Failure is the very stuff of comedy, but not of showbiz memoirs, so Small Man in a Book (Michael Joseph, £20) is unusual. Rob Brydon’s success came quite late, with Marion and Geoff in 2001, when he was 35, after an ‘era of terrible job after terrible job’, and it makes a happy ending to his book, which is otherwise a gently amusing account of his long and gruelling Kampf.
Born a Jones in Swansea, into a milieu of Sugar Puffs, Roy of the Rovers and discouraging teachers (‘You think you’re very funny, don’t you?’), he gave his first stand-up performance aged 14, with a routine pirated from The Two Ronnies’ Joke Book. After dropping out of drama school, and parting company with Radio Wales, he was reduced to playing Wyke Regis Working Men’s Club, and flogging Paula Yates Hand Cream on the Shopping Channel. He warmed up other performers’ audiences, and did the voices for many ads, while rejection slips and returned video cassettes fell steadily through his letter box.
He would occasionally cross paths with a star — a ‘fleeting encounter’, for instance, with Steve Coogan at the Reading Holiday Inn — and he recalls such meetings with the fervour of a true fan, thrilled to have joined the club at last: ‘As it turned out, I would go on to meet and often work with many of my heroes …’
This catalogue of rejection and embarrassment explains to Brydon’s own fans the inspiration for his particularly cringe-making comedy.