July 17th, 2013 at 8:13am |
A few years ago, and I wish now I had noted the source, I read that either there was no such thing as a truly funny novel, or novels are poor vehicles for humor, or there are only two funny novels in all of Western history, or something stupid like that and I did two things with that information. 1) I started looking for funny novels and found almost two. 2) Took that claim seriously, stepped up on my laptop and said, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
I wish I knew who wrote that statement and then point them in the direction of The Gig Delusion by British stand-up comedian Andy Kind.
The Gig Delusion offers this interesting premise: Andy’s shady agent requires him to perform in each of Britain’s 39 counties in ten weeks or he won’t sign him. In that same ten weeks, Andy’s true love, Betty, is planning their dream wedding. Will Andy be able to make all the gigs AND keep Betty’s affection?As I got into this book, I kept thinking, boy, this is a great set-up. Wow. Look at the way he’s got these mutually-exclusive objectives! Hey, this plot is moving along nicely! Flashbacks to his grandparents! Vivid characterization! So strictly speaking as a novel, this book is tight. You can read the rest of my 5-star review of The Gig Delusion here.
Recently, Andy agreed to answer a few questions about The Gig Delusion. I’d like to say he answered them over a plate of fish & chips, with a voice that sounded suspiciously like Benedict Cumberbatch, but it was over email. Maybe next time.
KATHARINE: The Gig Delusion is kind of a sequel, but not really, of your first book, Stand Up and Deliver. Why did you feel the need to write more about life as a stand-up comedian?
ANDY: I just felt it was an obvious second book to write. The end of SUAD is not quite a cliffhanger, but it hopefully leaves people wanting more. A lot of people wanted to know whether Andy and the Jess character got together in the end, so there was space for a follow-on. Also, you have to write what you know and I only really know about comedy! (Readers: here’s a link to Stand Up And Deliver and the review I wrote about it.)
KATHARINE: Do you find it difficult to switch from being comic whose stage presence, voice and general sobriety of the audience determines your success to being a humorist who has to sculpt a storyline, with plausibility, a plot and things like grammar?
ANDY: It’s certainly a totally different beast, for sure. Stand-up is so immediate, but weirdly it’s less personal. You are the centre of a group, it’s communal, and you have a responsibility to everyone there. With a book, you’re can be much more autocratic. People can pick it up and read it, or not. And they can put it down at any point. You have more freedom as a writer because the audience (reader) has more freedom, and when the reader invites you into their mind, you can develop a sense of 1-to-1 intimacy that you don’t get with stand-up. It’s important, though, I think, to build a narrative voice rather than a gag voice. I think the first few chapters of SUAD at times were/are a little bit too gag-heavy, because I was still finding my feet and I suppose I shoe-horned in some of my material. By the time I started Gig Delusion, I think I had found my written voice as well as my on-stage voice.
KATHARINE: The sweetest part of The Gig Delusion is your description of your relationship with “Betty” the fiancee. How closely to your real life did you stay in your story? Do you really play Pins and Needles? (Note to self, teach the kids this game.) And I’m assuming she’s okay with this fictionalized account of your life, she is, right?
ANDY: Haha! Yes, we play pins and needles! Though the name I’ve given her is different, the heart and emotion that went into the relationship is the same, and some of the ‘tensions’ within the story are very close to what happened. I thought it was important to root the comedy in drama and vice versa. Light and shade is key, I think, when you’re writing comedy. I ran everything past the real Betty before it went to print, and she thinks that she’s not as nice in real life as in print. I couldn’t possibly comment!!
KATHARINE: I am assuming that with your comedy material you get feedback faster. You know what works and what doesn’t after one show. Novels are not quite that instantaneous. How did you deal with the difference? How did you know what you were writing was good? (It was!)
ANDY: Yep, on-stage stuff is way more visceral and immediate, but not always in a good way. A weird audience might give you a false sense of whether stuff is funny or not. I think with a novel, you just have to trust yourself a lot more – and rewrite. I actually found having text on a screen easier to edit than stand-up stuff (which I never write down), but I still used a small group of close friends to read through stuff and give feedback – people I could trust to be honest, but nice! I think you get to a point where you don’t know whether something is funny anymore, but that point is also the point where you think ‘Well, I’ve done all I can – here we go, world: judge me!’
KATHARINE: Writers often spend a lot of time bragging about the writing books that they’ve read. What writing books encouraged you the most?
ANDY: Simple. Stephen King: On Writing. Brilliant book – and I say that as someone who has never finished one of his novels. It really encouraged me to read more, because he says: to write well, you have to read well. I try to see reading as work, in the same way that writing is work.
KATHARINE: My favorite quote of your book was: ”Laughter is so beautiful in the way it dispels tension. That’s why we need it. When you laugh, all the crap, all the stress, all the hurt that has burrowed its way into you gets ejected. It simply isn’t allowed to stay. Laughter acts like a sort of leaf-blower for the soul.” This is EXACTLY how I feel about it too! Could you elaborate?
ANDY: Well it’s medically proven to make you feel better by releasing endorphins. That was one of maybe 2 or 3 points in the book where I’m quite clearly hoping to get myself into a book of quotations one day!! In all seriousness, one of the reasons I love writing comedy is that you can totally surprise the reader with something funny, and you don’t know what situation they might be in – on the bus, the train, sitting by the pool! I love the idea that people might find themselves in awkward situations where they can’t help but giggle compulsively.
KATHARINE: Your choice for the name for Will & Kate’s baby?
KATHARINE: Are there more books in your future? Can you tell us about them?
ANDY: There will definitely more books in the pipeline. I don’t know that I can complete the comedy trilogy (I think I’ve exhausted all my anecdotes!) but there’s a couple of comedy novel ideas I’m thinking about. The idea is to build a body of work that people can discover at their leisure and work their way through. I think Gig Delusion was the last one where I’ll feature as the central character. Time to humiliate someone else!!
KATHARINE: I have two teenage daughters who are obsessed with Doctor Who. Who do you think should be the next doctor? (It doesn’t matter to them whether or not you’re a fan; you’re British, therefore, you’re an expert.)
ANDY: Well, I am a big fan actually. Sherlock and Doctor Who are both massive over here and we’re very proud of them as a nation! I think Matt Smith has been great as the Doctor, but you have to take it off in a slightly different direction each time, don’t you, so I’ll say Paul Bettany.
KATHARINE: Thank you! Andy Kind! And comedy lovers, you MUST get The Gig Delusion!