This week, still no news on Raoul Moat: The Opera and he was enthusing about his monthly Comedian’s Bookshelf shows
Jorik (who is Dutch) got his BA Hons degree in English Literature & Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam after writing a dissertation on The Goon Show. He is now doing a Masters in Comparative Literature at University College, London.
“Robin Ince,” I said, “used to run a night called The Bad Book Club.”
“But that was more about bad books,” said Jorik. “At The Comedian’s Bookshelf, we ask comedians to write a set about their favourite book or author. It’s been interesting at worst and absolutely mind-blowing at best.
“If you buy a book, you basically buy Thinking – you buy the author’s insights. A book is thought, is emotion, is the brain. More than a film or a video game or a painting, it works because narrative takes on life and something happens and you see and empathise with things that don’t exist.
“When you take a books’s thoughts to live comedy, where you don’t just have text, you have rhythm and musicality and physicality, you can work all those different things round these original thoughts. And that cannot not – a double negative – it cannot NOT bring out something creative.”
“Comedians nowadays,” I suggested, “tend to tell funny stories. They don’t do gags.”
“Jokes,” said Jorik, “are a narrative. Some information is given, then there is a comedic pivot and then a new narrative has to be worked up – from the ground up – very very quickly. There’s a gap that is bridged within the cognitive system.”
“I am a simple chap,” I asked. “What is the comedic pivot? The twist before the punchline?”
“It is the thing that changes the story from Narrative A to Narrative B,” explained Jorik. “If Narrative A is the feed-line and build-up, then the comedic pivot is where it changes and there is a leap to a second narrative that works. What the brain hates most of all is to be wrong.”
“Surely,” I said, “in most good jokes, the brain is wrong. It is misled and then you laugh from shock and/or relief.”
“No,” said Jorik, “Your brain is wrong first and then it is right. The reason you laugh is because your brain sends you endorphins because this second time you have seen it correctly. Well done brain. Endorphin buzz.”
“What,” I asked, “about when you laugh with relief at a horror film?”
“That is because,” said Jorik, “you thought you might be attacked and laughter is a way for the cognitive system to say Chill the fuck out. So laughter is introduced and endorphins are introduced to make you feel safe.”
I asked: “What about My wife’s got no nose – How does she smell? – Terrible?”
“The word Smell is the pivot,” said Jorik. “That’s just linguistics. That’s the pivot and then the entirety of the narrative changes – You have a smelly wife.”
“What next for you?” I asked.
“I was thinking of starting an evening called The Comedians’ Talking Therapy Group,” Jorik told me. “It would be a night when comedians talk about their problems – personal, psychiatric, money, gambling, sexual. I would talk about how life and depression is so much fun. I would get someone to headline talking about his or her anxiety or talking about trying to commit suicide – all of the LOLs and all of the pain. There is a night a little like that already – Karl Schultz’s It Might Get Ugly. I did some very dark material there and my parents were in the audience.”
“What did they think?”
“They loved it. I had explained a little about the comedy world to my mother. She told one of the other comedians: I hope you don’t die on stage.”