Book Review: A Class Act by Rob Beckett

I have been a fan of the Parenting Hell podcast that Rob Beckett presents with fellow comedian Josh Widdicombe since it started – and so have been more than aware that Josh and Rob had both written books. I LOVED Josh’s book (and it became a Sunday Times bestseller) so Rob has got a lot to live up to!!

Here’s the blurb for Rob’s book – whose full title is ‘A Class Act: Life as a working-class man in a middle-class world’:

“Rob Beckett never seems to fit in. At work, in the middle-class world of television and comedy, he’s the laddie, cockney geezer, but to his mates down the pub in south-east London, he’s the theatrical one, a media luvvie. Even at home, his wife and kids are posher than him.
In this hilarious exploration of class, Rob compares his life growing up as a working-class kid to the life he lives now, trying to understand where he truly belongs.
Will he always be that fat kid who was told he’d never be a high-flyer? Why does he feel ashamed if he does anything vaguely middle class? Will he ever favour craft beer over lager? What happens if you eat 50 olives and drink two bottles of champagne? Why is ‘boner’ such a funny word?
In search of answers, Rob relives the moments in his life when the class divide couldn’t be more obvious. Whether it’s the gig for rich bankers that was worse than Matt Hancock hosting the GQ Men of the Year Awards, turning up at a swanky celebrity house party with a blue bag of cans from the offy or identifying the root of his ambition as a childhood incident involving soiled pants and Jurassic Park, Rob digs deep.
A Class Act is his funny, candid and often moving account of what it feels like to be an outsider and the valuable (sometimes humiliating) life lessons he’s learned along the way.”

I really enjoyed this from the start. You can totally hear Rob’s ‘voice’ (even more if you’re listening to the audio book I guess – and Rob revealed on the podcast that he had a panic attack whilst recording the audio book – so I’m a bit sad I’d already pre ordered the hard back – as I would have liked to have listened to try and hear if I could tell exactly when the breakdown happened!!!)

Very early on he mentions going to Centerparcs in a Qashqai with a roofbox – which was ridiculously exciting. This is because we were at Centerparcs at the same time in April! We were waiting to check in – and my husband said – ‘that bloke looks like Rob Beckett – but he’s driving a bashed up Qashqai, so it can’t be’ – but we soon realised it was, and proceeded to spot him around CP for the rest of the week!! Admittedly this doesn’t quite beat our holiday celeb spot from a few years before when we were staying in the same hotel as Lionel Messi and his family- but is still up there.

Aside from holidays there are other similarities – my husband is very much from a working class background. He got free school meals at school, and wore hand me downs from the older kids on their street. He has no academic qualifications – but hard graft has resulted in ‘a Range Rover and a gold Rolex’ (although admittedly the gold Rolex is a platinum Brietling – but that doesn’t align with the aspirational story in Rob’s book!!)) My upbringing was slightly more middle class. I went to grammar school and then university and qualified as a chartered accountant. Our kids definitely get the best of both worlds – although are all private school w*nkers now, although not sure if any of them will do the private school rite of passage of an Edinburgh Fringe Festival?!?

This is not strictly a chronological autobiography – but lots of different aspects of Rob’s life are discussed. Some of the chapters are Christmas, Family Networks, Jobs and Confidence – amongst many others. All of them reference Rob’s life growing up – and now – and compare and contrast.

One highlight of the book is the photos of Rob’s life to date and his hilarious captions – they’re just brilliant (and I’m glad I got the hard copy book for those alone!) It’s also nice to see Rob and his mate Lloyd Griffiths have been out getting absolutely bladdered for years – not just at the Euros earlier this summer!!

Whilst a lot of the book is really funny and self deprecating humour from Rob – there are also some really moving and emotional parts – particularly how lonely he was when out in Australia. The Howat family who took him under their wing were awesome. Whilst this was at the start of Rob’s career – there have been other wobbles, even recently when he was on the road in South Africa with Romesh Ranganathan (a programme we watched and thoroughly enjoyed – and at no point would have suspected Rob was having anything other than the time of his life) – and it’s really interesting (and I think would be helpful for people) to hear about a successful ‘lad’ comic talking about his mental health battles. I’m so pleased Rob has Lou and his daughters to look out for him now – and that the pandemic has helped Rob with his anxiety. (Wow, this book review has taken an emotional turn!)

There are some brilliant name drops – Jimmy Carr’s house party anecdote being an absolute favourite – and I really feel like I know more about Rob and his background now.

I’m delighted that Rob’s book has done as well as Josh’s – and they’re both Sunday Times best sellers – I feel very proud of ‘my podcasting boys’!!

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