Robert Webb – Cheltenham Literature Festival

“My boyfriend at the back wants to know what your advice is on anxiety?”

Some brave girl dropped her boyfriend in it. Unfortunately it backfired to make her look worse than he did as she was met with an awkward silence and a minimal reply from Webb stating that he had little to none experience with anxiety and probably wasn’t the right person to ask.

Robert Webb, a normally more comedic fellow, took time at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to slow down and divulge the contents of his latest book “How Not To Be A Boy” He tackles issues of social expectations, difficult parental relationships, sexuality, and pretty much everything in between. His wittiness and clever lines transferred easily to page giving his troubled times and darkest moment a glimmer of hope and a giggle or two.file.jpeg

Alex Clark, journalist for the guardian and the observer was on stage to interview Robert on his part memoir, part manifesto and part call to arms book. She had clearly done her research and could smoothly weave elements of his writing into their conversation and segway seamlessly from topic to topic. Tricky to do when speaking of such sensitive subjects. Robert wasn’t afraid to disagree with her nor correct her which gave him an even more honest and wholesome feel that it was difficult not to sympathise with him as he told his tale.

They opened chatting about how the 97,000 words were therapy for Robert yet nearly broke him and that spending 5 weeks in the top 5 of the official book chart was wonderful until it was ended by his new arch nemesis Hillary Clinton and her latest book. His writing style is colloquial and easy to read with an abundance of rhetorical questions to cause laughter or equally make your heart drop. Despite the extracts from the book being full of self-mockery and wit, the event had more of a solemn feel. Both Robert and Alex kept having to assure the audience that it was a happy book.


Starting with a mismatch kid in a playground surrounded by his 12 imaginary friends, the book follows Robert as he grows. It closely follows his relationship with his dad, how it crumbles before strengthening, and the pressures put on him by his father to “act like a man”. This ends up shaping many of his relationships with potential partners, children and friends.

Amongst all his anecdotes the strongest theme throughout the book is gender expectations and he speaks strongly about how he tries to keep his daughter’s upbringing as gender neutral as possible and attempts to teach them about the gender divided world they are growing up in.

This book of self mockery, self evaluation and self healing is a honest insight to a man who not only has had a whirlwind of comedy success but also a tornado of a personal life.

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