Stavros Damos
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The NS Q&A: Howard Jacobson on social media, “bremoaners” and Family Guy

The Man Booker prize-winning novelist answers our questions.

The first of a series where we invite our favourite writers, thinkers, politicians or cultural figures to share their passions, pet hates and predictions.

What’s your earliest memory?
Sitting up in my pram and making my mother’s women friends laugh. What I can’t remember is what I said that was so amusing.

Who was your childhood hero?
Mario Lanza [the American singer and film star], until he died after eating 15 breakfasts at one sitting. I’ve been wary of heroes since.

What was the last book that made you envy the writer?
If you mean envy the talent, Joseph Roth’s journalism, published as What I Saw. He made melancholy poetry out of everything he saw.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?
I don’t as a rule admire politicians, but in recent months Kenneth Clarke has been admirable – for being principled, witty, rational, and right.

What would be your Mastermind special subject?
It would win me no friends to say the late novels of Henry James, so I’ll say Mario Lanza, with special reference to The Student Prince, which he was too overweight to appear in (see above), but sang the songs.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?
Dr Johnson’s London, just to listen to him talk.

What TV show could you not live without?
Family Guy. It’s not only the funniest programme on television, it’s the most wonderfully, indecorously literate.

Who would paint your portrait?
Ralph Heimans has just done it. Otherwise Rembrandt.

What’s your theme tune?
Leo Fuld’s “Wo Ahin Soll Ich Geh’n” – in English, “Where Can I Go?” – a schmaltzy song of wandering Jewishness at which I used to guffaw in order to conceal the fact that it made me weep.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The painter Sidney Nolan once told me I tried too hard. Advice I’ve been trying hard to follow ever since.

What’s currently bugging you?
The word “bremoaner” and the phrase “get over it”. Passionate dissent from the will of the multitude should be respected, not derided.

When were you happiest?
I am happiest now. There’s nothing like running out of time to make you realise you’re in the right skin, with the right person, and that the Apocalypse will happen with or without you.

What single thing would improve your life?
The promise of immortality.

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Writing is the only thing I can do, but I would love, otherwise, to be a lyric tenor and make the women cry whom I once made laugh.

Are we all doomed?
Unless someone can find a way of closing down social media, yes.

Howard Jacobson’s “The Dog’s Last Walk (and Other Pieces)” is published by Bloomsbury. “Pussy: A Novel” is published by Jonathan Cape in April. He appears at Cambridge Literary Festival, in association with the NS, on 21 April.

This article first appeared in the 16 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit and the break-up of Britain

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.