Jimmy Carr: How revisiting my mother’s death inspired autobiography

Jimmy Carr says he was inspired to write his autobiography after revisiting memories of his mother dying while he was in his mid-20s.

Before and Laughter is both an anecdotal memoir and self-help book, which also features witty one-liners from the comedian.

Carr, 49, said the writing process had been cathartic as he explored in writing his decision to leave his corporate job at 25 to try his hand at stand-up.

The book came after comedian and former doctor Adam Kay, the author of This Is Going to Hurt, asked Carr to participate in a fundraiser in which people wrote about their experiences with the NHS.

His piece about his mother dying in St Thomas’ Hospital in London and his fondness of the NHS became “the heart of the book”, and also prompted a publisher to ask if he would write a book.

Asked if he found the process cathartic, he told the PA news agency: “Yeah, incredibly. Life is normally quite frenetic, and you don’t remember things, and suddenly when you slow down, could be on a holiday, could be a global pandemic, but if you slow down, you kind of go ‘all right’, and you kind of make sense of the narrative of your life.

“And you look back and you sort of see a) how lucky you are.

“And b) the self-help element of the book is me going ‘Look there’s nothing special about me, there was nothing preordained in me for fame and fortune, but I believed these things, and this is where I got to believing those things’.”

Teenage Cancer Trust evening of comedy – London
Before and Laughter is both an anecdotal memoir and self-help book (Yui Mok/PA)

Carr said self-help material and therapy had changed his life, as once he changed his actions, his “mindset and everything else changed”.

He told PA: “I wanted to kind of share that because a lot of that stuff is very serious.”

Carr added: “So it’s nice to kind of go ‘Look there’s a lot of people that maybe wouldn’t read a self-help book but they would if (self-help author) Eckhart Tolle was better at dick jokes.”

The comic said humour offered an easy way of delivering hard truths because “one of the superpowers of comedians is honesty”.

“It’s a good place to start, brutal honesty is very freeing, and we bullshit so much,” he added.

He also discussed how comedy helped him process the death of his friend and fellow comedian Sean Lock.

Carr said: “I had a bereavement recently, Sean Lock, my dear, beautiful, funny friend died, and I got sick, the grief really hits you physically.

“But to be able to laugh through that, to be able to watch old clips of him making me cry with laughter, the cathartic power of that.

“And I think in most families, most friendships, when someone dies, when something happens, when someone gets ill, if you can laugh through it, that’s when laughter has a real benefit because it releases endorphins and it makes it easier to cope.

“Sometimes life can be brutal, and it makes it kind of okay in that moment because you can’t be frightened and laugh at the same time.”

Made In Dagenham – London
Jimmy Carr and his partner Karoline Copping share a son (Ian West/PA)

Carr became a household name hosting panel shows such as 8 Out Of 10 and Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, as well as performing in stand-up gigs around the world and at The Royal Variety Performance three times.

The comedian wrote the book over a year during the pandemic with the intention of sharing it with his young son, who he shares with partner Karoline Copping.

He added: “It’s a little slice of me. It’s a nice thing to be able to say if I get hit by a bus, as my life flashes before my eyes, I can go, ‘Well, at least that’s covered’.”

Before and Laughter: A Life-changing Book by Jimmy Carr is available from Thursday.