Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Pope Lonergan: Page 2 of 2

6. What do your parents think of your job?

Whenever I show my dad a new clip he always stops it after 15 seconds and says “Son. I’ve seen your comedy. I get the gist”. He was a detective in CID for 30 years but he’s actually a bit of a prude. Though Mum’s a big fan. The dirtier the better. The only thing they don’t like is when they come to one of my gigs – especially ‘Pope’s Addiction Clinic’ - and I choose to divulge huge, family-shattering secrets while I’m on stage. (The last one I divulged was relatively tame: I lied about seeing a dog ghost when I was 6 years old. It went unquestioned and got absorbed into family lore. Whenever it came up I’d look at the ceiling and say “Yeah…that was spooky. Lot of spookiness. Lot of childhood spookiness”.)

7. What’s the worst thing about being a comedian? 

The penury; the hand-to-mouth existence. Actually, I’m not too fussed about that really. I enjoy asceticism. I never understand why comedians put such an emphasis on “breaking even” at Edinburgh. The money you spent – that money’s gone. The money you earned – that’s new money! There’s always money floating about. Maybe I can’t grab enough of it because I’m a shit comedian. Also: people saying I’m a shit comedian. That’s the worst.

8. I think you are very good at what you do (that’s why I’m asking these questions). What do you think of you?

I fluctuate between a vast, steroidal confidence in my abilities and a “I’m mulch; I’m nothing” mentality. I had a great Edinburgh. Plenty of decent, pride-swelling gigs. Then I did ‘Hate’N’Live’ to a packed room and it was not my forte. After that, I was a worm. I was just another worm. But after reading Oliver Sacks’ essay about the interior life of a worm, I fell in love with worms. There’s a simple, meditative quality to a creature that’s soul is made up of pulses; of rudimentary transmission. Sometimes I Am Worm and I’m fine with that. 

9. How much do you earn and how much would you like to earn?

I never keep an eye on my income but I know I’m ducking below the threshold of ‘Minimum per annum income for student loan repayments’. I’m loving it. I feel like I’m getting one over on the Student Loans Company and any potential muggers. Mug me, mate, and there’s going to be a huge imbalance between the time and energy you expended and your financial compensation. (Please don’t take my books though. I usually have a rucksack full of books.)

10. How important is luck in terms of career success – have you had lucky breaks? 

I think it’s very important. At a stand-up gig there’s so many variables that determine whether you plummet or soar. Some of it is on you; some of it is on them; some of it is on the temperature of the room; some of it is on our bladders and bowels. It’s the same with a career in stand-up. Some comedians are great at intuiting what judges are looking for when handing out awards and some blindly stumble into the necessary criteria. Some hunt down the influential people and curry their favour; some happen to be having sex with them. And some are just determined grafters. Me? I’m too busy shitting.

11. Alan Davies has said that comedians fall into two categories - golfers and self-harmers. The former just get on with life, the latter are tortured artists. Which are you – or do you think you fit into a third category? 

I corroded the gummy wall of my interior with painkillers, mate! So I’m definitely a golfer (editor's note - I didn't really did to ask, did I?)

12. Who is your favourite person ever and why – not including family or friends or other comedians? 

I love James Joyce for “ennobling” the grotesque and the corporeal; for transmuting the degraded self (shit and pus and vomit) into high art. I do a lot of material about dementia and the realities of the care home environment. Rather than being exploitative, if you provide details on the corruption of the somatic self – the withering of the ageing body; the carcinoma like haematite; the faecal matter and urine burns – you’re showing a deep respect for these people. Why deny the vagaries of their third act? Why sweep this stuff under the carpet when it’s now part of their lived experience? I’ll always be indebted to Joyce (and Rabelais) for making me realise this stuff is vital and brilliant and funny. 

13. Do you keep your drawers tidy and if not why not? (please think long and hard about this question, it's to settle an argument with my girlfriend. The future of our relationship could depend on your response).

Yes. Obsessively so. Everything has to be properly aligned. I measure it with a ruler and everything. I’ve actually taken a 30 minute bus journey back home because I couldn’t stop thinking about a misaligned stapler. I’m ill. I’m worm. I’m nothing.


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