Fans of Count Arthur Strong (and yes I know he’s so Marmite you could spread him on a cheese sandwich) love the failed performer because he does what we all dream of: ranting at others to cover our own mistakes. At the same time he reminds us what a fool this makes one look, so as well as being an entertainer he’s a cautionary tale.
The warning is now available in book form, Through It All I’ve Always Laughed. If you’re unfamiliar with the Count’s work you should probably sample him on radio or television first. Converts, however, will relish the revelations about what made Strong the man, the legend, the sole proprietor of the Doncaster Academy of Performance he is.
We see him ‘growing fast, like forced rhubarb does’ under the influence of a father who ‘laughed like an infectious hyena’. His first drug trip results in him trying to bite Rodney Bewes, while it’s 1974 before he tastes an olive (‘and when I did I wished I hadn’t’). He gives generously of his time to charities such as ‘Stop the Dolphins’, though struggles to understand John Bishop’s Scouse accent: ‘It’s like he’s choking or something. ’Some sections are entirely in capitals because ‘the thing’s stuck on’, and the whole book is annotated with hand-written reminders (‘10.15 Wednesday, Citizens Advice Bureau — remember picture of cat mess on path’).
Rarely has genius appeared so human.
Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £13.99 Tel: 08430 600033
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10