Interview: Jem Brookes – Punisment
‘Two treacle sponges were arrested for shoplifting. They have since been detained in custardy.’
This article is from 2015.
Long-term joke-man Jem Brookes shows he milks every situation for potential puns and delivers the cream of his food-based material.
When did you realise that the punning style of comedy was the route you would take? Did storytelling not appeal?
I actually started out writing topical, news-based material for BBC Radio 4 and 2 back in the day when Week Ending and The News Huddlines were airing. That's what got me interested in the writing process initially, but when I decided to write material for myself, doing stand-up, for some reason I just enjoyed really brief to-the-point jokes with the element of wordplay in. For some reason that's just how I think. It is really an illness! You either have it or you don't.
Can you tell us your all-time favourite pun?
It’s one of mine. ‘Two treacle sponges were arrested for shoplifting. They have since been detained in custardy.’ But I always liked Abrakebabra kebab shop.
Do you have a specific method of working ie. do you sit down at the start of the day and announce: ‘I’m going to write four puns today’? Or do you trust that they’ll pop into your head when you’re shopping / jogging / showering et al?
It happens when I'm not under any particular time pressure, often just when I’m out and about or when people say a phrase or saying, and then that may start a chain of thought. If I’m working on a particular show, sometimes you just have to sit down with a piece of paper or on Twitter and just start forcing yourself to come out with stuff. The curse of Edinburgh shows! Usually the best ones hit you when you're not expecting it, though often you get into a subconscious higher state of mind where you don't even realise you're turning stuff over constantly in the back of your mind.
What’s the weirdest scenario you’ve been in when you’ve come up with a great joke / pun?
Last Tuesday I stabbed myself in the eye with a pencil. I really didn't see the point.
If you go two days without coming up with a workable pun, do you start to get the shakes?
No, I don't get the shakes. A Happy Meal never really helps. Two days?! See quote about mental illness, above.
Do you think that punning is a bloke’s game? There seems to be a distinct shortage of female comics doing a full hour of punning stand-up at the Fringe. Is punning really such a wildly macho pursuit?
Strange one, this. There's no reason why this should be so, but it just is. I did see one young female punster at last year's Fringe who was new and really good, but, sadly, I can't remember who she was. It must have something to do with why we are wired differently!
Do you make the kind of comedy that you like to see? Or would a night at a gig full of puns be some weird form of torture?
Yes, and yes, in a good way. See the UK Pun Championships at Leicester Comedy Festival.
Jem Brookes: Punisment, Free Sisters, 622 6801, 6–30 Aug, 9.45pm, free.