PanMacmillan 19th September 2019
In 1994 fledgling journalist Louis Theroux was given a one-off gig on Michael Moore’s TV Nation, presenting a segment on apocalyptic religious sects. Gawky, socially awkward and totally unqualified, his first reaction to this exciting opportunity was to panic. But he’d always been drawn to off beat characters, so maybe his enthusiasm would carry the day. Or, you know, maybe it wouldn’t.
In Gotta Get Theroux This, Louis takes the reader on a joyous journey from his anxiety prone childhood to his unexpectedly successful career. Nervously accepting the BBC’s offer of his own series, he went on to create an award-winning documentary style that has seen him immersed in the weird worlds of paranoid US militias and secretive pro-wrestlers, get under the skin of celebrities like Max Clifford and Chris Eubank and tackle gang culture in San Quentin prison. At the same time he was wondering whether the very qualities that make him good at documentaries might also make him bad at life.
As Louis woos his beautiful wife Nancy and learns how to be a father, he also dares to take on the powerful Church of Scientology. Just as challenging is the revelation that one of his old subjects, Jimmy Saville, was a secret sexual predator, prompting him to question our understanding of how evil takes place.
Filled with wry observation and self-deprecating humour, this is Louis at his most insightful and honest best.
As a fan of Louis Theroux’s work this book appealed to me on publication, although I haven’t read his previous book. Combining his personal and professional life, Louis tells his story chronologically, beginning with his childhood and education up to his time at Oxford University where he attained a first class degree. It seems Louis then drifted into his current vocation, undertaking a range of media jobs and seizing opportunities as they arose.
Theroux talks in some detail about his work, I had seen some criticism that the book was Jimmy Saville heavy, for me this wasn’t a problem as living in England I was very familiar with the story as it unfolded. However I appreciate for those less familiar with Saville this could be difficult. I liked Theroux’s honesty in talking about Saville, the fact that he quite liked him and they formed something of a friendship and his need to reconcile that with what subsequently followed. The latter part of the book detailed Theroux’s contact with the Church of Scientology and again I found this insight interesting in terms of their hostility to outside scrutiny and some really quite shady practices – well documented elsewhere I know, but I like the way Theroux tells it.
Woven into the book is Theroux’s personal life, his relationships and children. I must admit reading the book made me realise how little I knew about Theroux and having just also recently read Demi Moore’s memoir I have been surprised how little I actually knew about either of these high profile figures. With this book I was struck with the sense that Theroux had drifted into his current professional position. Undoubtedly a highly intelligent man, he is reflective and with this comes some anxiety combined with some instances of imposter syndrome. This surprised me as on television he presents so well.
This was a fairly slow read for me – I/m not sure why, I suppose biographies are often not page turners, which is fine, plus busy days in the lead up to Christmas. But I enjoyed this read and would suggest it to anyone interested in Theroux and his weird and wacky world.
About the Author
Louis Theroux is an award-winning journalist and documentary film-maker whose programmes are shown all over the world. After landing a job as a presenter on Michael Moore’s TV Nation, he was given his own series on the BBC, Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, which first aired in 1998. Over twenty years later, he is still making documentaries and his career has seen him spend time with inmates at Miami Jail, gamble with high-rollers at a Las Vegas mega-casino, stalk game with trophy hunters on South Africa’s wild-animal farms, and get to know dementia patients and their families in Phoenix, Arizona. His feature-length documentary, My Scientology Movie was released in 2016. He has been awarded three BAFTAs and a Royal Television Society Television Award for his work.
His first book, The Call of the Weird, was published in 2005 and has remained in print ever since. He is married to Nancy and they have three sons.