My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

 

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I first became aware of Russell Brand when he was presenting Big Brother’s Big Mouth. I picked up on his impressive improvisation skills, persona, and well delivered catchphrases. I had a gut feeling that he would become a big star. Years later, I find myself reviewing his big-selling autobiography: My Booky Wook.

It turns out that before gaining all that exposure presenting Big Brother’s Big Mouth, he had worked as a presenter for MTV and even made a show for an obscure satellite TV channel that no longer exists, among other media related work as well as stand up gigs and small comedy shows above a pub.

I learned a hell of a lot from My Booky Wook and am very glad I read it. It charts Russell’s rise to success and bestows nuggets of wisdom that Russell specifically acquired from that experience and being a drug addict, a sex addict, and a manic depressive. I want to make clear, though, Russell doesn’t pathologise his manic depression. He takes no medication for the disorder, and instead sees it as a source of creativity, albeit one that comes with highs and lows.

One intriguing insight is when Russell explains how while performing he accesses a realm of intense creativity that enables him to find the right words to say. This is important because being eloquent and mind enchantingly articulate is one of his trademarks. He touches upon this aspect of his talent only briefly a couple of times. In one instance he talks about the power of finding the exact combination of words that will get him what he wants in situations requiring the art of persuasion. He is boldly open about how he has used this skill to bed a number of women.

He divulges vast amounts of information about his sexual conquests throughout the years starting from his early failures and successes and building up all the way to when he is bedding women so frequently that his associates decide that he needs professional help for sex addiction. In My Booky Wook, he documents his treatment in America for his sex addiction and he also documents in incredible detail his years of drug use as well as eventual recovery from this, most notably heroin.

While Russell succeeds in abstaining from the use of hard drugs with remarkable success where so many others fail, he does concede that he still has sex, and who can blame him?

Russell is a professional funnyman and he certainly managed to make me laugh out loud several times throughout the book. However, there were some very sad, even depressing moments in the book and he showed the respect the subject matters at hand deserved, showing a maturity that many people, I think, overlook. There are hints at his interest in politics at certain points and that indicates that his recent forays into political activism didn’t just come about on a whim.

Booky Wook is a must read for any aspiring performer, especially aspiring comedians, as Russell explains his own journey through the process of learning stand-up. He briefly mentions little bits of insight into learning acting, having studied at and been thrown out of stage school, and drama school, and those are fascinating, but he goes into far more detail about comedy and cites his main inspirations as well as the amount of effort he put into learning stand-up as his greatest craft.

Russell mentions many people by name which is a testament to how personable he is and has always been, giving props to every little good deed that contributed to his eventual success. Of course, due to his fragile state, and excessive drug use, he does rub a great many people up the wrong way in the formative years of his rise to fame and he shares a great deal of those sorts of escapades which at one point involves him getting his jaw knocked out of alignment by a bouncer!

Booky Wook is a powerful piece of literature that is a treasure trove of wisdom both directly and perhaps unintentionally.

Reviewed by Alistair Martin

 

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