Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey

Ayoade on AyoadeRichard Ayoade is a British writer, director, actor and comedian. He directed and co-wrote Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as playing Dean Learner in that series, he was infamous as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd (which was an award winning role for him), and he has also directed the films Submarine and The Double (the 2013 movie, not the 2011 one of the same name). At the end of last year, he published his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. This honestly has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read, even if it is totally ridiculous.

Essentially Ayoade is poking fun at all those “Director on Director” type memoirs that exist, attacking the pomposity of it all by splitting himself into two persona – the pretentious director and the humble in-awe interviewer. The book contains ten interviews (kind of), as well as a section on his thoughts on writing and acting. But the real gems often are found in the 100 page long appendix, and, if you read in the way Ayoade intends by referring to the appendix when his footnotes tell you to do so, you’ll have read the entire appendix when you’re only halfway through the interviews. Though it sounds annoying, it is actually quite entertaining and fun to be flipping back and forth through the book and many of the footnotes contain the funniest moments. Just consider these two footnotes on his title page alone (a quick warning that there is a bit of swearing, if you’re easily offended):

Ayoade on Ayoade footnotes

Much of the humour is very niche – it probably helps to have some interest in films overall. But I don’t think you need to know everything about film to find the jokes funny, either, particular in the appendix that is filled with lots of short 2 and 3 page pieces, from fake emails and letters to draft scripts, essays and various manifestos regarding film. The topics range from the recent Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, making fun of reclusive director Terrence Malick, crowdsourcing and of course the press, among many others. My favourite section from the appendix though, without a doubt, is the new manifesto for film which he creates, which is focused around these 10 points:

A New Manifesto For Film

The interviews themselves are also brilliant and seem to serve as a sort of narrative thread which connects the book in a way the page order does not. The director persona is not only on an intense ego-trip but is also very surreal in thought. In the very first interview he explains how he spent his time in the womb contemplating how he wanted to escape and start making films. When later asked about his childhood, he says he didn’t have a childhood and then adds that he doesn’t believe in childhood. As the interviews continue, he becomes increasingly subversive as he deflects most of the questions to pursue his own agenda – something Ayoade has gained media attention for doing in real life recently, to mixed reactions (though I must say I find him more entertaining than others in this risky interview style).

Although the interviews overall run the risk of stretching the same joke a bit thin, the constant breaking up of flow by references to the appendix helps to keep the general feel of the book fresh. I wouldn’t say it’s a book that you could read in a single sitting – I took a couple of months slowly digesting it to enjoy it more. Overall though, the book made me laugh out loud which is something very few books have managed to achieve. If you like film, you might enjoy this book. If you like Ayoade, you might enjoy this book. If you like both – this book is definitely for you!

I’ll finish off with another one of my favourite passages, from one of the earlier interviews in which Ayoade discusses forming himself. If any of you have read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Ayoade Informing Himself

10 thoughts on “Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey

  1. I just read those two pages with Moss narrating in my head. I think I’ll get this book when I’m allowed to buy books again (I’ve been told I’m not allowed to until I read the 50 odd in my to be read pile).

    • Hahaha, yeah, I think that’s one of the things I love about this book – Ayoade has such a distinctive (and downright nasal) voice in real life that it makes reading this even funnier. I love authors who have real life distinctive voices though – Stephen Fry is another writer I love to read for this reason.
      I have imposed a self-ban on buying books too, but the library in town has a pretty impressive English section too if I actually manage to get through all my books I have here with me. Hopefully later this year I’ll be able to send the rest over anyway.

      • I’ve not read anything of Stephen Fry’s books, but I saw him host the BAFTA’s the other night and he was so funny it made me want read them. So I’ll add those to my list now as well.
        As a side note, despite by book ban, I bought two more the other day 😳

    • Hahaha yeah I’ve finished two (the other review went up last week). I’m nearly finished a third. Meanwhile the other half has finished her 9th book….so yeah. I’m a bit behind, but I’m still confident I’ll hit 52. I have a couple of series I want to get stuck into that will be easy and quick reading, so that will get my numbers up at some point. I’m trying to intersperse harder books with easier ones, to keep my pace and morale up.
      How’s your reading going? 🙂

      • Well done! I’m a bit behind in my blog reading (about 1800 emails…) so I’m a bit all over the place at the moment! Commenting on posts out of order :s
        Haha! Nine! Good on her 🙂 Well, i hope you hit 52. I think that’s a good plan.
        My reading is on track so i am happy! I’ve only reviewed six so far however i have actually read more like ten. The reviews for all of them are yet to go up. I’m really excited because I’m about to start reading The Maze Runner. Have you read it?

        • Hahaha, oh don’t worry. I gave up trying to catch up on blog reading….it’s more like 13000 emails for me. Actually I need to turn off the email function I think because I’ve essentially abandoned that email as it is so filled up. I think it happened over the move and I just never caught up.
          Wow, you’re doing really good – I’ll need to swing by your blog soon and check out your reviews!
          The Maze Runner series is sitting on my bookcase waiting for me to read it. The other half just read it and she said it was good – very action packed and fast paced, fairly average writing but good story overall (which is pretty much what I imagined). I want to read it before we watch the movie, that’s for sure. 🙂

          • WOAH. Yeah, you win on that score.
            I often start well and then life happens and i get behind. However I’ve also been reading a lot of the bargain bin books that a customer lent me to try and clear my “To Read Pile”. Most of them are fairly easy reading (I’m actually surprised because this lot isn’t as ‘average’ as previous lots have been).
            Oh goodie. I wasn’t expecting another Hunger Games however i wasn’t sure whether it was going to be good at all. I’ve already seen the movie (which is why i decided to read the book) and i quite enjoyed it.

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