Tony, 60, a regular on TV in the 1980s, told of his depression and drug and alcohol use in the BBC documentary What’s The Matter With Tony Slattery? this spring. A £4,000-a-week cocaine habit led to a breakdown in 1996 when he stayed in his Thameside flat for six months and disappeared from the public eye. The documentary saw him return to the stage for the first time in decades and the success of theTV special prompted him to write the book.
“I have just signed a deal to publish my life story – not that I read the contract because I wouldn’t understand it anyway,” he says.
“I’m hoping the memoirs will be amazing well, if I get my brain together they will be. My short-term memory isn’t good but I think booze has a lot to do with that.
“I haven’t done it before because I didn’t think there was anything to say. But I’ve been persuaded and if it’s c*** I will stop.
“In this celebrity culture people can become billionaires overnight for nothing. But in lockdown I decided to put my fat a*** on my seat and actually write something because if people from Love Island can do it, then so can I.
“The documentary had a positive effect in the way a lot of people said: ‘I thought I was the only one’. It made them realise they were not alone. Depression happens to all types of people from all walks of life.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t going to do me any favours’. And, of course, it hasn’t. I did it because I thought it might do some good. Not from a career point of view because that was, let’s be frank, at a standstill.”
The book will offer a rare glimpse into Tony’s private life, covering everything from when he suffered abuse from a priest as a child to how he began his career in the Cambridge Footlights, part of a glittering generation along with Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, to finding success on Whose Line Is It Anyway.
“I will talk about my childhood otherwise there is no point in doing it,” he insists.
While much of the country found lockdown difficult Tony has become used to isolation over more than two decades.
In fact, he was speaking on a rare night out to support his friend, comedian and actress Helen Lederer, at the launch of The Comedy Women in Print Awards held in her garden in Dulwich, south-east London.
“I’ve been writing it in lockdown but I’ve been in lockdown for 25 years anyway and the Covid thing doesn’t make any difference at all,” he says. “It has been very therapeutic and I have been writing on lemon-coloured poster notes. It helps to trigger words and scenarios and memories – and bang! I am back there.
“I can’t remember what I did yesterday and I won’t remember being here but I can remember verbatim at any point at any time before yesterday.
“With lockdown, I had to get into a routine and you wake up and go, ‘Ooh I’m alive, I’ll make a cup of tea. Shall I drink a glass of wine? Perhaps not. It’s a bit early if I do say so myself’. I didn’t drink more in lockdown. It wasn’t possible.”
In the show Tony tells how he tried to confront his mental illness but in 25 years since turning his back on fame, he has never had a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
“There always was a manic part of me but now I manage that with prescription medication,” he says. “If I’m feeling down, I dilute my wine, I try and phone friends and I try and write and when I wake up with a big bang at 4.30 in the morning, I will watch Hard Talk on BBC Two.”
One person unswerving in Tony’s life is actor Mark Michael Hutchinson, his “rock” and partner of three decades.
The pair met when they were both in the West End musical Me And My Girl in 1986. Tony says he can be difficult to live with but Mark complements him.
“I’m a Scorpio but Mark is a Libra so we balance one another out,” he says. “Scorpios can have a sting in their tail but mine wilted long ago. My sting is such a puffy lame sting and I can’t even be bothered. When Scorpios are good, they are good and they are kind as well.
“We do have true commitment. It might sound soppy but he’s been through thick and thin with me. He’s really excited about my memoirs and says, ‘Put it down on the page. It might be worse reading about it but you need to get it all out there’.”
Helen Lederer announces the winners of the Comedy Women in Print Awards from her garden tomorrow, via YouTube at comedywomeninprint.co.uk