You can tell by Simon Pegg’s movies alone that he’s never stopped wearing his geek heart on his zombie-blood-spattered Jedi robe sleeve.
His autobiography, Nerd Do Well — which comes out in Gotham Books’ hardcover edition June 9 — is a fun look back along the journey, as Pegg puts it, “from ordinary nerd to nerd participating in the world that made him nerdy in the first place.”
And while it’s a story that doesn’t feel as unusual as it might once have, the creator and star of geekfests like Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Paul makes it enjoyable and even a bit familiar, especially to those of us who, like Pegg, did a good chunk of our growing up in the 1980s.
Part of it is that while it is, as advertised, a biography detailing Pegg’s childhood and influences and early love of performing, what happens along the way is that there are chapters woven in that feel just like those geek debates or group recollection conversations that happen organically when nerds get together. For example, the chapter “Have We Got a Video?” starts with Pegg remembering The Young Ones and then bounces through other TV comedy memories and associations. Similarly, “Everything I Learned from VHS” relates his introduction to horror and where it led.
While some of those chapters offer temporal jumps ahead, about the first two-thirds of the book are spent on Pegg’s childhood and teenage years. Then the action shifts to his pursuit of a performance career – with another two-chapter interlude addressing the Star Wars prequels – and the series of crossing paths that bring Pegg in contact with the people who have helped shape his professional life.
Between the biographical chapters is a 12-part serial spoof featuring Pegg as a dashing superhero with a robotic butler. While I didn’t care for it at first, over the course of the book the story grew on me mostly because Pegg the writer has so much fun with Pegg the character, and he reaches ridiculously hard to make sure he hits on every comic book and science fiction trope he possibly can.
An appendix to the book consists of a chuckle-inducing bit of Star Wars fan fiction which Pegg wrote after playing The Force Unleashed.
Content-wise, I’d give the book a PG-13 for situations and language, but I’m not sure anyone under 13 would be that interested in it anyway. Anyone over 13 who ever wrote middle-school-aged standup comedy, filmed stop-motion movies with their action figures, storyboarded Star Wars: Episode VII or mixed fake blood using corn syrup and food coloring will probably find a certain kinship with the writer of Nerd Do Well.
Disclosure: Gotham Books provided GeekDad with an advance copy of Nerd Do Well for this review.