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Michael Pennington: 'I've put Johnny Vegas in a suitcase'
IT is the unconventional life story that is already earning rich praise from esteemed literary reviewers. But as the people of St Helens – and his home patch of Thatto Heath – begin to turn the pages of the autobiography Becoming Johnny Vegas, just how will the critics from his own back yard judge it?
The book charts the fascinating transition of Michael Pennington, a one-time trainee priest and later pottery student, to the self-loathing, motormouth stand-up comedian Vegas.
It is packed with local flavour and characters and the author is anticipating plenty of banter from the St Helens public and an old connections – the first taste of which came via a text message from his former English teacher, who the comedian admits having his first crush on when sharing childhood memories.
But perhaps the most revealing insight for readers will be the separation of the ‘in your face’ Guinness-swilling stage character of Johnny from his real identity, Michael Pennington, the happy dad and husband who is now enjoying an increasingly successful career as a television and radio director.
Johnny, he says, is now locked in a “suitcase” – only allowed out for special occasions.
Speaking to the Star shortly after the book’s release, the author said: “It is not a normal autobiography by any stretch – there are three different voices going on for a start.
“For myself there was always that balance – you have got publishers who want a book that will be a commercial success but for yourself you only get one chance to tell your own life story.
“So I didn’t want to just do a gag book or a This Is Your Life-style story. I wanted a bit more – and it is a relief that people seem to get that.
“I went in for an interview with Mark Lawson from Radio 4 and he said ‘this is just a brilliant book’.
“I was really made up with that - and the Guardian newspaper were similar when they did an interview.”
He adds that the disciplined writing process was the toughest challenge of his professional life: “I wanted to write a book about Johnny and felt there has been a step back in my life where I could look back from the perspective of Michael – rather than when I was full-time Johnny Vegas.
“I wanted to be as honest as I possibly could be.”
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