My cocaine and drink addiction

Producer Jimmy Mulville comes clean

Top comedy producer Jimmy Mulville has revealed how his father’s suicide sparked a alcohol and cocaine addiction that destroyed his marriage.

In a moving interview on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs today, the founder of Have I Got News For You? producers Hat Trick also spoke of how his own battle with throat cancer also left him feeling miserable.

Mulville had just finished his Cambridge finals when he learned that his 48-year-old father, also called Jimmy, was gravely ill with viral polio.

‘I was ringing home regularly but my father was never there,’ he says. ‘When my finals were over, my mum burst into tears and said that he was very ill in hospital. He had been ill for three weeks but insisted on not telling me during my exams.

‘I drove back that night and instinctively put my hand out to shake his hand, but he couldn’t move because he was paralysed. There was a look of shame on his face. I know, having been ill myself, that for some reason you think it’s your fault. It was breaking his heart.’

Jimmy Snr overcame the paralysis but a year later, he hanged himself.

‘My own drinking and drug use took off,’ Mulville said. ‘On the anniversary of his death I would get wasted. I was angry that he could leave us. Once the anger lifted, there was tremendous sadness.’

Mulville started taking cocaine in the early Eighties while a producer on Alas Smith And Jones and ‘completely fell in love with it’.

But his changing moods took the toll on his marriage to Denise O’Donoghue, another founder of Hat Trick, alongside Rory McGrath. The pair separated in 1998.

In 2002, Mulville was diagnosed with throat cancer. ‘It was terrifying and I had moments of feeling sorry for myself. Once my [third wife Karen] caught me in the kitchen staring into the middle distance. She knew I was planning my funeral at that moment and, quite rightly, she said, “Yes, you might die, but I’ll be here with the children so snap out of it.”’

Mulville’s cancer is in remission following the removal of the lymph gland and a bout of radiotherapy.

His interview with Kirsty Young goes out on Radio 4 at 11.15am today.

Published: 1 Aug 2010

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