One random comedian, eight random questions; it's the ultimate test of funny person and fate. Now, Pope Lonergan was due to be doing a couple of noteworthy gigs over the next few weeks, but will now be working through a pile of books instead, what with the whole 'stay in' thing.
Still, he crammed a lot in before the enforced break, and made an impressively positive impact while still working on his first solo show (the intriguingly-titled Incontinence Pad Disposal). A few years ago the Essex-based comic co-founded the wonderful Care Home Tour, which takes cool comics into institutions for the elderly. And next week the streaming service NextUp were going to film a special edition of his other unique clubnight, but that's been postponed. Still, Pope, explain it anyway.
"So Pope's Addiction Clinic is a confessional comedy/storytelling show in the same vein as a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, or the various other iterations: Alcoholics Anonymous; Debtors Anonymous; Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous; Refusing to Take My Boring Children to Legoland Anonymous ('Actually, Julie, this is an illness...')
"We encourage the comedians and audience members to reveal the worst, the most abject parts of their lives, or to talk about their addictive tendencies. Or obsessive personality traits. Or problematic behaviours. Or the time they had a breakdown and filled up seven bottles with piss and, rather than hiding them, they made the piss bottles the centrepiece of the room because they thought urine was a sign of masculine potency."
Hey, give it a week and we'll all be storing it too. But do the acts discuss their material with him, beforehand?
"I have no idea what they're going to say onstage, and a lot of the time we don't even know until it's spilling out of us," he admits. "I've had acts who were welling-up during an unexpected reminiscence and say to me afterwards 'Pope! What the fuck are you doing to me, man!' But we're comedians so there's always the levity and the humour as well. It's our way of catheterising circumstance and temporarily draining it of its misery."
Nicely put, and we'll keep you posted on that rearranged special. Meanwhile, Pope Lonergan, your Random 8 await.
What was your favourite kids' TV show?
There was a VHS my mum found in a charity shop. It was a cartoon of hippos playing curling to this hypnagogic, ambient music. It really left an imprint on me and I've never been able to find it since.
But I remember I had a dream when I was four years old. It was a woman in a salmon pink room swallowing a baby. Just swallowing it whole like she was gavage feeding. The accompanying music was the music from that cartoon.
(Epilogue: I told my school mates about this dream and they bullied me.)
Who's the most interesting person you've ever met?
Ok. He wasn't interesting when I met him but he's generally an interesting person. I met director Mike Leigh before a showing of his play Ecstasy at the Duchess Theatre in 2011. The title was kind of apt as I'd had about six grams of mephedrone.
If I meet someone I admire I overcompensate by either doing something extreme so they'll remember me, so I'll leave an indelible mark, or pretend we already know each other (like I did with Tim Key).
With Mike I opted for the former. I told him I had a framed photo of him on my wall - which I did - and "I've always thought you have the kind of face that looks like it's been stuffed with foam". He looked slightly bemused, and scared, and injured, so I followed this up with "... and I've got a lot of time for that".
I still regret it.
What's the weirdest thing you ever ate?
60 dihydrocodeine tablets in one go. Which I did regularly.
The weirdest thing I did with something I was SUPPOSED to eat was - remember those mints that were like dissolvable postage stamps? In senior school I put one of those on my eyeball to show-off. I had a panic attack and Jesus Jones (the RE teacher) had to cradle me like a baby and carry me to Sick Bay.
Is there a book or film that changed your life?
I'm a voracious reader. If I'm not gigging, I'm reading on my own. I'm quite a hermetic person [since the gigs were cancelled he's sent us some pics of piles he'll be reading instead].
But when I was about seven years old they thought I had learning difficulties. In reality I was chronically shy and didn't really know how to engage with people who weren't my mum or my BF Louie - who's still my BF! 28 years! He said it's the biggest regret of his life!
Anyway, when I started reading Goosebumps books it sparked a deep, abiding love of literature. I'm forever indebted to you, R. L. Stine.
One of my primary school teachers temporarily banned Goosebumps books in a misguided attempt to broaden the scope of our reading. When she told us I became silently hysterical and, in the bathroom, I tried to push a seed into my urethra.
Your most interesting injury?
I haven't really had many interesting injuries. But one of my ex-girlfriends 'broke' her jaw while sucking me off. The mandibles misaligned. When her mum rushed into the room to see if everything was ok, she was spitting semen into the bin.
So there's two women having a panic attack, one with a big broken pan-face, surrounded by this cummy aroma, and I'm saying "She was laughing. That's what happened. She was doing too much laughing. Her laughs were too big for her face".
Which place you've visited was the biggest anti-climax?
I like going to most places. There's always something to be gleaned from any experience. Even boredom can be fruitful. Look at Chris Ware comics.
Sometimes he devotes 20 panels to a character scratching his forehead and looking at his watch - and that's imbued with so much pathos.
Having said this: New Year's Eve parties. Always shit. I now refuse to partake. This year I sat on my own reading a big book about concentration camps. It was bliss.
What's the most extreme thing you've ever done?
Despite some of the anecdotes I tell onstage, my life is mainly sitting, writing, reading and watching. And every now and then there'll be an electrical discharge of manic activity. But you'll have to watch me do stand-up to hear the stories! There's some things you shouldn't commit to print.
Ok. Here's one: I smoked crack with a guy who asked me to sandwich bag my hand and dip it into his diabetic ulcer to prove he had a good amount of wound depth going on.
I've also seen loads of people die. That's elderly care for you. And what's more extreme than death?
Who are you most envious of?
A worm. They have no brain function. It's all sensation, processed by a bundle of nerves called a ganglion. As a Quaker we believe in distilling our lives down to its essence. Simple, ascetic living. Basically, we strive for wormhood.
Oh, and Daniel Kitson because he's managed to cultivate a fan base that's totally devoted to his creative output. He's weeded out the fair-weather or disinterested spectators.
As comedians wouldn't we all love to have our own cult?