or his one foot too much; it's more about being a kid in Australia, and as someone who is around his age (although not from Sydney) I could relate to a lot of the attitudes he wrote about. I did find some of his pandering to international readers annoying, but hey! I'm Australian and didn't need to be told, so there is that.
But to me, the book really hit its straps when he talks about hitting the radio airwaves. Some stories made me laugh out loud one I really liked was the work colleague who tried to convince him that she was doing a study on how people react to seeing a drunk woman walking at 4am. And he owns up to mistakes the kidnap in the boot escapade comes to mind here. And his depiction of Australians away from the big cities when his car broke down en route to Whyalla and everyone helped and ribbed him rings so very true.
As a writer, his mother's advice about parentheses is something my own constant readers have slowly weaned me away from, so there is that.
There is one part that annoys me a little. While the stories and anecdotes and everything else are interesting, I am not a big fan of the diary format. (This despite one of the books I edited a really interesting autobiography about life on Kangaroo Island was based on diaries, but that was not by a professional writer.) So the chunk of diary in the middle was a little jarring to me.
But then we hit the Spicks and Specks years. I've already mentioned how addicted I am to the show, and the stories from here are wonderful. (Reunion later on this year?!) His words to be sung to 'Mamma Mia' yes, I found myself singing them to the tune. Not enough about In Gordon St Tonight, which I really liked, even if poor Hannah hurt her neck.
The chapter on the Paralympics is wonderfully written (S13 ½ - I love that line!). The Royal Variety Performance stuff had an air of familiarity about it, but I loved the Whoopi Goldberg anecdotes. She comes across as a genuine person, and on the written page by another person that is some fine writing there. The whole bit about the Muppets had me smiling from start to finish. And then Mick Foley!! When I wrestled, towards the end of my career that was who I was constantly told I looked like! And Adam got to meet him! Yes, jealousy sometimes does rear its ugly head.
The section about how The Last Leg came to be I found more fascinating than anything. It portrays the shambolic nature of television and yet that all seems to come right in the end. It is a show I enjoy, and it seems that the organic feel of the show is borne of natural chemistry.
Tanya Plibersek's comment about copping comments from male MPs about her legs every day does not augur well for Australia's future in the gender equality debate. And we finish with sport and Billy Connolly.
Wow. This was really good.
Now, here I have to confess something. I've met Adam twice. First time, he was working at SAFM and I had recently done my first stand-up gig and was writing for a magazine called The Jolly Review. I don't know how it came up, but I was at SAFM and was introduced to him. He asked what I did, I told him I was a writer and that I'd performed. He told me he was a stand-up as well, but then he went off and I was hustled away to whatever meeting I was scheduled for. I next saw Adam's gig at Boltz Café during the inaugural Adelaide Comedy Festival. I was attracted by the Adam Ant style poster. (Sad, I know.) After the gig I even managed to chat to him for all of 30 seconds, but he seemed tired and the conversation petered out. I haven't performed stand-up on stage since 1995, but I still write comedy. Too much, possibly (publishers comedy novels awaiting!) as horror and fantasy sell better. I hope I am as good as Adam Hills. He won't remember, but I do.
So, this is a book worth reading. Definitely. It is something positive in a world of negativity and, more than that, it is written by some-one who seems to be a genuinely nice guy.