Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of comedy

Tom Holt’s comic fantasy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages (UK | US | ANZ) was published recently and has delighted reviewers already. With some trepidation, we asked Tom the classic author interview question: where the heckers does he get his ideas from?

“One disadvantage I suffer from is that I don’t lead a funny life. Hilarious things don’t happen to me, which means I have to make it all up. Whoever arranges these things sees to it that somebody else gets all the good material – the wrong suitcase picked off the airport carousel, the hilarious mistaken-identity incident, all that – while I’m left with days that go something like –

7.00am: wake up
7.15am: drive to smallholding; feed pigs; feed chickens; feed pigs; feed cows; cut firewood
10.30am – 3.30pm: sit in front of computer trying to think of funny stuff
3.35pm as 7.15am
8.00am – 2.00pm as 10.30am

 And so on, day after day (except in winter, when it’s still as dark as a bag at 7am), with never a hint of a free joke or a spontaneously-occurring outbreak of hilarity that I can pick up, shove under my coat, take home and effortlessly convert into marketable prose. The only break in the routine comes when I have to dispose of the body of the latest person foolish enough to tell me about some comic incident in their own life, with the recommendation (usually the last thing they ever say) that I ought to put it in one of my books.

I wouldn’t mind, and I’d save myself a great deal of gravedigging, if the comic incidents referred to above were actually funny, or funny in a way I could use. But they aren’t. Either they’re horribly tragic, involving serious bodily injury or catastrophic damage to property, or they depend entirely on context (because it was George who got to the hotel only to find he’d left the tickets on the kitchen table; side-splitting stuff, except you need to have known George for thirty years to get the joke, and in all other respects, George is about as interesting as the latest amendments to the VAT regulations) or they’d be an absolute riot in a James Herriot or a romantic comedy (but completely useless to me) As it is, I have no alternative but to cut the storyteller’s throat as politely as I can and dig yet another shallow trench out back of the log pile. It’s a great shame and a terrible waste of human life, but what can you do?

Answer; either take a short walk off a tall building, or try and make some use of the materials available to me, however unpromising they may initially appear. Which is why Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages opens with a pig and co-stars a whole load of chickens. True, I’ve made up some funny stuff to go with them, and the funny stuff is neither James Herriot nor your typical romantic comedy (true, girl does meet boy, but boy is immediately disintegrated, which is no bad thing since boy is an amateur guitarist; one thing I can do, even with my limited resources, is wish-fulfilment). The fact remains that the pig started it all, and the chickens sort of helped; and at no point did any of them suggest that I might care to put them in one of my books –

So I did.”