Julian Gough and the seriousness of comedy

crash_julian_goughA number of weeks ago, arising from my small support role in the Swift Satire Festival in Trim, Co Meath, I wrote a post about Irish satire, so naturally my attention was grabbed by last week’s interview with Julian Gough on RTE Radio 1’s Arena with Sean Rocks.

Gough is one of modern literature’s most committed satirists. From “The Great Goat Bubble”, the Fishamble play which went down well at both the Galway Arts Festival 12 months ago and the Swift festival last week, to “The iHole”, the short story which caused a bit of a legal ruckus last year, Gough offers a perceptive take on the modern world which should be the envy of many a better known writer.

His most recent offering continues the comic-satirical thread. “CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love” is published by DailyLit and on sale as a Kindle Single on Amazon. Gough would no doubt gently ridicule me for clinging to the anachronisms of paper and cardboard, but if there is a mode of literature for which I may, at some undetermined point in the future, see some sense in adopting a digital-first policy, it is in the essays and short stories that have brought the term Kindle Singles to the public consciousness and generated shedloads of additional revenue for a company that really could do with it.

Anyway, back to CRASH! It concerns a character, Jude, who lives in Fripperary in the Republic of Squanderland and gets in trouble with the international markets because of an ill-advised henhouse investment, which prompts the involvement of international lenders, ratings agencies and the Chancellor of Frugalia, Helen Dunkel.

If all of that is about as subtle as a €64bn hole in the economy, Gough’s reasons for going down this particular road again are more striking. Satire is not only alive and well, but still vital to discussions about the world we live in.

Said Gough:

The more serious the subject, the more necessary comedy is as an approach, and the better the comedy is. Comedy that’s about nothing in particular, that’s about fluffy light stuff, is empty and blows away.

The serious comedy is the stuff that endures. The stuff that’s about the really hard problems in life. Comedy is a beautiful way to address it because otherwise it’s too painful.

You have to be tremendously serious and then hide all traces of it. The gap between the two is pleasurable and a rich experience for the reader.

Most of my favourite novels are comedies about desperately bleak subjects.

I hesitate to say that any particular novel is my favourite, but I loved none more than Catch-22, which must surely be the archetype of the “comedy about desperately bleak subjects”.

You can listen to Julian Gough’s interview with Sean Rocks here.

You can buy a digital version of “CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love” for £1.49 here. (It’s an Amazon link; I have a heavy heart.)

Julian Gough blogs occasionally over here and tweets voraciously over here.


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