Look at that Carr

Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Books, Reviews

Alan Carr autobiography 'Look Who It Is' (amazon)

I recently picked up Alan Carr’s autobiography Look Who It Is. I don’t read a lot of biographies but for some reason this one jumped out at me. I think the silly seaside postcard type cover might have helped though, as I do like that.

But then there’s the factor that any biographies I do read tend to fall into two categories — either somehow being related to sport, or gay entertainers. I mean, if you were to own four ‘entertainer’ biographies, what would the chance of them all being homosexuals be? It’s not like it’s an industry where you see many homosexuals is it?

So I’ve got Stephen Fry’s “Moab Is My Washpot”, Graham Norton’s “So Me”, Julian Clary’s “A Young Man’s Passage”, and now Alan Carr’s “Look Who It Is”. I’ve not had the chance to lay my fingers upon John Barrowman’s soft back at the moment, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

Anyway, Alan Carr. For some reason, when he appeared upon telly, I instinctively disliked him (I think it was the voice). And then that changed entirely when he released his DVD called “tooth fairy”, the title of which prompted a laugh-out-loud moment in Woolworths when I saw it, and encouraged me to give him a chance.

The book comes with the tagline from a review “Easily the funniest book of the year”, which was probably another reason I picked it up. This book is not the funniest book of the year. That’s not to say the book isn’t funny (it is) but funniest of the year — no. Of course, I should possibly have noted that the review was from the Celeb magazine Heat, and that possibly they are only capable of reading one book per year…

Alan talks about what it’s like to grow up with a (relatively) famous father who was a football manager. Listening to tales of his childhood it appears that camp has come almost instinctually to Alan — indeed that he’s never really had much choice in the matter, as this description of how he carries a bucket and spade on a family seaside holiday would indicate:

“Alan! Stop that. Stop doing that!” shouted my mother, pointing at me.


I was subconsciously mincing along with my bucket in the crook of my arm like a handbag and twirling the spade around my fingers like a majorette

Alan Carr: Look Who it Is! (p30)

There’s the issues surrounded with changing schools, such as when the teachers and children realise that you’re the son of a professional footballer, and manager of their local team, they somehow will expect you to have at least a modicum of talent with the ball, and Alan generally had to prove them wrong before they would believe him…

On the whole, he seems to have had a relatively pleasant childhood (although there are obviously amusing incidents and anecdotes), although he was exposed to discrimination about his sexuality from an early age — long before he was even aware of his sexuality, one of his friends was forbidden from playing with him for fear of “turning him gay”. Alan points out that this is nonsense — but adds an interesting corollary:

It goes without saying that you can’t ‘catch’ homosexuality, but I’m afraid to say from personal experience ‘camp’ can spread quicker than bird flu if not kept at bay. I’ve reduced builders to simpering Danny La Rues in my time. It’s all in the wrist, I guess.Alan Carr: Look Who it Is! (p41)

The book mostly covers his early life, through to leaving school and spending a lot of time in relatively temporary, relatively low paid, relatively mind-numbing jobs… until of course he got a promotion to ‘Facilities Manager’:

The shine came off my job somewhat when one of the top executives came in and complained about the state of the downstairs bathrooms. I carried on sorting out the facilities paperwork, not envying the person who would have to deal with that little mess.

“Who here is the Facilities Manager?” I jolted upright. Then the penny dropped. I had been a victim of the poxy rebranding that’s endemic these days in the office workplace.Alan Carr: Look Who it Is! (p185)

…and then eventually through to his deciding to try and make a ‘go’ of comedy: early gigs with the payment received not even covering his travel expenses, through to his attempts at the Edinburgh festival (with the illuminating information that many acts may actually lose large sums of money — this had not occurred to me before).

Alan is quite open about his mistakes (assuming of course he’s admitted all of them), such as trying to pass someone else’s review off as your own. Obviously here he was helped by the fact that comedian Jimmy Carr was achieving rave reviews at the time, although understandably it did seem to annoy Jimmy somewhat…

There’s the fact that even being ‘BBC New Comedian of the Year’ does not actually guarantee you any work…

The fun of the book is not so much from Alan Carr’s childhood and early career, which may be interesting in places but is hardly earth-shattering. No, most of the fun comes from the way he tells ‘em: it’s easy to read without being dumb, and Alan has a great sense of what is funny, whether it’s the actual events or the way they are perceived.

He knows how to tell the story, as well as selecting some good ones to tell — I mean, anything starting on a coach with an overflowing toilet and a toilet door that won’t stay shut is bound to be good, but there’s also the time he was mistaken for a former rapist turned born-again-Christian (I blame the glasses), and the time his Dad passed out and had a near death experience in a Chinese restaurant (which I thought was brilliant, mostly because it would appear Graham Carr’s sense of humour has similarities with my own).

The book ends just as he’s looking at getting together with Justin Lee Collins to take over The Friday Night Project. And since that’s where the book ends, I’ll stop here too.

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