Pragmatic may not be the sexiest way to describe Nick Frost's memoir, Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies, but it is the most apt. The old cliché that comedians hide a world of sadness with laughter would be easy to apply. But rather than feeling that his work with perpetual partner-in-crime Simon Pegg is a mask for the pain, it becomes clear that the comedy is the result of all the extraordinarily difficult things that have happened to Nick Frost instead of them being a pill, though there have been a lot of actual drugs. As you absorb the stories, he is admirably resigned to a lack of self-pity. That's not to say that he's left unscathed by his early life and where it sent him, he just prefers a shoulder-shrug over feeling sorry for himself. It's gloriously refreshing and must surely have been just as cathartic.
Nick Frost is now a dad. In talking about this memoir he repeatedly stated that it suddenly struck him that no longer having his parents around meant he couldn't get the answers to so many open questions. The more we learn about the Frost family and their complicated but robust bond, the more it makes sense that those answers could bring about a quiet inner peace that would settle a forever ticking mind. In Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies Nick leaves 43 years of answers for his own son. He may want to wait for adulthood before hearing about most of the scrapes his dad got into though.
A large portion of the book is quite naturally dedicated to the childhood that shaped Nick Frost and, more than most, it explains every decision that comes later in life. He watched his adored mum slowly but steadily kill herself with alcohol. He also watched his dad do his best to take care of her despite no hope of recovery. He saw their aggressive outbursts, their separation, their rekindling, their intense love for each other and for himself. Nick sank while his dad's self-made business collapsed and they found themselves bunked up with neighbours or shuffled around to pokey council houses. He also had the devastating experience of watching his proud and gentle father descend into a complete breakdown that changed him forever on feeling that he'd been a failure. And that's not even half of the complications.
In spite of all this misfortune, the memories are relayed with such affection it's impossible not to smile along with the jokes that lighten such a toppling stack of troubles. There is, however, a theme that runs through almost everything Nick Frost does - escape. Escaping to Wales to avoid being at home, drugs and alcohol to numb his brain, running off to Israel on numerous occasions to join a Kibbutz and keep from being close to his ailing parents, ignorance of the telltale signs in bad relationships in order to feel loved. Israel makes up another large chunk of the memoir. For a time that was supposed to be about giving his brain a break, it certainly turns out to be life-changing and not necessarily in the spiritual way you might expect.
One place where the escape is wholly positive though is when Frost and Pegg become united. They meet by chance over some drinks via Simon's girlfriend, who Nick just happens to have a crush on, and a future of mutual love is sealed on a simple Star Wars sound effect. It sounds cheesy to call it love, but there is no other way to describe the way Nick Frost and Simon Pegg feel about each other. They are essentially married without the sexual attraction. They know what the other is thinking without having to ask. Their in-jokes are so entirely theirs and arise from seemingly nothing that nobody but they will ever understand why they're roaring with laughter...until they find a way to work it into a script, of course. They have shared the best and absolute worst moments of their lives. If it's true that some romantic couples feel chemically connected to each other, it is also true for this friendship. There is an enviable alchemy to it that you just can't manufacture.
It's hard to say which path Nick Frost's life would have taken without his friendship with Simon Pegg. Nick was working in a Mexican restaurant, having a good time and was reluctant to imagine any kind of future for himself, as had always been the case. In walked Simon, a university educated stand-up comedian with clear ideas on who he was and where he was going. Simon didn't so much give Nick the ability to do any of what they achieved together, he merely drew back the curtains and suggested there was a world out there that was his for the taking, so he did. They did. Simon taught Nick that he wasn't destined to lose. It changed everything.
Do you need to know and love Nick Frost's body of work to love his book? It certainly helps, but he retells his life with such colour it would touch those who don't know much about him. There are things that are taken for granted, particularly with regard to The Cornetto Trilogy and with Simon. In fact, it's assumed that you're so familiar with their entanglement that as the stories hop timelines, Simon is just referred to as Simon or Peggy. No introductions necessary. It's incredibly sweet. Humility would probably force him to disagree that a working class boy from Dagenham who accidentally fell into almost everything he's done hasn't lived an interesting life, but the people who usually deny it often have the most fascinating anecdotes of all.
Nick Frost is consistently flawed but repeatedly lovely. His ability to allow the former to sit on the surface with minimal embarrassment only makes the latter more powerful. He is an example of how cruel life can be but also how good it can be if you don't hold grudges and make the effort to rise above seemingly impossible situations, even if his methods of getting there weren't always healthy or helpful. Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies may have been difficult to put down on paper, but it's guaranteed him a future thank you from his little boy. And given all that he suffered with his own parents, that'll make it entirely worth it. It's a treasure of a book.