Gotta Get Theroux This: My life and strange times in television by Louis Theroux
Review written by Katie Sanghera
If you are reading this and do not know who Louis Theroux is then I recommend you become acquainted. The British-American journalist and documentary maker is a bit of a national treasure in the UK and has had one of the most fascinatingly diverse careers in television. Specialising in the weird and outlandish, Louis is best known for making documentaries in America that delve behind the scenes of some of the most extreme groups in society.
As expected, ‘Gotta Get Theroux This’ is jam-packed with wacky characters but it’s also wonderfully candid as he opens up for perhaps the first time about his personal life. The memoir begins with Louis’ early years. He paints himself as a paradoxically funny and boisterous child, prone to fits of heightened anxiety. Louis talks honestly about his parents’ liberal and ‘hippyish’ approach to parenting; his first few chapters are peppered with funny anecdotes that portray a well-educated, yet slightly unconventional family.
When talking about his early career and first television series for the BBC: ‘Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends’, Louis discusses his anxieties and the feeling that he was not wholly up to the job. This opinion of himself is present throughout the book in his self-deprecating manner. He admits that he is an unlikely television personality (awkward, gangly and bespectacled), however, it is these particular characteristics that allow the public to identify and relate to him.
Louis highlights some of his richest encounters and off-screen experiences with born again Christians, survivalists and WCW wrestlers (just to name a few). Louis making genuine connections with people despite their stark differences makes for a compelling watch and part of the enjoyment comes from laughing at him adrift in their worlds. The aim of these documentaries was primarily to be funny but he reflects that his favourites are the ones with ambivalent and warm feelings built between himself and the interviewee of each piece. Later in his career, Louis shifted the focus from comedy to grittier content such as sex trafficking, homicide and anorexia.
At various points in the memoir, Louis talks in great depth about his relationship with Jimmy Savile. He reflects on the time he spent filming with him and how he perceived his eccentric character, before and after the uncovering of his extensive sexual assaults. It is obviously something that has taken up a lot of space in Louis’ mind over the years and he talks about the dissonance he feels between the Jimmy he was acquainted with and the one that was more recently revealed in the media. This is a personal and insightful thread of the memoir and Louis is very transparent about his mixed feelings towards Jimmy and his experiences filming with him.
‘Gotta Get Theroux This’ gracefully moves from being witty and quirky to serious and thought-provoking. Casting light on both his successes and difficult times, the memoir feels frank and sincere. I recommend this book whether you know of Louis Theroux or not, either way, it is a remarkable collection of stories from the furthest corners of human beliefs and behaviour. For anyone interested in audiobooks, I would encourage you to listen to this on audible, it’s narrated by Louis himself except for his various characters and provided me with a lot of laughter.
Katie Sanghera is a book enthusiast and foodie living in Hanoi. She enjoys writing pieces about arts and culture. Contact: [email protected]