Just as Johnny Vegas isn’t your usual comedian, Becoming Johnny Vegas isn’t your usual celebrity autobiography. Most of those I’ve read tend to be a collection of funny anecdotes interspersed with achievements and name-dropping. While Becoming Johnny Vegas includes all of that, it’s also so much more – the introspection and self-reflection here goes deeper than in any other celebrity autobiography I’ve ever read, as Pennington (Vegas’ real name) tries to get to the bottom of just how he became Johnny Vegas.
Recounting his happy childhood had me rolling – I heard every one of those anecdotes in his distinctive voice and the way he captures how kids talk really tickled me, before hitting me right in the feelings when he joined Upholland seminary (right by my auntie’s house – hi, Auntie Marie!) at the age of 11, where his anxiety and self esteem take such a battering he leaves a year later – and gets to add in guilt over the fact that he’s cost his hard working but not well off parents more than they could afford.
The way Pennington writes about the two dominant voices in his mind – Johnny Vegas, who’d later consume him entirely, and the hypochondriac Doctor Death constantly convincing him he’s about to die of a terminal disease – was really well done, down to the changing fonts whenever one of those voices rears its head.
As first his drinking and then his comedy career really starts to take off, Pennington does a great job of showing just how useful Vegas was to him in dealing with his crippling anxieties and finally silencing Doctor Death, and how easy it was to then continue further down that road to Vegas.
I already had a lot of affection for Johnny Vegas before reading this book, now I’m even more admiring – this is one of the best celebrity autobiographies I’ve ever read.