Richard 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):
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:
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!