Interview: Nicholas Gurewitch Pt. 2 [of 2]

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Nicholas Gurewitch gets extremely excited when he discusses his upcoming projects—few if any of which have anything to do with the strip that made him one of the most beloved names of the early 21st century Webcomics renaissance. He talks painting and screenplays and a pilot that he worked on for the BBC, a while at times the artist’s mind seemingly couldn’t be further from the comic, Gurewitch clearly has plenty of love for the strip. And he insists that, while its seemingly been placed on the back burner in favor of new creative ventures, it’s certainly not going anywhere.

In this second and final part of our interview with the Perry Bible Fellowship creator, we discuss the artist’s many creative pursuits, the importance of feedback, and why being funny isn’t necessarily the most important function of great comedy.

[Part One]

It sounds like you’re ready to work in any number of mediums, at this point.

Something I’ve wanted to tend to for about nine years is a film idea that I’m now nearing completion on. I’m actually in Long Island now, with my buddy Jordan. We’ve been working daily on it for about a week now, and I’m very pleased with it. I hope I can do more things to develop that into a reality. I’m not sure what form it will take. Maybe it will become a graphic novel, but working on it brings me a lot of pleasure and the success of the book just afforded me the opportunity to do that. And like I said, it’s given me the time to read and excercise and tons of other things that comic artists aren’t usually capable of, because of the demanding deadlines.

So what’s the next step in that project?

I’ll probably put the script on my Website, along with the storyboards that I’m doing for it. That’ll probably be how I show people.

You have done some film work. There are some videos that you shot online.

Depending on video—it may have been one that I did over a year ago with my friends. Something that tied me up for a while is that I went to London for about a month to work on a pilot for a TV show that Channel Four commissioned. That was very much in the spirit of doing other work, because, if the TV show takes off, I’ll probably be overseeing that.

That’s still on the table.

Yeah, yeah. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. I guess the recession kind of hurt their programming a bit. They’re trying to figure out if they can do it, or not. It’s  a really funny script, though. The pilot that I put together, I worked on it with some close friends of mine. It’s really good, if I may say so.

Can you discuss the concept at all?

It’s a sketch comedy pilot. It’s very much in the vein of The Perry Bible Fellowship.

And the film project?

The film project—I’ll hold off on disclosing details about it, but I’ll try to package a nice summary along with the script as soon as I’m done.

The TV show is in the nature of the strip, but do you think that fans of PBF will necessarily like the film project, as well?

Oh yeah, yeah. I try to stick to the same themes and topics with everything I do. I try to stick to the big ones. So, yeah, I would think so.

Is it funny?

It very well could be. I think it’s a question of how it’s done at this point. It might just depend on whoever directs it. personally, I think some of the funnies movies are the ones that are the most dramatic. I’m a big fan of Dr. Strangelove and Pulp Fiction. I think the drama that those two movies achieve is something finer than the comedy.

In the sense that they don’t have clear setups and punchlines?

In the sense that they just explore life so dramatically, that they just find the essential kernel of truth that comes with any comedic situation. That’s something I hope to approach.
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Is that possible to achieve in four panels? Do you think you hit that to some extent?

Oh, I hope so. I hope people see The PBF and they don’t find it comedic. I hope they say, “god damn, that’s life, and I’m laughing at life.” I always find it a little sad when comedy has to advertise itself as comedy. It should just be life. You should just be laughing at life. I’m a little weary  of “comedy.”

The most important part of the strip is that it conveys some sort of greater truth.

A truth or a pattern that people can recognize from their own lives. I think that’s the most important thing you should achieve in anything you do. Put down the labels and just explore. Communicate. Communication’s the bottom line.

When you get that feedback from readers, do you find that, for the most part people are discover these greater truths in the strip?

Not always. A lot of times people say, “that’s really fucked up,” or “that’s really fucking funny.” That’s okay, but what really keeps me going is when people find something deeper in it, or when they’re at a loss for words at some point. Or they’re even touched by something. Or they even have contradictory reactions, like it saddens them and makes them laugh their ass off. Those are the kinds of experiences that, as an artist drive me to create more.

There’s a certain sense of pride to be taken in the fact that you can inspire so many different reactions in people, even if it’s just them laughing as what they perceive to be just a setup and punchline.

Yeah, and the less they can define their reaction, the happier I am.

Do you find yourself learning new things about your own strip from the feedback of others?

Yeah, yeah. When I had my e-mail address on my Website, I’d get lots of feedback from people and a lot of the time I’d just hear things from friends that would inspire me to dig even more deeply.

Are you getting your fair share of negative feedback on the strip, as well?

Not too often. I don’t mind negative feedback. I don’t perceive it as negative feedback. I usually enjoy it because it allows me an opportunity to adjust what I’m doing. I mean, feedback is feedback.

Internet feedback often tends to be a sort of juvenile kneejerk reaction.

I don’t get that as much because I’m not online that often. But I’d say it’s just as relevant. You probably have to take it with a grain of salt. Or maybe take it more seriously because of the anonymity. But feedback is feedback and I enjoy getting any kind of reaction from what I do, whether it’s from someone who’s been profoundly affected, or maybe even offended. Although that’s not what I try to do. But I enjoy doing this dance that art allows people to do, sharing and inflamming one another’s senses. I hope to be doing that until the day I die.

–Brian Heater

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2 Comments to “Interview: Nicholas Gurewitch Pt. 2 [of 2]”

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