BOOK REVIEWS :DAAS: Their Part In My Downfall by Paul Livingston

DAAS: Their Part In My Downfall by Paul Livingston
Review by Kylie Thompson

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: memoir, Australian comedy

The Doug Anthony All Stars were Australian comedic royalty in the 1980s and early 90s. They were visceral, deceptively charming, handsome rogues conquering the world with sheer force of personality alone, before suddenly vanishing from the limelight. Rumours ran rampant about the cause of the split- from sordid love triangles, to alien abduction, and everything in between, though the truth, as ever, was both more and less inconceivable.
Many of our current comedic success stories owe something to the trailblazing trio from Canberra, because in so many ways, DAAS changed the way Australian comedy was understood here, and overseas. It’s easy to forget that the comedy trio wasn’t actually just a trio. While there were three main members (Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott, and Richard Fidler), the group worked closely with other comedians so regularly that they became, even if only in the eyes of fans, honorary All Stars in their own right.
Paul Livingston was one of those honorary members, quite possibly the head of that honorary pantheon. His work as Flacco, the surrealist comic with a knack for baffling and captivating audiences, was the starting point for many DAAS shows, and a regular fixture on the DAAS Kapital sitcom. Here, for perhaps the first time, is the definitive, possibly not entirely true story of how those three Canberra yobs dragged an unknown surrealist comic into a whirlwind of absurd moments and ridiculous circumstance.
There’s no excuse for believing a memoir written by a comedian is going to be a dry, typical read. And Livingston, unsurprisingly for anyone who has seen him perform, takes the story and runs with it, crafting an engaging, laugh out loud romp through exaggerated (perhaps) memory with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

‘DAAS: Their Part In My Downfall’ isn’t your typical memoir. Oftentimes, memoir is a heavily airbrushed affair, where the truth can get lost behind the need to avoid looking like a terrible person in front of an audience. Comedians don’t often seem to work to that disadvantage. ‘DAAS’ isn’t the sort of memoir where the narrator is heroic, perpetually likeable and sympathetic, their mistakes always able to be justified away until they may as well not have happened at all. Instead, it’s a glorious collection of self-deprecation and affectionate jabs at Livingston’s comedic peers, with a smattering of interview quotes there to let other comedians (and self-proclaimed hangers-on) stick the boot in, too. In a sense, it’s a celebrity roast in an easy to manage paperback form, but with talented, witty people in charge of the conversation.

Livingston is quick to point out that this is a heavily embellished story- though when you’re dealing with comedians, this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Exaggeration is a fairly typical part of the comedic trade, after all. But even with the glaring neon signs about the lack of credible honesty, it’s hard to ignore the underlying truths at play. This is a group of people who clearly care deeply about each other, with the sort of friendship many of us aspire to. At its heart, it’s a story of three dazzling, utterly certifiable demigods stealing a mortal for a random, unspecified, generally baffling quest for no reason beyond ‘just because’. Which, perhaps oddly, makes for one hell of a read.
‘DAAS: Their Part In My Downfall’ is published through Allen & Unwin, and is available through the publisher’s website, and leading booksellers.

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