Jeremy Hardy – My Family and Other Strangers: Adventures in Family History

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Comedy memoirs are big business.  They have been for some time.  But, let’s face it, they’re damn difficult to pull off.  Even How to Talk Dirty and Influence People isn’t as good as you feel it should be.  I read, and enjoy, a fair amount of them.  But, ultimately, only two* would I actually class a good books.  And, of those, I’m pretty certain one would always have the not-for-everyone proviso attached.

And so to – Radio 4 stalwart, 80s comedian, lefty and the bloke that admired Blackadder‘s balls – Jeremy Hardy‘s addition to the genre.  (I am, of course, a fan – why else would you buy such a thing?)  Hardy was sacked from the Guardian for having a column that was regarded as “not funny enough”, because he actually covered events, politics and campaigns that were of interest to him.  His publisher here has found a way to avoid that that, while keeping the interest of the Radio-4-listening Guardian-reading audience that he has; basically, they’ve sent him to do a sort of Who Do You Think You Are? in book form (and, as he admits, he’s never likely to be on it proper).

Despite turning up some interesting facts about his family (like the relative that sailed ships fo the ‘wrong’ side during the american civil war), the family tree part of the book (bacuase, we all know that’s not why we’re really here) can get a bit dull.  There are so many passages of who begat what that you can’t help feeling that the publisher felt the book was, perhaps, a little thin.  Of course, it’s the taking of the journey, the people he meets along the way, and what he learns about himself that makes for the interesting stuff in here.

If you have any interest in Hardy’s work, the memoir asepcts are excellent. We get his story of growing up in military towns the son of a rocket scientist (and the lovely tale of his father’s proposal to his mother).  There are remembrances of friends gone (like Linda Smith and Humphrey Lyttleton).  And, an analysis of beign an activist and just getting burnt out by the sheer volume of injustice you could set yourself up to fight against.

But, it works best as a portrait of an increasingly irascible man in his fifties.  A man who cannot decide if the inequalities of mankind or his inability to catch a train from Clapham to Croydon is life’s greatest iniquity. And, who goes on a journey of discovery only to discover what he laready knew.  Most people are decent, and families are generally a good thing.

So, as charming and as funny as Hardy on stage (ie. often hilarious).  As you’d expect really. Not really likely to win him any new fans, though.

*Seeing as how you all asked: Reasons To Be Cheerful by Mark Steel and How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee.  You can decide which gets the proviso yourself.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

18 November 2013 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Books, Comedy

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