Interview with Jonathan Meres

Jonathan Meres is the author of the ‘The World of Norm’ books.  The 1st in the series ‘May Contain Nuts’ was published in September 2011 (Literature for Lads reviewhere, plus your chance to win a copy here) and the 2nd book ‘May Cause Irritation’ was published just last week. He has also written for TV and Radio, was once nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival and has even appeared on TV.  To celebrate the launch of the 2nd ‘World of Norm’ book we invited Jonathan to tell us what makes books funny for children, whether he has ever regretted anything he has done on a author visit and why he decided not to pursure a career in stand up comedy…

The World of Norm’ has been described as ‘Adrian Mole meets the Diary of a Wimpy Kid’.  Is this an accurate description of the series?

I have absolutely no idea.  The Wimpy Kid thing gets mentioned a lot – but the truth is, I’ve never actually read it.  I’d never even heard of it when I wrote the first Norm – so any similarities are entirely coincidental etc, etc.  All I do know is that both books you mention also have words in them.  And that stuff happens.  Apart from that I really can’t say.

What makes a book funny for children? How does their sense of humour differ from that of adults?

I’m not sure there actually is one magical ingredient.  If there is, then I’m still searching for it.  Not all children find the same thing funny.  In the same way that not all adults find the same thing funny.   I actually try not to over-analyse stuff like this.  I think that if you do, there’s a danger of being too formulaic and predictable.   Also they say that if you need to explain a joke then it’s not funny.  So in summary? Toilets.

You were once nominated for a Perrier Comedy award at theEdinburgh festival.  What made you decide to concentrate on being an actor and author and not continue with a career in comedy?

I’ve never had any kind of career master plan.  Just as well really!  The closest I’ve ever had to a ‘proper job’ was when I left school and joined the merchant navy.  The rest has just been a series of (mostly) fortunate events.  The stand-up thing was great and I did it for 10 years.  I guess it was a bit weird – packing it in less than a year after being nominated for the biggest award in comedy but it felt right at the time.  I’d just had my first child, (well, strictly speaking my wife had) and I really couldn’t face the prospect of being away from home for long periods.  I think there was also a sense of me wanting to do other things.  The comedy world back then (in the mid 90s) wasn’t anything like as big as it is now.  Maybe if I was doing it now it would be different.  Who knows?  Lee Evans won The Perrier the year I was nominated.  Whatever happened to him?

During your author events you promise to dispel the idea that authors are boring by any means possible.  Have you ever done something at an author visit that you later regret?

Non.  Ne regret rien.  I’d rather cause some kind of stir or reaction than leave an audience going ‘meh.’  Not that I go out of my way to cause a stir or reaction.  There’s nothing more boring than someone going ‘Ooh, look at me! I’m outrageous!’ I guess it’s the old stand-up in me though.  If there’s an opportunity for a gag I’ll go for it.  And if that involves snogging the head teacher then so be it.

What are you currently reading and listening to?

I’ve just finished ‘Much Obliged Jeeves’ by PG Wodehouse and I’m just about to start ‘Jane Eyre’ – one of those must-read books that for some reason I never have.  I absolutely love music – and an incredibly wide range of music at that.  Rock, pop, dance, hip hop, soul, jazz, world, folk, classical, you name it, it’ll be in my collection somewhere. My most recent additions?  Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, the new album by Kate Bush and a great Edinburgh-based folk band called Admiral Fallow.

Do you have a favourite joke?

I’m actually rubbish at remembering jokes.  Which is the real reason I stopped being a stand-up comedian.

Other than your own books, do you have any recommendations of books that would appeal to teenage boys?

Hmm – specifically boys?  Hard to say.  And to be honest I tend not to read much childrens’/teenage fiction in case I subconsciously get influenced and unintentionally start ripping people off!  If I haven’t read something I can’t be accused of trying to copy it!

The Quick 5

Actor or author?


Reading books or writing books?


Twitter or Facebook?


Print book or e-book?


Brian Clough or Nigel Clough?


For more information on Jonathan visit his website here