Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Pope Lonergan

Comedian Pope Lonergan is the mastermind behind the recent The Care Home Tour in which a floating group of stand-ups including Ben Target and Adam Riches performed in care homes, often to people with dementia. He explains: "Residents who have dementia are unable to follow the logic of a conventional joke but they have a visceral, limbic response to physical comedy; the same response they have to music." There will be a Care Home Tour artists residency with Metal in Southend (at Chalkwell Hall) on 27th - 31st October. And before then Lonergan presents the latest instalment of Pope's Addiction Clinic, in which comics talk abut addiction, at the Bill Murray, N1 on September 10, with guests including Tony Law and Desiree Burch.
1. What is the last thing you do before you go onstage (apart from check your flies and/or check your knickers aren't sticking out of your skirt and check for spinach between your teeth)? 

If you’re squeamish about the “body’s lower stratum” please look away now: I shit, reader. I have a shit. And because my bowels are fucked from drugs it’s like the remnants of Stalingrad spread across the battlefield. But, still, there’s something very life-affirming about a pre-gig shit. It’s as if God is lapping at my brain stem. Sometimes I even let the shit teeter-totter on my sphincter to build a sense of anticipation. It helps to maximise the reward. And then I wash my hands and touch the cover of ‘Becoming Richard Pryor’ by Scott Saul. It’s a talisman. So shit, Saul and then I’m ready to show the audience how to love me. 

2. What irritates you?

Unsolicited feedback about my stand-up material from perennial open mic comedians. If I respect you, if you’re doing great work, or you have a modicum of insight – thanks so much for your feedback. It helps me to hone my material. If you’ve been doing the same five minutes for a decade, please don’t worry about it. I don’t need you telling me that I shouldn’t lead with the bit about using right of possession law to contest a lawsuit about weighing another person’s poo. Stick to running your open mic night and Sultan’ing about as if you’re the self-appointed gatekeeper of comedy. I also find tiny cubes of Branston pickle irritating. No explanation required. (Though my dyspraxic friend and I once got into a punch-up because he kept trying to provoke me with pickle cubes. We also got into his Koi pond because it’s nice when they kiss you.) 

3. What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?

Ok. So. I once jumped off of a roof in St. Ives and smashed through a skylight. It might have been a suicide attempt. I’m not sure. But I landed on some plastic patio furniture and a shard of it pinged up and scratched the cornea of a guy who said he was too sexy to be in ‘Hollyoaks’. So my maybe-suicide-attempt provided a public service. I also had a 45-Dihydrocodeine-tablets-in-one-go drug habit. This was daily (unless I ran out) for quite a few years. I’d binge on rolling updates about Brexit, the Republican primaries and then the Presidential race. I’d have frenzied conversations with little old lady’s with dementia about the current news cycle. They still thought Harry S. Truman was in charge so it was very one0sided (which suits me as another person contributing to a conversation is a bit of an imposition, if I’m honest). 

4. What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?

Remember those mints that were like postage stamps and they’d dissolve on your tongue? I put one of them on my eyeball so people would say “Hey, Pope put a mint on his eyeball”. In senior school I’d do anything I could to ensure I was focal point of a conversation. Oh, and I once took betablockers to get high. I didn’t get high; they don’t have that kind of chemical property. But then I was on betablockers…for no reason whatsoever. 

5. What has surprised you the most during your career in comedy? 

That feelings of jealousy and competitiveness override a lot of the fun. And that female comics have an uphill struggle when they try to sell an audience material that’s “earthy” or dark. How, in 2018, does this outdated notion of female refinement still apply? I have a deep love for vulgar, “unruly” women. It amazes me that people are still reluctant to embrace them.

Interview continues here.


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