This Is Your Life by John O'Farrell
A Novel

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Synopsis

A hugely entertaining novel about the art of stand up comedy, This is Your Life was a runaway bestseller in England. O'Farrell's hero, Jimmy Conway, starts out the novel at the London Palladium. He is about to perform his stand up comedy routine in front of two thousand invited guests and millions more watching the event live on TV. He steps out blinking into the spotlights and waits for the applause to die down. He tries to appear confident but he can't help wondering whether he should have shared his little secret with someone by now. Jimmy has never performed any stand up before - ever.

Conway, a nondescript thirtysomething with a long-faded dream of telling jokes in public, starts the proceedings at the lowest point in his life - teaching school, spending his evenings with a old and grizzled collection of barroom bores (including his ex-girlfriend Nancy) and generally feeling miserable over never having gotten his one lucky break.

Things take a turn for the better when a local comedy legend, Billy Scrivens, with whom Conway has exchanged a fragment or two of small-talk while out running, drops down dead. Interviewed on television, where he is plausibly represented as the deceased's jogging companion, Jimmy suddenly discovers a tiny chink in the door of the closely guarded gateway to fame and celebrity. After snatching a ticket to Billy's funeral (paid for by the UK equivalent of People Magazine, and awash with the rich and famous) he convinces a gullible journalist that he is the latest underground comedy sensation, a performer so principled that he shuns TV and restricts himself to unscheduled appearances at out-of-the-way clubs. A stack of forged reviews from a phantom American tour does the rest. Courtesy of a rave profile in a national newspaper, his career takes off.

The subsequent rollercoaster ride whisks him all the way from a best new stand-up comedy award (where his acceptance speech loss of nerve - "Look, there's been a terrible mistake" - is taken as a riotous gag) to a dullard contribution to a nationally syndicated television show, and even a lucrative ad campaign. Success, inevitably, has its downside: the girls are too eager even for sex-starved Jimmy, and the pub regulars are over-awed by his sudden success.

Which all leads to Jimmy's big night at the Palladium, an ingenious finish where the carpet is pulled from beneath Jimmy's feet, which is credit to O'Farrell's resourcefulness, and his relish of the comic twist and detour.
 

About John O'Farrell

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John O'Farrell has been a writer for the satirical television show "Spitting Image "and on the film "Chicken Run" and is a regular columnist for "The Independent "(London). His nonfiction book on the futility of being a Labour Party supporter, Things Can Only Get Better," "was a #1 "Sunday Times "bestseller in Great Britain. He lives in Clapham, England, with his wife and two children-when he isn't "working.
 
Published December 1, 2007 by Grove Press. 313 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for This Is Your Life

Kirkus Reviews

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Pretty soon Jimmy, who doesn’t believe he’s done much else with his life up to this point besides walk the dog (“Youth is like the mornings: if you don’t make a good start before lunch, you’re in danger of wasting the whole day”), is fabricating an entire double life for himself as an edgy anti-s...

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The Guardian

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The subsequent rollercoaster ride whisks him all the way from a best new stand-up comedy award (where his acceptance speech loss of nerve - "Look, there's been a terrible mistake" - is taken as a riotous gag) to a dullard contribution to the Today programme and a lucrative ad campaign.

Dec 07 2002 | Read Full Review of This Is Your Life: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

In O'Farrell's trite-and-true second novel, all it takes is a small ego problem, a brush with a megawatt star, and an ''epic teenage fantasy.'' At 35, Jimmy Conway divides his time in a dingy English seaside town between a part-time teaching job and putting off work on his screenplay.

May 28 2004 | Read Full Review of This Is Your Life: A Novel

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