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Comedy, tragedy, therapy

Simon Amstell did his first stand-up gig at the age of thirteen. His parents had just divorced and puberty was confusing. Trying to be funny solved everything.

HELP is the hilarious and heartbreaking account of Simon’s ongoing compulsion to reveal his entire self on stage. To tell the truth so it can’t hurt him any more. Loneliness, anxiety, depression – this book has it all. And more.

From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.

209 pages, Hardcover

First published September 21, 2017

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Simon Amstell

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5 stars
628 (29%)
4 stars
966 (44%)
3 stars
435 (20%)
2 stars
107 (4%)
1 star
23 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews
Profile Image for Anni.
541 reviews73 followers
April 20, 2018
Simon Amstell is Britain's answer to Woody Allen - that is, a younger, more endearingly vulnerable gay version, but with many of the same neuroses. He is brutally honest and wittily self-deprecating, sharing his often excruciatingly intimate thoughts in these anecdotes and excerpts from his stand-up routines. However, this never becomes the cliched tears-of-a-clown sob story because Amstell developed his gift of making people laugh as a self defence against fear of rejection - and it works extremely well here.
Profile Image for Christina.
60 reviews77 followers
January 2, 2018
I think this book does exceptionally well as an audiobook. HELP was the first book I listened to, so I'll admit I'm not the expert, but I think you should just trust me on this one. I really think that the key to connecting with this story is hearing it told to you in Amstell's own voice. HELP is a delicious introspective that is acerbic and funny. I wasn't expecting it to also be so sad, but it does help that all the sad bits are picked at until a beam of hope seeps out of the wreckage.

I liked it when he said this: "You just have to make plans. That's the key, especially if you don't have a normal job. Because if you live alone, and you don't make plans, here is what happens. You wake up, and it just gets darker."
Profile Image for Don Jimmy Reviews.
652 reviews23 followers
September 6, 2022
A second reading of this memoir, because I needed a reminder of some of the lessons within. A great read currently the only book on my shelf where I have pages marked to return to.
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,209 reviews266 followers
January 9, 2019
I really like Simon Amstell and this short book is everything I had hoped. It's funny, honest, clever, interesting, universal, and insightful.

Simon provides a potted history of his life, his personality, and thereby honestly describes his struggle with loneliness, depression and incessant self doubt. His journey from a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest is fascinating.

The pay-off comes in the last couple of chapters, until then I thought it was an amusing and diverting read, however by the end it felt truly life reaffirming and fully deserving of five stars out of five.


Help (2017) by Simon Amstell
Profile Image for Katy.
179 reviews3 followers
October 10, 2021
This year’s reading started off very 3 star. I tried to be generous and thought maybe I was being too critical. But the last 3 or 4 I’ve read have been excellent making me rethink my ratings for the previous ones. I thought a gentleman in Moscow was going to be my unsurpassed read of the year but I didn’t see Simon amstell’s Help coming. Hilarious book! Brilliantly written, had me crying with laughter. Easily the funniest book I’ve ever read. Biographies of comedians tend to be quite sad but I never thought to read an autobiography. Very very funny only slightly tinged with sadness. Any suggestions of other comedian autobiographies gratefully received.
Profile Image for lucy  black.
506 reviews34 followers
February 3, 2018
I really liked this at first but it didn’t go anywhere and nothing happened and I grew to not like it as much.
It’s just a guy talking about his life. Parts are funny.
I found it whingey and precocious.
His problems seem normal and his shocking honesty isn’t very shocking.
Profile Image for Lucy.
75 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2017
I love Simon Amstell, he's my fave - so naturally I was going to love his book. V. funny and sad in parts. Would recommend listening to this one on audiobook.
Profile Image for Erin.
40 reviews5 followers
June 27, 2018
A few weeks ago I saw Simon Amstell for the first time. Afterward, I bought this book, and he signed it. While he did so I could've said something to him, something like, Thank you for your comedy, which has not only made me laugh but also, in its warmth and honesty about dealing with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, soothed me to sleep during many anxious, depressed, lonely nights over the years.

I did not say this, partly due to, well, anxiety, but also, I've come to realize, because while I laughed at his set, it made me resent him. All of a sudden, he was happy. Where was all the anxiety and depression and loneliness? He's been in a relationship! A good one! For six years! His previous work made me feel like I had found the Jewish, British, funnier version of myself to commiserate with and heal me. I now felt betrayed.

I finally got around to reading the book. It includes bits from his stand-up over the years, along with new writing expanding on his life and how it informed his work. The anxiety and depression and loneliness are recalled with all the warmth and honesty and humor. It had the same soothing effect, which is to say that I fell asleep while reading it multiple times. I've heard filmmakers (i.e. Abbas Kiarostami, Lucrecia Martel) say that they think falling asleep during a film is a good thing, because it's taken you to a comforting place. It was wonderful to let Simon Amstell do that for me again.

So I sort of wish I could go back to a few weeks ago and properly get that thank-you out, but as he likes to talk about the importance of staying in the present moment, I guess it's getting spilled out in this Goodreads review. It's also important for me to remember that he is not actually the Jewish, British, funnier version of myself. For one thing, he's older than me. I'm 32 and he's 38. He's further along on his journey of dealing with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. He's a completely separate person from me, and I can accept that.

But also, he's given me hope, and now I can't wait to be 38.
Profile Image for itsdanixx.
647 reviews54 followers
December 27, 2019
4.5 “I’ve missed Simon Amstell” Stars ✨

I loved him so much on Never Mind the Buzzcocks (which, kinda weirdly, didn’t get a single mention in this book?) and then enjoyed Grandma’s House too (which did get mentioned). I was sad when I read that he mostly doing behind the scenes stuff now so I was very happy to hear of this book and nabbed it immediately!

This book is very amusing, but there’s also some pretty dark and depressing moments. Simon gets very real, raw and honest and I loved that. He opens up about his mental health struggles, his existentialist ‘life-is-meaningless-what’s-the-point-of-anything’ outlook (which, funnily enough, you don’t really see much of on NMTB - but is sadly oh-so-relateable), his childhood, and all his various coping methods and experiences.

As someone who struggles with depression, anxiety and solipsism, there were so many lines in this book that I just felt, and so many parts that I really related to. But even the darker parts are perfectly intertwined with classic-Amstell one liners, funny comments and stories, and witty remarks. It all works really well. It’s short, too.
Profile Image for Varvara.
135 reviews17 followers
October 25, 2019
I like these stories better when Simon's actually telling them out loud, not when I'm reading them, but I still could hear his voice throughout the whole book, which is incredible %)
Profile Image for Emma.
653 reviews135 followers
March 22, 2021
When this book started, I thought I would rate it higher. It was funny and thought provoking as Amstell led us through his upbringing navigating family matters and his own sexuality and identity. I've listened to a lot of autobiographies this year, and sadly this one lost its way a bit at the end. I never thought an autobiography (which is essentially one person telling us about their life and perceptions) would feel too egotistical, but this one definitely did. I guess I would have liked to hear more about life in television and that infamous interview with Britney Spears, some BTS about Never Mind the Buzzcocks. All in all, I did really enjoy the second half and I hope Amstell writes another book that is more about the comedy and less about sex dungeons, but at least he's honest, I guess!
Profile Image for Colin.
1,364 reviews34 followers
November 17, 2017
Audiobook, not the proper, paper version. It's a bit frustrating though. Simon Amstell is incredibly funny but seems to feel bad about being funny - or more specifically about his gift for being funny in quite a mean, catty way which made his tenure on buzzcocks so great. In this book he seems to frame his feelings about his career in a sort of hokey narrative about forgiving his younger self, which apparently comes to him under the influence of hallucinogens in a way that can only be described as compleete bollocks.
Read/listen to the comedy routine excerpts and stop before you get to the chapter where he goes to the rainforest to meet a shaman. Honestly, you'll like him much less after reading that.
Profile Image for Kirsten T.
176 reviews23 followers
December 21, 2017
A very strange format for a book, but I love Simon Amstell's stand up so I didn't mind reading it written down using a variety of fonts. I laughed plenty but I don't know that I would recommend to someone who isn't already a fan.
Profile Image for Jay Bracknell.
91 reviews
May 2, 2018
Not so much a rollercoaster of emotion as a free fall through an anxious mind trying to make sense of itself. Bits of it are deeply sad, others hilarious, more a touch uncomfortable to read, but the result feels more honest than a lot of autobiographies and consequently I wished it was longer.
Profile Image for Jake.
279 reviews6 followers
January 26, 2020
i got this book for free (perks of new job), and i'm glad i picked it, as i don't think i would have necessarily bought it from a shop (tight pursestrings) and it was even better than i thought it would be (i thought it would be a three star adventure)
really unique format of writing, including sections from four of his stand-up shows, with the text itself, to created this stepping stone journey through his psyche and life. very clever way of writing up comedy, especially stand-up comedy, which is hard to put down 'straight' onto paper. really ingenious and made for a book i read very quickly, through a combination of enjoyment and the sheer accessibility of the text.
undeniably wise and very, very honest.
and of course, very funny.
Profile Image for Shae Petersen.
361 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2019
This is exactly what the cover says: comedy, tragedy, therapy. This was such a humorous book, filled with excerpts from his stand up shows that paralleleled with things he was discussing. It was filled with stories of him coming out, exploring his sexuality and representing the gay commuity in a way that helped young boys feel comfortable with who they were. I felt so sad about Freddie, but was happy with his encounter with him that made Simon know that he wasn’t the reason for the tragedy. It was a great book, I’m glad I picked it up!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rob.
232 reviews41 followers
June 1, 2020
I must apologise to my neighbours who undoubtedly heard me guffaw while reading this. I've never actually seen Simon Amstell's stand-up, so all the material was new to me, and aside from it being obviously very funny, it was also really honest and touching. I've already ordered a copy for a friend to read.
Profile Image for Sophie.
497 reviews13 followers
February 17, 2019
I've always enjoyed Simon Amstell's humour, and so it's not a surprise that I enjoyed this. It was interesting to learn more about him and listening to the audiobook was fantastic, as the spliced in moments from his stand-up comedy worked really well.
Profile Image for Amy.
966 reviews64 followers
August 31, 2019
I think this is a book that would work much better as an audio book - it just didn’t flow well in physical form and it felt too long for me at points.

I do enjoy Simon Amstell’s dry wit and humour so I enjoyed those parts but it just didn’t work as an actual book for me.
Profile Image for Sian.
79 reviews
January 9, 2019
I devoured this book. Absolutely hilarious but also a wonderfully put together account of overcoming trauma and mental illness. It's utterly bonkers but for all the right reasons. I implore you to read it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
117 reviews32 followers
October 11, 2019
Love Simon Amstell, loved this. It was funny and interesting. Simon, as your therapist said, if you ever want to write a book that's less funny and interesting, I'm here for it!
Profile Image for Tara.
161 reviews
August 12, 2020
This is classic Simon Amstell. He overshares, he's neurotic, and he's funny but in a way that makes you concerned for him.

It's a quick read. It's 200 pages but the font and margins are huge, so I'd guess it's about 50,000 words. The excerpts of his stand-up shows also take up a lot of page space.
Profile Image for bojana.
170 reviews16 followers
August 2, 2019
i just wanted to read a chapter or two, and if it wasn't for, well, life, i would have finished it in one sitting.
i adore simon, he really is a treasure, and this book gets into his anxiety and shyness. and the ben whishaw story that a gossipy part of me wanted to hear.
Profile Image for Anna.
26 reviews
February 1, 2020
Simon is absolutely amazing. And it was good idea to listen his show first, because while reading I heard his voice, which made reading even better.
Profile Image for Verlkungen.
216 reviews104 followers
June 21, 2018
I bloody love Simon Amstell, and I hope you do too. If not, go and look up his live shows, or watch his stint on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, or his sitcom Grandma's House. I promise, they are all hilarious, and they will all bring you joy. I am honestly so grateful for comedians, just as I am so grateful for anyone who can make me laugh. They just brighten my day exponentially.

Help is a very honest book. It's basically an autobiography, interspersed with extracts from four live shows (No Self, Do Nothing, Numb, and To be Free). I've seen 3 of them, but there's so much extra material here that at no point did I feel like it was too repetitive. The other thing is that the tone is really different from his shows. Go and watch the beginning of this one:


This is how it starts:

"I'm quite lonely, let's start with that. I bought a new flat about two years ago. In this flat, in the bathroom, there are two sinks. I thought that would bring me some joy. It is a constant reminder. And so what I have had to do, this is what I am doing now in my life, I am actually doing this - I'm using both sinks. Now, everyday I brush my teeth in the left sink and in the right one, I mainly cry."

I remember watching this a while ago and laughing hard, but reading the book I smirked but felt a bit sad too. And that's the whole book, basically. His delivery live makes the slightly more depressing aspects of his anecdotes very funny, whereas reading the written words made me really think about what he's saying. (Damn you, Amstell, for making me think about your words!) For this reason, and as many others have said, the audiobook version of this might be better than the physical book.

Amstell discusses many parts of his life here in a brutally honest way. It's clear that he's faced challenges in his life, such as:

Being openly gay and Jewish:

"In the Jewish religion, if you're a boy and you have a boyfriend, it's important that he's a girl."

Or having relationship troubles:

"The problem with needing people to love you, despite who you are, is that ou end up subtly compromising for them and so internalise their prejudice and their rage. Rather than let them reject you, you allow all their nonsense to live inside you. You don't realise it but you agree to feel uncomfortable about this bit of yourself too, just slightly, just enough to keep them in your life. You settle for being mildly content with you who are, rather than proud or thrilled, and any attempts at love will be thwarted by this refusal to love yourself completely."

Or lacking self esteem:

"Frustrated and, I suppose, scared by the conventional, I've spent a lot of energy, one stage and off, fretting about how much of who I am will be tolerated before I'm rejected."

Or suffering from depression:

"When I feel sad now, I know it's not because I'm a broken human being, it's because it is one of the emotions that human beings feel."

He handles everything with such wit that it's hard not to be utterly charmed by him. I laughed, I cried, and I honestly feel like this makes a better self-help book than loads of others on the market. There's no bullshit here, it's just an honest and straight to the point account of feelings and situations that will make you laugh while also making you think.

"Everything is a choice between fear and love. We may as well choose love because death is coming. Death is coming. Death is coming."
Profile Image for Laura Angell.
300 reviews15 followers
October 15, 2017
I think the best way to describe this book is that it's a two parter: before ayahuasca and after ayahuasca.
The first part of the book I found really enjoyable and relatable - some parts had me laughing out loud on the train they tickled me that much. I loved the little commentary he gave on his stand-up excerpts, and his witty one-liners were genius.
I felt a real connection when he was writing about loneliness and the inability to enjoy living in the moment; I thought he wrote very eloquently, as if he had extracted these feelings from my very own head and bound them in a book just for me.
The second part of the book was... trippy. I'm sure the ayahuasca experience was very life changing but reading about it on paper just made it seem a bit... fictional? The "visions" he had just seemed a little too far-fetched for me and I'm afraid it kind of ruined it for me. I found I was skimming the last chapter just to get it finished, and I think that was a real shame.
This was the first autobiography of a comedian I've ever read so I didn't really know what to expect, but whatever it was, it certainly didn't involve as many references to poo...
Profile Image for Jonathan.
912 reviews40 followers
November 23, 2017
This is a very funny kind of autobiography by stand-up comic Simon Amstell. There are a lot of excerpts from several of his shows, which are mostly to do with him dealing with life, and the rest of the book is really a kind of expansion of this material. There is a bit of background, a lot of self analysis, and many opportunities to laugh. He is quite honest in his occasional dishonesty, and I am not sure that any of the names of people he talks about are their actual names. As such it is possibly one of the least real autobiographies I have ever read, and yet everything he has to say comes across as true and revealing of himself. Needless to say, with a title like 'help' it is also a sort of self-help book, and typically from one who talks a lot about himself, it is mostly about how deals with his own problems, which are many and varied. Although I most certainly recommend it I would say that it is useful to be familiar with his delivery and voice to really appreciate this book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews

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