Sometimes books are the main event; sometimes they’re good to keep you company.

Danny Wallace’s mildly amusing ‘join me’ definitely belongs to the latter group and kept me entertained without demanding my full attention.

Who is Danny Wallace and why does he want me to join him?

He’s less well-known than friend and fellow funny bloke Dave Gorman, which explains the note on the front cover describing Wallace as the co-author of an earlier published book, ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ Essentially, Gorman makes a living from pursuing odd obsessions, such as meeting numerous men who shared his full name, and then performing stand-up comedy and writing books about his experiences. It seems that Wallace, nominally self-employed as a games reviewer when the events depicted in this book occurred, wants to do the same. His laddish feat? Creating a cult / collective of increasingly diverse people, all of whom are prepared to ‘join’ him. Why? Sort of because his Great Uncle Gallus attempted to create a commune many years ago, but mostly because he was bored and lacked direction in life. Definitely not because his friend made a bet that he couldn’t get a hundred followers. Nope. It wasn’t a bet. Or a cult.

I’m still not very clear about this whole ‘join me’ malarky?

Nor was Wallace. As his followers dutifully sent him their passport photo as proof of their dedication to the collective and started calling him The Leader, Wallace scrabbled around for some cause, something for his followers to actually do. Clutching onto the idea of ‘making an old man happy’, Wallace gradually began to give his group some purpose as he continued jetting back and forth between an increasing number of counties and even countries to increase his follower count and inspire his membership. He frets that a nemesis within the group may be plotting a coup and tries to avoid telling his increasingly irritated girlfriend Hanne that he has accidentally started a cult.

Sounds bizarre. Do I want to read this?

Possibly. It’s mildly entertaining from the outset, when Wallace uses a very short prologue to address the reader as if you were in face to face conversation (‘You look lovely today, by the way.’) The book is full of trivia – about giant squids, gnomes, anything the joinees are interested in. Wallace light-heartedly styles himself as the new Jesus (‘”I’m not saying that I’m the new Jesus. I’m just saying that there’s a very good chance that I might be.”‘), beginning each chapter with a short verse written in biblical style. This is laddish behaviour taken to extremes and it’s not surprising that he refers to himself as a boy on several occasions and, in case all his gadding about has confused his readers, reminds us that ‘”I’m not a travel writer. I’m a bloke.”‘ Righty-ho.

Hmm. Is this a bit too…silly?

It’s light-hearted infotainment: treat it as such and you’ll be fine. He speculates airily about whether his potential nemesis, Joinee Whitby, has mental health problems, while he flies to Scotland on a whim, then Paris on an even, erm, whimmier whim. He doesn’t want to be associated with wackiness, but clearly his behaviour and collective is quite wacky – he recognises he wouldn’t join himself!

“I’m not saying that I’m the new Jesus. I’m just saying that there’s a very good chance that I might be.”

That said, there is a genuinely lovely side to this story; many old men are made happy and many of the joinees use the collective as an opportunity to pursue acts of kindness. There’s some reflection on how we can treat obstacles in our path and whather one bad apple should be allowed to spoil your perception of the bunch. If you can overlook Wallace’s increasingly cavalier treatment of Hanne then it’s quite heartwarming in places and it’s kind of a shame that the Join Me website hasn’t been updated since 2012 (although there are still joinees posting in the forum). Of course, you don’t have to read the book to recognise that the world would be a lovelier place if we all committed more spontaneous acts of kindness, and we don’t need to limit ourselves to just making old men happy.

I’m sure you’ve all seen variations on the slogan ‘I can only please one person per day…today is not your day and tomorrow doesn’t look good either’. Perhaps we should channel the spirit of Wallace’s Karma Army and update the slogan to ‘I can please one person per day…how can I help you?’

Danny Wallace
‘Join Me’
2003, Ebury Press, paperback