November 22, 2011
The hilarious, award-winning comedy writer Larry Doyle has a new book out this month. Deliriously Happy is a compilation of short, funny pieces Larry wrote for The New Yorker, Esquire and other magazines. You might know Larry from when he wrote and produced The Simpsons. Or maybe you know him from his first novel, I Love You Beth Cooper. If you’re a true Larry Doyle fan then you know that he also wrote the wildly fun and inventive novel Go, Mutants! and was a writer on Beavis and Butthead. And then there are the Hollywood films he’s written! Because there’s so much to talk about with Larry, I thought I’d narrow it down by subject matter and number. Hence, here is the Larry Doyle Six Question Sex Interview:
There is sex in all your books but it’s never straight-forward sexy. It’s always, well, embarrassingly funny. Can you explain this?
I was unaware that sex was not embarrassing. Clearly I should have read up more on the subject before attempting it.
Most sex writing is embarrassing and funny, though not intentionally. My goal is to one day write an amazing sex scene, Olympic and profound, that is also funny on purpose. That will be my life’s work.
And romance in your writing (like in the essays “Life without Leanne” and “Disengagements”) is fraught with agony that makes me cringe and laugh at the same time. Has your romantic life been as painful at that of your fictional characters and fictional selves?
I suspect my romantic life has been much less fraught with agony than the average mope, which allows me to give it the kind of exacting attention it deserves.
I often wonder if I would have been a better writer if I had had a shittier life; maybe. But I feel like I have been gifted with a mostly fortunate life and a terrible attitude toward it.
How often did you slip some inside sex joke into Simpsons dialogue? Can you say or will you be sued?
Approximately 80 percent of the conversation in the Simpsons writers’ room was about sex and violence, often in combination, about average for the business. (The other 20 percent was about lunch.) Writers shared stories of Hollywood sex apocrypha (Mostly about Lucille Ball, oddly), current salaciousness (we heard the story of Monica and the President’s Cigar months before it became public) and were given to flights of transgressive fancy (one extended riff pitching a TV show following the adventures of Jon Benet Ramsey’s sexy cowgirl ghost was unforgiveable but oh, how I laughed). It was inevitable that references to all this would slip in, although usually in the most innocent context. For example, the writers had a fondness for characters saying, “Where do you think you’re going?”; that’s a Lucy story (which is also referenced in Go, Mutants!)
Which was more fun: writing teenaged sex in I Love You Beth Cooper, alien sex in Go, Mutants!, or normal human sex in some of the essays in Deliriously Happy?
I approach all sex writing with trepidation (see above). That said, Go, Mutants! allowed for a more satisfying level of perversion.
What is your favorite fictional sex scene from any movie, TV show or book?
The Donald Sutherland-Julie Christie scene in Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, which my father mistakenly took me to when I was 15. I hesitate to watch it again for fear it will not live up to the pornocopia seared into my amygdala. Also the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen; make of that what you will.
This is a question straight from the great Gina Frangello: With what fictional character would you love to have sex?
Any of the characters Zooey Deschanel has played.
But you probably mean literature.
We can rule out the more obvious ones, like that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Dolores Haze. There’s Rachel from Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers, but my view of her is clouded by Ione Skye’s portrayal in the film; likewise, Jennifer Connelly as Eleanor Abbott in Inventing the Abbotts and Suzanna Hamilton as Julia in 1984.
I’m going to go with Eve, because her expectations would be low.