Sturgeon General author Geoff Lemon is as sharp as a glass knife made out of priest judgements with a mind as shrouded as a widow enshrouded in mist standing on a foggy moor who is also blind or something. I asked him questions: he answered.
Geoff Lemon and his glorious mane
Why do you write comedy?
Truthfully I’ve never thought of myself as writing comedy, nor consciously tried to do so. I just write the way I speak, and my conversations are built around jokes and puns and impersonations and similes, for no other reason than because they’re fun. That spills over naturally into writing, especially because in writing you can start to bore yourself far faster than in speech. A paragraph can feel like it’s going on forever because it’s taken you an hour to write, and you forget it’ll only take 30 seconds to read. That’s when my brain starts looking for jokes, because it wants to keep its own interest, which by good fortune helps readers keep theirs.
That’s why I like using humour in things like political writing, because you can make a dry subject entertaining, and keep your reader paying attention the whole way through. You can still have a strong level of research and analysis, but make it more palatable. Also the situations being discussed are so frequently and deeply absurd that only humour can adequately convey that absurdity.
So really the question is more why wouldn’t you include humour? Laughter is pretty much the best thing humans have got going for us, in the face of the frequent fuck-ups of life, so we might as well make use of it.
What are your inspirations?
How to answer this without sounding like Enya? In terms of writing, it’s the idea that we can connect with people that we’ve never met, make them have an emotional response, and in some way illuminate something in their own life. There are all these writers and musicians and artists who’ve had those responses in me, and I love the idea of being able to pass that down the line. In terms of what I write about, inspiration comes from all kinds of strange or strangely prosaic places, the little bits and pieces in life that you start noticing once you have a forum in which to share them. When it comes to writing on politics or social matters, the inspiration is the desire to lay a debate out clearly for myself, and in doing so hopefully give some clarity to other people. It’s about trying to hose away all the bullshit around an argument, because that always builds up fast.
What is a funny thing that happened to you?
As a fairly cocky person day to day, I do enjoy getting slapped down once in a while. There’s a police vehicle in Melbourne that always intrigued me. It’s a dark blue van with tinted windows and the word RESPONSE written down the side in massive reflective fluoro-orange letters. For several years I was fascinated with it. I would see it around the place and always ask, “What does it respond to?” To the point that one time while driving with my friend Mr Fox we ended up behind it on St Kilda Rd, and decided to solve the mystery. We followed it around the city, driving down streets, making random turns down the narrow Little roads of the CBD. I guess they realised we were following them, because they just started doing circles and weird manoeuvres trying to throw us off. After about half an hour we realised that Mr Fox had a lot of drugs in his pocket and we should probably stop doing that. So we still didn’t know, and pondered it late into the night.
Some months later I was leaving a pub near the Vic markets and saw the Response van parked by Peel Street. It was a hot summer night, and the passenger window was down. A blue-sleeved police elbow was resting on the ledge. This was the first time I’d ever seen into the Response van. I was delighted. I stared as we passed, trying to work out what was happening inside. Eventually I couldn’t contain myself, and called to the cop. “Hey! What do you guys respond to?”
The cop looked out at me, drunk and weaving a little, my early-20s whiteboy afro flopping side to side, and drawled “Dudes with stupid haircuts.”
What are you reading?
The other Sturgeon General books – it’s like being part of some weird club where too many of the men are wearing hats. Also, finishing off Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I’m on the last of seven volumes now, and anyone who wants to look down on that gentleman’s writing is welcome to eat a bag of dicks, because he’s one of the very best. I’m also reading submissions for the next edition of Going Down Swinging, due later this year.
We’ve just finished Going Down Swinging #34, which is really exciting as someone who has mostly worked in print publishing. This is a totally multimedia edition custom-built for computers and iPads. It does all these crazy things with writing, mixing together text and images and audio and video, and publishing all this work which would be literally impossible to put on paper. It’s one of the more exciting things I’ve seen published, and I recommend people have a look to figure out what the hell I’m talking about.
You can buy The Sturgeon General Recommends Geoff Lemon.
You can follow Geoff Lemon on Twitter: @geofflemon
You can buy Going Down Swinging #34