23 October 2006

The Sound of Laughter: That Other Peter Kay Book

A couple of months ago, I read That Peter Kay Book, the unofficial biography of Bolton’s very own Peter Kay. Having spent a few nights staying away from home on a training course last week (without any Internet access in the evenings, if you can imagine that) I managed to finish reading yet another book – The Sound of Laughter: The Autobiography of Peter Kay.

If you’ve ever seen Peter Kay’s stand-up shows, watched his TV series and / or listened to his director’s commentaries on his DVDs, you’ll already be aware of how much crossover there is between all of his material; many of the jokes he tells on stage also appear in Phoenix Nights and stories told during his DVD director’s commentaries also often appear in his TV series. What you realise when you read this book is that practically all his comedy sketches, and particularly those found in That Peter Kay Thing, are based on actual events he’s experienced throughout his life. Does this make him less funny? Not at all!

Now, I realise this probably slows down my reading speed but whenever I read books, I tend to read them aloud in my head. (I know that’s a bit of a contradiction, but I’m sure you know what I mean!) As I was reading Peter Kay’s autobiography, I could imagine him speaking every word to me, especially because he writes very much like he speaks. I actually think reading it that way made the book much funnier – it’s often the way he tells them after all! Downloading his first chapter as an audio book a few weeks ago probably helped me to read it like this too.

Whilst reading the book, I felt as though I’d got quite a bit in common with Peter Kay. For a start, we’re both Bolton boys, so I know many of the places he talks about in his book. We were also both altar boys at church when we were younger. Neither of us are really football fans. We both hated P.E. at school. But we both loved drama and we’ve both been in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. As Peter says:

“I’ve always believed drama to be an important subject. It’s not just about play-acting, it’s about giving children confidence and ironing out their inhibitions. [...] I guarantee that they’ll exude charisma and confidence for the rest of their lives as a result of being taught drama.”

And I agree... of course! ;-)

Fortunately, I had more success with musical instruments than him; he ruined his saxophone by cleaning it with Jif in the kitchen sink and subsequently gave up learning how to play it. I managed to get ten more GCSEs than him, although we both passed our GCSE in Art. I didn’t have as many part-time jobs as him; I can count all of mine on one hand, whereas he might even struggle to remember all his. I found learning to drive much easier than him; I took one test and passed, he took and failed several...

So maybe we don’t have that much in common after all! I guess it’s a bit odd, but even though our lives were so different growing up, I can still relate to much of what he’s written. Is it just because we grew up in Bolton during a similar era (he’s just a few years older than me) or is his comedy so wide-reaching and clever that he can make everyone feel like they can relate to his experiences? Maybe we’re all just like Peter Kay, with hundreds of funny, sad, interesting and just plain boring anecdotes to tell about our lives.

Anyway, if you’re a Peter Kay fan, I think it’s worth reading both of these biographies as they really complement each other. Of course, just as you’d expect, there are a few parts of Peter’s life that appear in both books, but it’s always good to get two sides of the story.

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