by Simon Pegg
368 pages, Century
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
There aren't many celebrities out there I'd like to meet. To be honest, I don't think I'd have much to say to them. Living on a small windswept isle off the coast of Scotland seems to have blown away any interest I once had in celebrity culture. There was a time when I'd have leapt at the opportunity to rub shoulders with a movie star, but now I think I'd probably just mutter a few comments about liking them in a film before shuffling off to the bar.
Simon Pegg is a different matter. I'd probably chew off my own legs to be given the opportunity of meeting him. With roles in “Mission Impossible 3” and the recent reboot of “Star Trek”, it's safe to say that he has broken into the Hollywood big leagues. But although he counts Quentin Tarantino as a friend and has recently worked with Steven Spielberg, I have difficulty perceiving him as a fully-fledged movie star. To me, he'll always be Tim from “Spaced” (possibly the greatest sit-com in the entire history of television). Indeed, his portrayal of the video-game playing, comic-book obsessed slacker was so convincing that the boundaries between character and actor became bafflingly blurred, and I still believe to this day that were we to meet, we'd discover that we were kindred spirits and run away together.
“Nerd Do Well” is Pegg's autobiography and charts his unlikely journey from sci-fi obsessed kid to becoming the idol of fanboys across the globe. The irony of this is not lost on the author and he frequently remarks upon this bizarre quirk of fate. Pegg writes with tremendous humour and energy, as one would expect from a former stand-up comic. He has the ability to inject his formative childhood experiences with enough self-deprecating wit to sustain the attention of even the most cynical of readers.
One thing that surprised me about the book was that despite the stereotypical fanboy preconception I had of Pegg, he actually comes across as a hardworking actor who is very, very committed to his art. His mother introduced him to amateur dramatics at an early age and he quickly found himself hooked on performing. He attended a performing arts college in his teens and followed that up with a degree in drama at Bristol University where he rubbed shoulders with many other aspiring comic actors (David “Little Britain” Walliams and Dominick “Gamesmaster” Diamond are two names which immediately spring to mind). It is nice to think that success just fell into Pegg's lap and he became an accidental overnight success but “Nerd Do Well” dispels any such fantasies. Although he may convey the slacker image very well (an image that he might well actively promote), Pegg's journey from Gloucester to Hollywood has not been an accident but is a result of hard work, dedication and finely-tuned comic timing.
The account of Pegg's life is interspersed with excerpts from a ludicrous superhero fantasy starring the author as a muscular, sexually adventurous action hero out to stop a supervillain with a suitably outlandish plan to destroy the earth. Whilst the autobiographical parts of the book are amusing, this absurd story is never less than laugh-out-loud hilarious. Accompanied by his robot-butler Canterbury, Pegg's globetrotting adventure is so deliberately awful that I can guarantee you'll be snorting with childish laughter throughout. Although it has very little to do with his actual life story and more jaded readers might dismiss it as a bit of padding in which he can cram in a few more knob-gags, the short story gives Pegg the opportunity to let his geeky imagination run wild. Numerous movie references? Check. Tons of shiny gadgets? Check. Homoerotic subtext between man and robot? This story has it all. Indeed, I found it so amusing that part of me wishes that Pegg's next book will be a similarly puerile work of fiction.
If I was to find any fault with the book, it would be that Pegg spends a lot of time reflecting on his childhood and far less time writing about his career. I for one would have loved to have read a bit more about the creation of “Spaced” and “Shaun of the Dead” and a little less about the time he gave his favourite teacher a Mars bar. A minor complaint, as Pegg's writing is so endearingly funny that even the most pedestrian of childhood tales is transformed into a thoroughly entertaining read.
Fans of Simon Pegg should seek this book out at the first opportunity. Those of you who are scratching your heads and wondering “Who is this Simon Pegg guy?” - book yourself a weekend off, crack open a beer, light a fattie and watch “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and both series of “Spaced”. By Monday morning you'll be a card-carrying member of his fan-club.
Hereward L.M. Proops