❉ Brian ‘Limmy’ Limond’s memoir is an extraordinary, raw read, writes Andy Murray.
“No-one could mistake this for a self-help volume, unless you can imagine one written by an Irvine Welsh character, with a constant sense of unease, the threat of violence and endless weapons-grade swearing on the streets of Glasgow.”
We might not be living through a golden age for TV sketch shows just now, but Limmy’s Show was a brilliant one. For three series between 2010 and 2013, it doled up a rapid-fire succession of set-ups and characters united by a dark, disorientating, stoned-at-three-in-the morning tone. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the show was named in honour of the strange liminal space it inhabits, but no. It was actually by a guy from Glasgow called Brian ‘Limmy’ Limond.
Prior to the show, Limmy had made a name for himself with online sketches and a daily podcast, and since it ended he’s stayed prolific creating Vines and Twitch videos. He’s also branched out into prose, writing two well-received volumes of short stories.
All of which leads us to this, Limmy’s new memoir. It’s an extraordinary, raw read. On social media he’s often talked about his struggles with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, and here he tells the whole story. And Limmy doesn’t hold back. At all. This is no superficial celebrity autobiography which sanitises and prettifies the truth. His struggles with drink and drugs are spelt out in a matter-of-fact fashion, as are his brushes with the law and his early sexual experiences (many of which are awkward misfires rather than tales of carnal conquest). Most memoirs would stop short of including a chapter called ‘My First Wank’.
It’s all told in an organic, uber-chatty way – ‘Anyway, what happened was this’ – as though it’s a transcribed audio-book. As prose goes, it’s sparse. Sentences, paragraphs, chapters, they’re all short, punchy and right to the point. You’ll struggle to find an adjective on most pages, but that lack of floweriness is direct and hugely refreshing. The whole book is not unlike someone collaring you down the pub and telling you their whole life story with all its ups and downs. By page 9 he’s saying ‘I sometimes wonder if I’m a psychopath. Or if I’m warped in some way’. It all goes a long way towards explain where the intense, uneasy feel of his work comes from.
Aside from the personal material, there’s plenty here about Limmy’s career, the genesis of his comedy work and projects that haven’t come off, including three cracks at making a sitcom and a fudged opportunity to write for Black Mirror. It’s undoubtedly down to earth, then, but is it very funny? Well, Limmy’s humour is very much an acquired taste. It’s dark but it’s not forced gross-out stuff or a Gothic gallows approach. It comes from a very real place, and it’s often his sheer audacity, coupled with a gift for timing, that makes you laugh.
At one point here he apologises for telling a story from his childhood that’s been grim and intense… and then tells another that’s every bit as grim. In discussing the occasion from his youth when he attempted suicide by slashing his wrist, he admits that he enjoyed the attention it got him, and says ‘If you’re feeling down, I definitely recommend it. No, I’m joking.’ For some this will be too much to stomach, but there are plenty of twisted laughs to be had. Essentially Limmy’s a compulsive wind-up merchant and he freely admits that he’ll say or do something awful just to cause a stir if he’s bored. Love him or hate him, you can’t fault him for being honest about it.
On the back cover blurb, Limmy announces that he was initially asked to write a book about his mental health troubles but preferred to fold that into his life story. No-one could mistake this for a self-help volume, unless you can imagine one written by an Irvine Welsh character, with a constant sense of unease of threat of violence and endless weapons-grade swearing on the streets of Glasgow. Nevertheless, at heart this is the story of a man turning his life around and finding satisfaction and an audience with his creative output. At times it’s genuinely, unexpectedly inspiring. Fittingly, the story doesn’t tie up in a big happy-ever-after bow. It ends with him confessing that his relationship with his long-time girlfriend Lynn (who designed the book cover) has been on the rocks lately and that he may or may not be about to get diagnosed with ADHD.
Reading the book feels like spending time with Limmy, a man who doesn’t always seem to enjoy spending time with himself. It’s a compelling experience, though, and one which could be appreciated by existing fans and non-believers alike. The basic criteria for a good autobiography are that the author has a story to tell and the knack for telling it. Limmy scores highly on both points. He has a genuine way with words (though admittedly a good many of them rhyme with ‘blunt’) and he’s always had a knack for telling a story that skates between uneasy laughter and existential terror. In that respect, his own story is no different.
❉ ‘Surprisingly Down to Earth, and Very Funny: My Autobiography’ by Limmy is published in hardback, e-book and audiobook by Mudlark on 21 February. Order yours here: http://bit.ly/limmybiog.
❉ There will be an accompanying 25-date UK book tour.
❉ Andy Murray is Film Editor for Northern Soul and a regular contributor to Big Issue North. He’s also the author of the Nigel Kneale biography Into the Unknown and co-author (with Dr Mark Aldridge) of the Russell T Davies biography T is for Television. He’s not the tennis guy, obviously. But he did once receive a publicity photograph of him to sign by mistake.