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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 18 March 2004
Overhearing my wife listening to Mike Simkins reading an extract from "What's My Motivation?' on BBC Radio 4's 'Book of the Week' programme, I was so overcome by the sound of laughter coming from the living room that I was spurred into buying the book! The greatest compliment I can pay 'What's My Motivation?' is that you really don't have to be a 'luvvie' to enjoy it. It's full of humour and marvellously dry observations on the vagaries of the acting profession. For anyone who enjoys a witty read I can heartily recommend it, and for stage-struck adolescents and aspiring actors it has to be one of the best self-help books available! Encore!!
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on 1 June 2004
This is a really really funny book, takes the reader through
Michael's early life, his 'obsession' with Am-Dram, particularly
Gilbert and Sullivan, through his time at RADA and then the agonising waits for parts and latterly TV appearances, always hoping for the well-known advertisement in order to become a household name.I confess that I started this book with a small amount of bias as my family and I know the author well, Simmo as he is affectionally known is a lovely bloke, and this comes through in his writing, at which he could become even better at than acting ! All in all, this will make you laugh out loud
many times, a real bonus these days !!
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on 21 March 2004
This is a wonderful read, a gloriously charming and funny account of a jobbing actor's life. Don't expect high-brow 'I, An Actor' style pontificating - this actor/author doesn't take himself that seriously and is hilariously expert at pricking his own pomposities, if they dare try to rear their head. But he'll still teach you as much about being a professional actor as any Stanislavski book. It's a delightful celebration of Englishness and a triumphant celebration of failure, which should become a set text at every drama school. There are too many laugh out loud moments to list here, but my personal favourite involved the actress girlfriend, the unwitting landlord, and the unfortunate attempt at weaving a sexual fantasy. Plus there are cameos by everyone from Anthony Perkins through John Malkovich to Pierce Brosnan. Don't put your daughter on the stage without making her read this book first.
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on 16 June 2005
The funniest book I've read for 20 years. I keep the household awake late at night giggling aloud on every page. The agony is when you come to the end of it. Michael Simkins has a genius for comic writing. A must for anyone who is interested in the theatre and/or has a great sense of humour.
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on 28 April 2004
This book is a joy: very much in the Punch tradition of light, self-deprecatory autobiographical articles, reminding me of the writing of AA Milne, one of the innovators of that style in the early 1900s - and given "Simmo's" youthful obsession with Gilbert and Sullivan and other untrendy things I shouldn't be surprised to learn he was also a student of that publication. Take, for example, the marvellous epiphany when he has been punching above his weight, relationshipwise: "I need to be with people who remember the names of the Trumpton fire brigade, who like car boot sales and pet shops, and who know who Bert Weedon is."

The Punch style can be hard to bring off: lesser adherents are ponderous or merely facetious. (For all his virtues, I always felt that John Peel, a self-proclaimed reader of that publication in his youth, had no built-in quality control in his writing.) But Simkins has a great subject with universal appeal: the following of a dream - or at any rate, the maintaining of something like dignity and meaning when stardom isn't, after all, the smooth-running "up" elevator of one's dreams.

As well as being funny about his own progress, he can be compelling - and compassionate - about others: the account of the fellow student at RADA who overreaches himself with a concert (billed as "His personal tribute to those who put the show into showbiz") isn't the bitchfest it could be: Simkins understands the desperation behind the gesture, writing sympathetically of the moment the student drops his guard at the curtain call to reveal for a nano-second "a look of immense fatigue and desolation."

The book is also a kind of autobiography: the articles are arranged in chronological order, taking us from his Gilbert and Sullivan-obsessed youth (why?) to applying for "the RADA" and such partial successes and absolute failures as follow thereafter, climaxing in a hilarious Lee Van Cleef-type stand-off with Mike Leigh when Simkins can't reveal he's already been tipped off that the film he's auditioning for is about his heroes: the director looks at him "for what seems like an eternity."

But why say more, especially as a host of names (Leigh included) have splurged their enthusiastic appreciation on the inside front cover? And as Michael Frayn says, "the evidence is there every week in the Guardian." Required reading for all drama students - and those who mourn Punch as it was.
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on 8 May 2005
I rarely laugh out loud when reading but this book had me laughing out loud on many occasions and at times my eyes were streaming with tears it was so funny.
I would recommend it to anyone and I do....
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 August 2016
This is an excellent account of what it is like to be an ordinary, non-famous, jobbing actor. Originally written as a series of witty columns for "The Guardian", the book runs through the story of Mr Simkins' life from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s.

He begins as a teenager obsessed with Gilbert & Sullivan, gets into RADA, and then turns his hand to every kind of acting job that will employ him. Every kind. His sense of the ridiculous never deserting him, this means descriptions of the impossibility of getting car insurance if you're an actor, the types of commercials other actors turn down but not him, and what words you must never say when doing a drama workshop at a sewage plant. He has a LOT to say about actors' digs (the spare rooms let out by the general public to actors from out of town.) He very honestly goes into how actors love to whinge (no comment), and equally honestly describes what the archetypal director is like, as personified by his experience on "Crimewatch" (fair point.) He also has an attempt at directing theatre himself, which goes horribly wrong, but at least he had a try. And a try at soap opera, and a try at stage thrillers, and a try at rock musicals, and a try at......

By the end of the book, he has found true love, a modest pension plan, a house in Cricklewood, and an interview for the new Mike Leigh film. And it seems his youth spent watching amateur Gilbert & Sullivan was not wasted after all.

Please can there be a sequel?
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on 10 March 2009
Wonderfully funny and perceptive. I am now going to read his book about cricket... and I hate cricket.
He appeared in Minder recently as the wedding singer.
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on 21 July 2007
I came across this book when I saw Michael Simkins in Democracy in the West End, and it has become one of my all-time favourite light reads. Of course, he is a much more successful actor than this book makes out, but that's the whole point...lending weight to the old adage that it is a lot more fun to write about failure than success. And in a world where reality-TV-nobodys are allowed to think they're celebrities on a par with Madonna, there's something particularly endearing and refreshing about this kind of self-effacing (without being self-pitying) English humour. The only bad thing about this book is that it stops at 1997. I'll second purple-diva in saying I hope there is a sequel covering the next ten years, and I can't wait!
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on 5 February 2009
Read "Motivation" after reading Fatty Batter and having loved the cricket book so much I was prepared to be not so enthusiastic, yet I need not have worried. The style is self-deprecation at its finest and having read it on a long plane journey, I am sure the passenger in 17E was heartily sick of my giggles. It was difficult, after Fatty Batter, not to be able to second guess some of his ineptitude but it is written with such warmth and with a keen eye for detail, that I would heartily recommend it to anyone.
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