Review: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Memoir is a notoriously difficult genre for me to review accurately. Add to it the fact that the particular memoir that I'm reviewing today is of a comedian/public figure that I have been a fan of since shortly after I hit double digits and it gets a whole lot more difficult--it is so very tempting to veer off course. So I'll start with this (and if it's too boring just skip ahead to the next paragraph where the actual review will start*), I used to hear Adam Hills on the radio a lot in the mid-1990s, as he was part of a stellar line-up on a top rating radio station here in Adelaide. Many of you who are from Adelaide and who grew up with it will be familiar with SAFM and the phenomenal influence it had back in the day.  (Apparently they reached some of the highest ratings scores ever seen in a capital city.) Adam Hills himself became very popular--so much in fact that here in Adelaide we like to claim him as one of our own, even though he was born and raised in Sydney. On a more personal level, I started tuning in a lot during a particularly low point in my adolescence when I was trying to deal with selective mutism and all of the shit that goes with it, I used to hear Adam Hills on the radio a lot and in a way it helped me. (Although, admittedly, there were probably at least a few jokes that went straight over my head at the time.) A consequence of this is that I've always felt a bit of a glow when I've heard about his career and what he's been up to, whether it be stand up comedy or on television. (And let's face it Spicks and Specks was a delight to watch. If you're not familiar with the show, you can view a short clip here.) In other words, I'm thrilled that he's had so much success and it's been a lot of fun to follow. So, naturally, when I grew up and started writing book reviews and when Adam Hills wrote a memoir, I had no idea of its existence for several years and only became aware of it when I found it going cheap at my local QBD. 

*If you've skipped, this is where the actual review starts.

Best Foot Forward is a warm, clever and often funny memoir of a man who fulfilled his dreams of becoming a successful comedian. Adam Hills recounts how he grew up with a loving family--his parents and a younger brother--in the Sutherland Shire, which is in the southern suburbs of Sydney and how as a nineteen year old university student he made the decision that he was going to break in to comedy. Oh, and Hills was also born without a right foot, which, as fans will know, he doesn't shy away from or treat it like it's a source of shame. It is a part of his story and he treats it as such. (Hence the title of the book.) 

I absolutely enjoyed reading this memoir, in particular his recollections was trying to break in to the tough stand up comedy circuit in Sydney and later in Edinburgh. Where this memoir really shines is in the level of warmth that Hills brings to each of his adventures. It was interesting, for example, to read about some of the stunts that he took part of while on the radio and his acknowledgement that the joke and experience may not have been so funny for others. In one chapter he recounts how he hid in the boot of a car as part of a prank for the station in which he pretended to be the victim of an abduction, and contemplates how this experience must have been for the petrol station attendant and manager who phoned the police. Hills also gives the station and broadcasting some well deserved criticism portraying it as an industry that can be ruthless and insensitive in its desperate grab for ratings. (Read the section titled Sick Kids and you'll see what I mean.) I also found it extremely interesting to read what he thought about other comedians, particularly the life changing influence that meeting the utterly brilliant Billy Connolly had on Adam Hills and his career. (Probably something that we should all be thanking Billy Connolly for.) It is interesting to read about his early days in television, the move to the UK, his own LA story and how he makes the most of every opportunity that comes his way. I also loved the chapter involving The Muppets--what an amazing experience! (And I just cannot resist sharing the clip Adam Hills and the Swedish Chef it is one of the happiest things you'll watch on YouTube today.) 

Overall, this an honest and entertaining memoir of someone who worked hard to create an absolutely phenomenal career and one that just seems to keep going from strength to strength. There are no pretensions here, the whole thing is warm and relatable and I left it feeling as though Hills deserves every bit of success that comes his way.

Highly recommended.


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