Paul Gannon is a writer/stand up/comedy producer who has written and performed for UK TV channels BBC, ITV, Channel 4 as well as run the well loved ‘Geek Night Out’ live comedy show in London. As a stand up, he’s performed in London and the UK as well as Boston, Los Angeles and New York…
Paul Gannon has kindly agreed to be interviewed, to discuss his upcoming theatre tour, his opinions on ghosts, horror and writing… !
Paul, you’ve been involved in writing, stand-up comedy and the paranormal for some time now. A peculiar mix! For readers who aren’t familiar with your work, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up hosting your own Ghost-Busting show?
It’s a long story, but the general gist is that the film Ghostbusters started it all off for me. It set my imagination alight (at the tender age of 6), put me in love with the supernatural and made me want a career making people laugh. Like most people treat Star Wars as a religion, I treat Ghostbusters with the same reverence. Except Ghostbusters is better than Star Wars. Easily.
It was Dan Aykroyd’s writing that inspired me, his use of words and his strength in character dialogue that made me want to follow a career in comedy. Of course, at that early stage of my life, I actually wanted to grow up to bust ghosts for a living… But no one had the heart to tell me at that young age that is wasn’t a real profession!
In terms of my own work, I think I like mixing horror with comedy because they mostly work on the same principles, storytelling with a twist or subversion of expectations… whether it’s for a fright or for a laugh.
Failing that… cock jokes!
I met you briefly in 2011 at paranormal show, Psychic & Science. The show was a mix of paranormal investigation, comedy and interactive experiments. I personally loved it. How did you find the experience of hosting this theatre tour, and did you ever experience anything unusual, either on stage or off?
I really loved the show although at times, in all honesty, I was at odds with some of the ideas in the show. I just decided to make it my duty to point out that not everything you experienced during the show had a supernatural explanation. I’d do my best to point out the skeptical or ‘alternative’ explanation to anything potentially spooky. That wasn’t in an attempt to deflate anything, but rather to make sure that any truly unexplainable was noted and not cast into the same pile as reading too much into Ouija board reading (for example), which is a true hazard.
As I’ve been doing stand up for a fair few years, performing for big crowds was no real problem with me (strokes ego) but the audiences were VERY different from my usual crowd. Importantly, they weren’t drunk. The crowds were largely wonderful, excitable and eager to get involved. Most of them were believers, but it was my job to try and start the show with a clean slate and allow them to make up their own mind by the end of the evening.
As for my role, I think it was mainly to keep things moving at a jaunty pace and try and keep the experience entertaining during those shows that were low on supernatural activity. A lot of shows, like Most Haunted, are self important, over earnest and, frankly, embarrassing to watch, and so with P&S, I thought it was important to try to make investigating the supernatural fun and far less agonizing.
As for experiences, well, there were a few (Some of which I reveal in my comedy show)… Some of them were easily explained and some were truly mind boggling. I’m not going to say they were supernatural, but they have certainly addled the minds of a few skeptics. It’s those moments that I find awesome… That gap in reality is what I live for!
The big question – do you believe in spooks?
Hmmm… Tough one. It’s something I tackle in the show, but it’s a “No… with a maybe” or a “Yes with a but…” The interesting point about my show is I went in with a design to find out if I believe or not, but came out more interested in why other people go ghost hunting instead. I became a hunter of ghost hunters basically. I think where I draw the line is with psychics. I just don’t believe in their abilities. I’ve met tones of them and get along with a fair few, but I always stress that I don’t think anyone can talk to the dead, and those who say they do, I kind of question their motives. But again, I don’t aim to debunk, as others can do that far better than me, but rather ask why other people believe.
So your upcoming tour, Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost, will be a mix of comedy and the supernatural. What can audiences expect from the show?
I’m hoping the audience can expect a good time, if nothing else. It’s a mix of storytelling, stand-up comedy, sketches, songs and videos, so it’s a varied show. I don’t want it to be a gag filled cheap piece of comedy, but rather a story with a mix of different style in order to tell it. It’s been hard to compress 3 years of research into 55 minutes without feeling I am missing important bits out, so I am trying to tell the best story I can. There are a fair few spooky stories, silly asides and it hopefully leaves you talking about your own thoughts on the supernatural. I’m not out to debunk or make fun, but rather talk about a very modern fascination with a very old fashioned question… What happens after we die? I just hope people like it, that’s the bottom line!
I have noticed on your website that you enjoy creative writing too. Do you have any plans to submit work, either fiction or true-life, to a publisher in the future? What do you find most difficult about the writing process?
I love writing. Absolutely adore it. I just find it so bloody hard to get started. It’s hardly a unique complaint, but sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is actually get into a position to open that word document and get writing. I seem to wait until I find this ‘perfect moment’ when I am inspired in just the right time and place… Which I don’t think exists. So I have to drag myself, kicking and screaming, in order to get anything done. At the moment, I am enjoying writing a fiction blog about the adventures of a Ghost Hunter (I know, I know… but I love writing comedy and horror) called Eli Jenkins. He is an old, mad, possibly consistently drunk and demented paranormal expert who has decided to write up some of his most famous cases. I am having tones of fun writing it, I just need to publish more of it more often. It’s just hard to get some proper writing time with my schedule. If you fancy giving it a read, you can go here:
You mention on your website that you’ve “offended religious groups.” Dare I ask what has triggered this, and how you’ve combated attitudes from certain groups/people?
Well, that comes from the Psychic and Science tours, and frankly, it’s humourous because the groups in question were small minorities who were offended, but ultimately quite pathetic in their reaction. Nothing I’ve done is as awful as The Innocence of Muslims (thank god), but the level of negative feedback has mostly been people standing outside the theatre shouting ‘this show [Psychic and Science] is evil’ or telling me I am doing the devil’s work. However, the minute you say ‘Well, let’s talk about this…’ They get very defensive and build up an impenetrable wall of bullshit around them. So you can’t win. So instead, I’ll just take the mickey out of them during my show… Which they won’t come to see anyway… So I win!
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to tour “Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost” around as much of the UK and abroad as possible. It already went down very well in America, so I’d like to go back there with it. Basically, if you’d like me to come to your town to do it, I’ll be there. Other than that, I just want to get more writing done, explore comedy in various different ways and carry on regardless… I know that sounds vague, but providing I can do what I enjoy and make a living out of it, I’ll be happy.
As many readers of my website are interested in the paranormal/horror genre, can I ask what your favourite horror movie is, and why?
Ok… Let me break this down. There is a lot of horror out there, and a lot of sub-genres, so let me take you on a brief tour of what rocks my horror boat.
Favourite Haunted House Film
The Haunting (1963)
Simply one of the best horror films ever. It both is and isn’t about the supernatural, has a dream-like quality to it. It has stunning photography, some inventive scares and ultimately leaves you wondering what exactly did happen at Hill House… was it supernatural? That’s up you.
Favourite Gore Fest
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
It’s the ultimate ‘hold on to your hats’ kind of horror film. It’s less interested in scaring you, but more interested in picking you up, throwing you around, messing with you mind and then dumping you at the end of the journey with your mind well and truly boggled. It may not be the goriest film ever, but its more like a Three Stooges film with decapitations.
Favourite Grim Horror Movie
The Mist (2007)
It’s one of the best Stephen King adaptations and its probably got one of the best all time “WTF” endings to a movie I’ve seen. It’s mean, cruel, grisly and makes you doubt your faith in humanity but it’s a damned fine monster movie. Even if the monsters themselves are probably the humans.
Favourite Clever Horror Film
This is a tough one – but there are 3 films I would recommend if you fancy your horror to be a little more smart.
The film that revitalized the horror genre in the 90s. It was a smart peek behind the curtain when it comes to the rules and clichés of being in a horror movie. Even though it dismantled the genre, it also became a classic in itself. It’s legacy has only been weakened by its own sequels and other knock offs!
Leslie Vernon: Behind The Mask (2006)
It is best described as a cross between Spinal Tap and Scream and it is monumentally clever. It lets you go behind the scenes with a masked killer who explains to a documentary crew how it’s all done. It flips from classy cinematics to grungy found footage and it works in perfect harmony.
Cabin In The Woods (2012)
Simply put. It’s awesome. It begins as many other horror films do… Some dumb teenagers head out to a cabin in the woods and then get picked off one by one by something lurking in the darkness. But that is only HALF the story, as there is something else going on, behind the scenes, that is both humdrum and hilarious. It’s how these two halves meet that truly blows your mind!
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
Well, I’m all over Facebook – Just look for Paul Gannon and if you see a picture of a man wearing a ghostbusters uniform, then that’s very likely me.
I’m also seen lurking on Twitter @paulgannonshow, so why not follow me and see me say really rubbish/boring things… Although I do live Ghost Hunt tweets at times, so they are fun! What else? Well, I’m working on a few websites that will be launched soon.
http://paulgannonsituation.co.uk/ – where you can learn about my gigs and video clips and other fun stuff
www.geekatorium.net – which is the new website that accompanies my new London show, which begins in 2013… and its going to rock! Both websites are being tinkered with and should be online soon!
Finally, any advice for readers who are interested in perusing careers in comedy/stand-up?
Advice? Well, I’ll be honest, it’s best just to go and do it. You could go and try one of those ‘Stand Up Courses’ that teaches you how to be slick and like the people you see on the telly, but ultimately, the only way to learn is find an open mic night and just do it… and carry on doing it until you find your voice and confidence, or until you quit and decide to open your own ‘Stand Up Course’.
Obviously, I don’t think anyone reading this should get into comedy, because there are far too few jobs anyway and I don’t think I can cope with any more competition. SO STAY AWAY FROM MY PATCH!
Here is the trailer for Paul Gannon’s upcoming theatre show:
Thanks for your time, Paul