Book review: PJ Gallagher’s bold, anarchic memoir tackles madness and childhood griefs head on

Comedian and star of Naked Camera relates wild antics and traumas from his tumultuous life with both humour and perceptive clarity

‘I grew up in a psychiatric experiment crossed with an alcoholic experiment,’ PJ Gallagher, comedian, radio DJ and actor, says of his childhood. Picture: Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

The comedian and actor PJ Gallagher grew up in a house with people who had long-term psychiatric problems. When he was a child, his parents, for extra income, took in six men with schizophrenia.

It was part of a shift in the 1980s to move patients with serious mental illnesses out of residential institutions and into their local communities. For nine years, six of these men lived in one side of Gallagher’s family home.

In his frank memoir Madhouse, he recounts some of their afflictions. One man believed a Jack Russell was in his belly. Another kept running away from the invisible gorilla who was chasing him.