Coffee with James Cary

James Cary-Wells Festival of Literature2

Comedy scriptwriter of A Monk’s Tale – and much more!

How do you take your coffee?
I love coffee, but I’m not a purist. Those swanky coffee places are normally appalled when they see I splosh in milk and sugar. I always feel awkward asking for it when I’m at someone’s house as hardly anyone takes it these days. I sometimes feel it would be more socially acceptable to ask if I could smoke in their living room.

What makes your day a great day? 
Generally being left alone. I like space to think and write, so it’s a good job I’m a writer. To make it an even better day, there’s a Test Match going on in the background, and England (ideally Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes) are accumulating runs in a way that isn’t too distracting to my work. And it turns out there’s curry for dinner.

What books have you read recently that you would recommend? 
I wish I could make myself read more fiction, because I always enjoy it when I do. (Favourite novel ever is Three Men in A Boat, if you’re wondering) I’m trying to make sure I read the New Testament properly this year. A chapter or so a day so it’s manageable. I’ve just finished The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt which has been really interesting, as has The Road To Somewhere by David Goodhart which is in a similar vein. (David will be discussing this book at the Festival on Thursday 19 October at 6pm)

Who proved trickier for you as a sitcom writer – Miranda or Martin Luther?
Luther has the advantage of not being around to object to the jokes I write. I‘m pretty sure he would have done. And he doesn’t have to say them. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have done. But that’s okay. We’ve got actors for that. I hope at least Luther would enjoy the spirit of the show and the retelling of the story for the 95 Theses. Miranda, naturally, felt differently since I was writing with her on her sitcom and she was delivering the jokes to the audience, so there was much more of a dialogue there!

You’re a man of many talents. Which one do you value most?
So many talents, yes. So, so many. But I think one I value the most is modesty. I am, of course, joking. I’m really not that talented. Just good with words. Written words. Pretty hopeless at most other things, like DIY, bicycle maintenance and remembering what night the bins have to go out.

What’s next for you? 
I’m trying to write a book about comedy, the church and why and how jokes go wrong and why it matters. I hope it’s funnier to read than it sounds.

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