Writer and Storyteller Jon Ronson on Bullying, Writing and Thievery in the Porn industry

Writer and Storyteller Jon Ronson on Bullying, Writing and Thievery in the Porn industry

Writer and documentarian Jon Ronson would prefer not to spend time with people. But when your self-worth is unavoidably tied to your work, that’s when you find yourself getting on a train to meet a man who illegally split the atom in his kitchen in Sweden. Or defending your Jewish heritage at a white supremacist meeting.

Jon has authored several books, a number of which have been adapted into films, including Frank and The Men Who Stare at Goats. His film, Okja, is currently available on Netflix. Jon also recently released a podcast documentary series on the porn industry, The Butterfly Effect

On deciding to end his live show, I’m New Here:

“Once in a while a guest didn’t do well on stage and I felt like a massive sense of responsibility for the audience’s feelings. Not the person on stage who was dying, I just felt annoyed with them...it’s ridiculous. That’s a phobia, basically. Isn’t it?...It’s like being a party planner.”

On being funny:

“Put me in a Book Festival and I’m hilarious. Put me in a comedy club and I’m not that funny. Because in comparison to other authors I’m like, extraordinarily funny. But in comparison to comedians I’m not that funny.”

On falling in love with writing:

“I was really good at writing and I didn’t want to be a writer back then because it just felt, you know, it was lonely...I resisted it for a while because I just thought ‘That’s a terrible life’. But it was the only thing I was any good at and, like having children, you don’t just love them the minute they come out. You fall in love with them. And that’s what happened with me and writing. I fell in love with it.”

On childhood bullying and social anxiety:

“I think the 3 years of living in Cardiff between like the age of 14 and 17 when I was like really bullied...it’s just stayed, you know? It just never went away. And I can’t lose it...A lot of the time, you know...I meet new people with a sort of feeling of lack of self-worth and I’m sure it’s down to having three really bad years during my formative years.”

On looking back and 80’s and 90’s classic shows and films:

“Some of them are, like, shocking. Like, shockingly racist and transphobic. You know, Sixteen Candles, the early John Hughes movie with Molly Ringwald – there’s a Chinese character in it. Every time he comes on screen, a gong goes off...It just goes to show, you know, people who are against political correctness. It’s really changed stuff.”

On empathy:

“Some people become more conservative and less empathetic as they get older and that always surprises me a bit because, you know, if life teaches us anything it teaches us that we’re all fucked up. You know, we’re all just trying to get through life and we’ve all got our own baggage and our own irrationalities.”

On The Butterfly Effect:

“I wanted to sort of turn on its head the kind of concept of who should be considered reputable and who should be considered disreputable...In The Butterfly Effect, the porn people are all, you know, lovely, sincere, heartfelt, kind-hearted, supportive...you know, lovely people. Just sort of outsiders...Whereas the tech people, who are generally regarded as reputable, they were the ones who were like stealing everybody’s porn and getting rich off the back of pirated content.”

Listen back to the full episode of Mohpod with Jon Ronson here.

Comedian Felicity Ward on the universe, industry abusers and compulsive behaviour.

Comedian Felicity Ward on the universe, industry abusers and compulsive behaviour.

Felicity Ward is an Australian comedian who was once humbled by an interaction involving Boris Johnson. Now everything she does is preceded by a stream of consciousness footnote.

 She has an hour-long show, Live at the BBC, which is currently available on Netflix. 

On what’s new since she last came on the podcast in 2016:

“I have had a very big year. I did get married...It was so radical. I highly recommend it, if anyone’s thinking about doing it. Very, very good stuff.”

On tough times:

“I had a lot of really, really hard things and then it just kept coming from every angle. It was like personal and professional and happiness and everything bar my health was really copping it...Do you ever feel like you just gotta hold on every day?...You just gotta bend your knees and like, get ready for the next wave so you can eat that shit as well?”

On obsessive behaviour:

“I have a toilet thing, as I have discussed many times before. And when my anxiety was incredibly bad it sort of manifested itself in me compulsively going to the toilet. And I would go to the toilet and I would walk out and then I would have to walk back in the toilet. I’d literally be saying out loud ‘You’re crazy, there’s nothing else to come out’ but then my brain would go ‘Yeah, but maybe just once more...’”

On the universe:

“Maybe this is an absolute fantasy and I’m fully happy to accept that the universe is a fantasy. I’m happy that the reality is that everything is chaos. That there’s no order. That it’s random. I’m happy that that’s the reality. I can’t operate in that. So, for me, I operate in a universe where somewhere between the universe and my instincts offer some kind of guidance in my life and when I find that I’m well slept and well eaten and I meditate – I pray as well, I don’t know what I pray to but I just do the action of prayer – when I’m in those states that seems to me when I’m either making the best choices for myself or I’m able to deal with the world on its terms.”

On curiosity and learning:

“I had a voracious sort of thirst for knowledge when I was younger and I still like to think that I do but I don’t. I’m really lazy. I’m like ‘Oh, I wish I was still motivated’.“

On recent revelations of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry:

“The only thing I’m shocked about is that there have been consequences. That’s the shocking thing to me. It was not a shock that many of the people who have been outed – some of them I’ve heard rumours myself – but, you know, gossip is just gossip as well...It was when people started to lose jobs that I was like ‘Oh my God, is it happening’?!”

Listen back to the full episode of Mohpod with Felicity Ward here.


Actor and Musician Hadley Fraser on Young Frankenstein, unresponsive audiences and dealing with failure

Actor Hadley Fraser has experienced the highs and lows of musical theatre. He starred in the stage version of Les Mis to great acclaim. But a subsequent project, The Pirate Queen, has the dubious honour of being one of the “biggest musical flops of all time” - a disappointment that prompted a two-year absence from the stage.

Hadley is currently starring in Young Frankenstein at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End.

On audience reactions:

“There’s no sort of false appreciation, I don’t think, in an audience. Sort of herd mentality isn’t ‘Oh, let’s make these people on stage feel better’, is it? And neither should it be. That’s not what we’re there for. We all know what we’re encountering when we go into this.”

On what acting means to him:

“I’ve been through harder periods in my life, personally, when actually going in to do a show, of whatever type, has actually been a saving grace...It gives you a regularity. It gives you a focus. It gives you a community. It gives you a connection and it gives you a purpose. And so actually, I’ve found it quite a saviour, I suppose, sometimes.”

On his schooldays:

“I was one of the kids who tried to do everything. I probably thought I was quite cool, I wasn’t. I was probably a bit of a prick, if I’m honest with you. I was Head Boy at my secondary school because I just had confidence. And thinking back on it now, it was probably misplaced.”

On defining success:

“I think I have a mistrust of resting too much now...I don’t think generally that I’m following a desire to be successful. I think I’m following a desire to be busy.”

On dealing with failure:

“The Pirate Queen was a musical, written by the guys who wrote Les Mis and Miss Saigon...The omens were all good...It sort of sunk without a trace...I would imagine they probably spent upwards of about 25 million dollars on the show and - I would imagine - lost most of that. And I think it’s gone down in internet musical theatre forums as one of the biggest musical flops of all time...So, to have been part of that, I suppose, is quite a good way of dealing with failure... It took me two years to sort of get over the failure of Pirate Queen...I didn’t touch the stage for two years.”

Listen back to the full episode of MohPod with Hadley Fraser here

Comedian Josie Long on trolls, death threats and Louis CK

Josie Long has been in the business a long time. Starting stand-up at the age of 14 and winning the BBC New Comedy Award at 17, the only break she has taken was to pursue a college degree.

The time in the industry has given her a tough skin. She needed it this year when she found herself at the centre of a bizarre online conspiracy that resulted in her receiving thousands of abusive messages and death threats.

She is currently the host of Short Cuts on BBC Radio 4.

On the fashion and beauty industries:

“The key is, put on a necklace. Put on a necklace, it blows people’s minds...I will never be someone who’s like heavily involved in like fashion or beauty or makeup and that isn’t to do down people who are. Like, they are beautiful exotic birds of paradise for me to enjoy. But I’d rather just be like ‘that’s one thing I can do in 10 seconds’. And it’s a game-changer.”

On not wasting time:

“I genuinely feel like I have reached the stage in my life at the moment where I have no time to waste and I have no energy whatsoever for anything that is not worth my time...I have a list of a few people in the comedy industry who, like, always email me for favours and recently to be like ‘Hi, I can’t do this for you. Goodbye’ and not be like ‘I’m so sorry. Maybe next time. Maybe in 6 weeks’. Just to be like ‘I cannot do this for you. Goodbye.’ I feel like I’m permanently channelling Maxine Walters.”

On becoming the unwitting star of an internet conspiracy:

“This fucking idiot fucking conspiracy theorist Youtuber who sells vitamins decided to create an attack video about me. And so, as a result, I’ve had thousands upon thousands of people, like, contacting me without my wishes. I just had a lot of bullshit to deal with and as a result, like, I think it’s made me feel like I’m sick of making any allowances for this shit...I think about how sexist the comedy industry has been and how sexist the wider world is and I just don’t care about pretending that it isn’t.”

On Louis CK and the revelations about abuse in the entertainment industry:

“For years, comedians have told each other about that...it does feel like ‘Oh wow, something is being done about this thing that everyone’s being talking about for years’...It does feel a bit like ‘Yes, that shit is not acceptable and you won’t be able to keep brushing it under the carpet and you won’t be able to have a backlash against it where you’re like ‘You can’t even be a man these days’.”

Listen back to the full episode of Mohpod with Josie Long here