But did you know he's also a noted rock scholar whose first book, Rebels Wit Attitude, examined American rock humor and whose new tome, Brit Wits, turns its attention across the pond?
He'll be reading from Brit Wits this Friday at 7:00 at the Raven, as well as playing a few tunes discussed in the book. Local poet Brian Daldorph will also be on hand opening up with a few poems about John Peel. Also, free PBR! So stop in during your Final Fridays tour and let's hope Iain plays a "Spice Girls" tune!
Here's our interview.
Chip: So you’ve written a book on American rock humor and a book on British rock humor. Let’s settle things once and for all: who is funnier?
Iain: Let’s see. Regarding humor in general, we’ve got Monty Python, The Young Ones, and Ricky Gervais, while you’ve got How I Met Your Mother, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Carrot Top. Tough call.
Regarding rock humor, specifically, if one applies Einstein’s theory of laughability whereby one Zappa equals two Kinks and one Dead Kennedys equals a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and a half, then you multiply that by the respective nations’ sizes and populations, I’d have to just give it to the Brits by about half a Lily Allen. But these things are hard to prove conclusively.
Richard: Many local scenesters will be at least reasonably well-versed in some of these “Brit Wits,” such as the Sex Pistols, Bowie, the Smiths. But give our readers a few others, more obscure, that we should get to know and can then use to impress people in pompous drunken discussions at the bar.
Iain: As Manchester bands are always the coolest of the cool, I’d try John Cooper Clarke, The Fall, and The Macc Lads. Though to quote the Lads in the wrong company could get you a swift slap round the chops.
Richard: You’re a Brit yourself, and have no doubt had some great personal experiences watching some of these bands perform. Tell us about one of your best personal memories of one of them.
Iain: Morrissey once trod on my head as I lay drunk on the stage at an early Smiths gig; I’m sure he found that amusing. And it was nice of The Slits to come back to my pad after their Replay show, where we were able to penetrate more deeply the meaning of their band-name. I could tell you about the day I went fishing with John Lennon but I’m sure you’d find that boring; the Scouse git didn’t catch a bleeding thing!
Chip: I love your analysis of the Spice Girls work: “messages of subservience and objectification intersect with those of self-determination and resilience.” I agree. They were very important. Two questions: (1) What’s your favorite Spice Girls song? And (2) Which Spice Girl was hottest?
Iain: Thanks Chip, I take great pride in that chapter and much British pride in their many contributions to Western culture. Fave song: “Wannabe”—the prototype manifesto. Fave Spice: Baby—of course! Though one has to feel for (so to speak) poor ol’ Posh Beckham, who at the height of the band’s success had to contend with soccer fans around the land collectively chanting at her hubby, “Does she take it up the arse?” A question ol’ golden balls never publicly answered, I might add.
Richard: Your book covers the 50’s to the “Naughties” (the “aughts”). What’s your favorite decade of British music in terms of humor? And what about in general?
Iain: The 70s: glam, pub, punk, post-punk, ska…AND the Bay City Rollers!
Richard: Do you have a favorite passage from the book, perhaps a bit of analysis that’s particularly astute or simply well-phrased?
Iain: Here’s a sentence from the “Closing Points…” section: “Histories such as this have no end points, only the elliptical promise of the unknown yet to be written, produced, and disseminated.” While neither astute nor particularly well-phrased, it has the kind of sentimental charm one used to hear at the end of Star Trek episodes, and that can’t be bad.
Chip: Let’s talk about British humor apart from music. My personal favorite British humorist is Benny Hill. Who’s yours?
Iain: I’ve got a soft spot for Benny Hill, too, but I’ll go with Peter Cook, Peter Sellers, and Ricky Gervais. From T.V. shows I’d pick Fawlty Towers, The Royle Family, and The Office, and from film Alfie (the original), Billy Liar, and Kind Hearts and Coronets. Check ‘em out, y’all.
Here's Brit Wits, sitting on the shelves at the Raven, waiting for you to scoop it up!