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Episode 53

Join hosts Veronica and Darren as they discuss the ability of Ugg Boots to bring pure happiness, archetypes made of cookie dough, what we can learn from life's pivotal moments and what a tiger and a shaking leg have in common, as well as industry news and book reviews! We also have a super fun interview with author Jake O'Donnell who shares with the listeners his thoughts on what it means to grow up in the 21st century...


Is there a message in your book?

The number one message I am hoping to convey in my book is the importance of humility and humour in our sense of self and the world around us. The book is extremely self-deprecating (for both me as an individual and as a member of the much larger, more ridiculous group known as men), but it’s always done with a sense of warmth and relatability that hopefully encourages the reader to make similarly humorous observations about themselves. 

With the current social climate becoming one in which people view themselves and their social identities as almost sacred, I wanted to offer another perspective which manages to place us as just one of all the other absurd human beings experiencing the strangeness of being alive. Ultimately, I wanted to show people that not only is it okay to laugh at yourself, it’s okay for other people to laugh at us too. In the end, we’re all laughing together.

What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?

The response that gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction is when people reveal that the book had them laughing out loud. The true mark of whether anything is funny or not is whether it can make you laugh - it’s always involuntary, and that’s the real cash-value of comedy. It’s also rather difficult to do with the written word. So much of what we laugh at is contextual, picking up on cues that we often aren’t even consciously aware of, so to be able to construct a context out of thin air and then force the reader to go there is pretty special.

Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books?

Aside from all of the stories about me taking place in Australia, the book is full of Australian pop-culture references. From Nicky Webster and Neighbours through to Schoolies, ‘shoeys’ and Auskick, the book is definitely a trip down a nostalgic Memory Lane.

What genre/s do you write in?

All of my writing to date has been humour based. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make people laugh in person and I guess that’s trickled down into my work. I think humour is probably the most interesting thing that we do as human beings. It’s such a deeply rooted element to the human condition, yet it is so complex and adaptable. 

I love everything that an attempt at humour says about an individual and about human beings more generally. I also love the risk involved in trying to make other people laugh. There aren’t many worse, visceral experiences than when you go out on a limb trying to be funny, only for it to fail miserably. But I think that’s what makes it so special. In terms of writing, I really relish the challenge of delayed gratification – in real life you know immediately if a joke has landed; you’re instantly informed about what your humour should be like going forward. 

With writing, it’s often much later that a joke will reach an audience, so you kind of have to feel around in the dark and back yourself in. My writing will often have an autobiographical element to it as well (which is the case with this book). Any observations that I make about the world around me are always informed first by observations that I make about myself. I also think it can soften the blow of a joke when it ultimately falls on you.

What inspired you to write/this book/these books?

I felt that there was a huge gap in the market for books targeting a young male audience. Given that it is a demographic that has typically been defined by a culture of ‘banter’, it seemed appropriate to write a funny book dedicated to ridiculing them from the inside rather than the outside looking in. A lot of my past writing experience had also involved sharing stories from my life. It was always what I enjoyed writing about the most and seemed to be what resonated strongest with readers. I decided that writing a book that was also about the reader, and treated them with the same level of raw honesty that I applied to myself, was the most interesting way to go.

Why do you think listeners should read your book?

I think listeners should read the book because it will be completely different to anything they are used to. It follows a unique format, exploring the journey of modern men through the seminal ‘first time’ moments that defined their ascent to adulthood. Each chapter examines what those experiences looked like more generally, before illuminating the absurdity of it all by going into the personal story of each of my own very embarrassing ‘firsts’. I think it’s also a really interesting time for comedy - with social norms evolving and the extent to which the envelope is pushed changing - so something as bold as this book is sure to make you think more deeply about what humour is and what it means to you. And of course, if you go by the words of at least three blood relatives of mine, it’s utterly hilarious!

Who would you most like to read your book as an audiobook?

The obvious answer would be David Attenborough or Morgan Freeman but as soothing as they both are, I’m not sure their distinguished voices would suit the content. Considering that I have an extremely monotone voice, anyone with a dynamic speaking voice that can also broadcast the connotation of the ‘Aussie larrikin’ would be perfect. I imagine someone like Hamish Blake would suit it really well, so if you know him maybe you could pull some strings for me!

What’s the most useful writing advice you’ve been given?

The most useful writing advice I’ve heard wasn’t actually given to me. I was watching an interview with Danny McBride talking about the process of writing scripts for television. He was saying that the magic isn’t in the initial draft - even though this is usually where the moment of inspiration strikes and the overarching idea and structure is largely formed - it’s in the repeated editing and revising efforts of tiny intricate details that the overall work is ultimately brought to life. The moment of inspiration when you come up with an idea that you know is really good is so intoxicating and rewarding that it’s really easy to feel like the job is done once you first get it down onto paper. It took me a while to really appreciate that with my writing, and with humour, the constant tweaks are so important. Sometimes just a word or simple phrase can make all the difference.

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Click below to learn more about this author's spectacular literary work!

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