GET READY TO ROLL! gathered together with authors DENISE HASKEW and STEVE PARKER to get chapter and verse on their divine inspiration for spreading the word of the lord.
• • • • •Hail to thee! Pull up a pew, help yourselves to a glass of wine and some salmon sandwiches (there's plenty more where they came from), and tell us all why you decided to revamp this section of the Bible.
Denise: The Gospel writers related a superb story, but dramatically they left it full of holes. Who exactly were the Apostles? What had Mary Magdalene to do with them? Why were the priests so threatened by Jesus? Why did the crowd vote to release Barabbas when the day before they'd been lining the streets and giving Jesus the big "hosannah!"?
Steve and I decided that the best way of filling in these annoying gaps was to retell the story of Jesus's life using his social networking pages and those of the other key players in the drama. With social networking you can say a huge amount simply by a well placed "LOL" or a revealing uploaded image. It is probably the most economical medium for getting over a huge amount of information in the smallest space, and it seemed totally appropriate for a story with so many characters and so much going on.
The book is full of irreverently funny pictures (icons!) and captions. Was it easy to find so many opportunites for adding humour?
Denise: Yes, because life's funny. People are funny. There's a scene in the Gospels where the Apostles are in a boat during a storm, amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Suddenly, they spy Jesus walking across the water towards them. Up jumps Simon Peter and says, "if Jesus can walk on the water, I can walk on the water," then he promptly steps out of the boat and sinks like a stone – that's a "LMAO" moment right there. Can you even imagine a scenario where the rest of the apostles kept a straight face watching this?
Probably the least believable dramatisations in the history of film are the portrayals of the apostles in Jesus of Nazareth and The Greatest Story Ever Told.
We focused a lot of attention on the apostles because they were naturally funny. What generally happens in the Bible is that Jesus preaches a sermon; everyone listens attentively, waiting for him to stop talking and start healing and performing miracles. After this, Jesus retires with the apostles, where they confess they didn't understand a blind word he was saying. Jesus then sighs and attempts to explain his lesson again in words of one syllable. So it's our interpretation of the apostles being a bunch of thickies that gives rise to some of the humour - but we think it's probably more accurate than the traditional interpretation.
You've made sure to keep the personalities of the characters very close to the originals - for example, there's Doubting Thomas, whose ThyFace comments are usually of the 'yeh... right....' variety. Levi the Inland Revenue fella is like every accountant I've ever met, and Andrew's posts strangely (miraculously?) have a slight whiff of fish about them. How much of a working knowledge of the Bible did you have before you started your book? And when you went through the Bible to check the finer details, did it turn out to be an interesting read?
Steve: You don't really get that much about the apostles from the four Biblical gospels or even from the Acts. All you really get is that Simon Peter is grumpy, Judas is shifty and John Mark Bartholemew is, like, totally gay, dude. But you get a lot more information from the Apochryphal gospels, the Gnostic and Coptic literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hamadi texts. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) we didn't read any of that bollocks, but we did speak to a bloke down the pub who'd read about them on Wikipedia, and that formed the basis of the characters. Simon Zelotes was always going to be madly violent, Thaddeus was a stick-in-the-mud, and the Zebedee brothers were… well, just imagine a couple of brothers called Zebedee. The one who had the least distinct personality was Philip, although it is true that he did tour Greece with a ventriloquist goat, and both of them were crucified after the goat told an ill-conceived joke about the Governor of Greece's wife. It's true!
Who was your inspiration for the 'voice' of Inspector Malchus?
Steve: Every policeman I've ever been mistakenly arrested by, but obviously it's hard to shake off the tones of Arthur Mullard playing the policeman giving evidence in the dock in Hancock for the Defence. His character did allow us the luxury of the odd Carry On-style gag, with lines such as "permission to go and seize him by the Tabernacles". Not a great gag, to be sure, but I've always thought Tabernacle the funniest word in any language outside Aztec, and I try to use it as often as possible in social situations. Quentakoppaketl!
The book is very topical, with references to ThouTube, the thyPhone, Hell-O magazine, and the Mail On Sabbath etc., along with adverts - or proclamations as they are called on ThyFace - for Ascension Stairlifts, Sphynx For Men and many more.
Denise: Yes, we've included around 100 adverts that might have been around in the first century AD. Today, big budget TV ads can still be sophisticated, but the lower down the food chain you go, the more ridiculous and desperate they become. Cable TV and radio ads are on the whole pretty appalling, but internet ads are even worse. We asked ourselves what products would be advertised on a first century internet site. Well, you could visit goatcompare.com or webuyanycamel.com, but there were also a lot of finance ads – people wanting to buy your unwanted gold, frankincense and myrrh for instance, or companies offering plague insurance against boils, frogs, locusts, etc., excluding acts of God, of course!
I especially liked the icon that went with the 'Meet Single Men Near You' proclamation. And your Cartoon Thyself icon was hilarious!
Denise: Facebook-style sites offer the opportunity for a huge economy of humour. On ThyFace there are profile pictures of all the religious greats (except Mohammad, of course - we're not mental), and each has a web address. For instance, with Satan's url, we originally put in www.abandonallhope.com as a holding line until we could come up with something funny. In the end, we decided simply to change the ".com" to ".fr", enabling us to offend 60 million French people using just two letters. You don't find that kind of economy of humour in many formats!
Have you had any complaints about blasphemy, and if so, how do you respond? Do you turn the other cheek? I suppose it's just a cross you have to bear.
Denise: Some people might consider it blasphemous. The ones with a sense of humour seem to like it though. Do I care if I offend the religious establishment? Absolutely not!
Talking of which... what's your opinion of nuns? Do you see them as sexually-frustrated intolerant sadists who constantly torture children by means of devious and relentless mental cruelty? Or are they just plain evil?
Denise: I've been fortunate enough to avoid any contact with nuns. The whole self-denial guilt thing is a bit bemusing to me but I suppose some people enjoy it.
Steve: It seems you may have had more experience of them than I have, so I'll bow down to your superior knowledge. But I don't see why it's an either/or question.
Please tell us a bit more about yourselves, general stuff such as home background, career path, other interests, blahblahblah.
Denise: Steve and I have been working together for ten years or so. We met at a conference in Las Vegas in 1999. He was a journalist and I ran a PR company specialising in film & TV production. Since then we have published magazines, created online TV stations, written books and produced corporate videos. At the moment we are concentrating on writing comedy books together though we would love to write for radio or TV in the future.
Who are your own favourite authors - and for each one, why?
Denise: I'm a big Douglas Adams fan. He came to one of my launch parties in the mid 90s and I was so excited to meet him. Unfortunately I'm rather short and he was about eight feet tall so we were having two separate conversations for most of the evening. I've been reading everything written by Cormack McCarthy author of The Road, No Country for Old Men, etc. I'm particularly fond of post-apocalyptic disaster of which I am Legend by Richard Matheson is probably my favourite.
Steve: I love books on mythology (particularly Greek and Judeo-Christian - my favourite authors are Hesiod and God).
So, what's on the horizon? A 'Pets Reunited' for the inhabitants of Noah's Ark? Or how about an online Confessional Forum where people can publicly own up to their sins and receive either absolution or eternal damnation, depending on the liketh/despiseth vote? Better still, a TV series where people bring their sick relatives into the studio and you examine their lives to see if they deserve to be cured or not. We could call it.... Heal Or No Heal!
Denise: Well, we've nearly finished our follow-up – Mohammad: A Life In Pictures, though it is a rather short read. And there's still a lot more to do with Jesus on ThyFace. We've just signed a deal to publish the book in Brazil and our publishers are talking to American publishers about an imminent US release. We're looking forward to a long book-signing tour of American churches later in the year, and a possible guest slot on God TV. We are also looking into creating an iPad app or eBook, which of course would be international.
Finally, have you ever actually ROTFL'ed at something you've read on a FaecePuke page? Or literally laughed your arse off? Or even pissed yourself laughing?
Denise: No. Though my favourite Facebook page at the moment has got to be Is Thatcher Dead Yet? It never fails to make me smile. When the answer changes I might have more of a reaction.
Steve: I've laughed while pissing on a number of occasions, but haven't yet pissed while laughing, but I'm sure I could do it if I tried. I'd like to laugh a few pounds off my arse, but I'd miss it if it all went. Amen to that!