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.”
“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.