Interview: New York Times (20 October 1974)

This page reproduces some of Alan Ayckbourn's significant quotes from the interview.

Interview With Alan Ayckbourn

"The British often distinguish themselves from other races by claiming that they have the unique ability to laugh at themselves. But the majority of their jokes are about foreigners, whom they consider, when they're not actually at war with them, quite hilarious. They laugh at all foreign accents, customs and food with ill-disguised mirth. All things considered, the British are very lucky to be around today. If I were a foreigner I would have invaded them long ago and shut them up permanently. But then, I'm not; I'm an Englishman and am allowed to laugh at myself and my fellow countrymen."

"f I write a character with a particularly infuriating mannerism or characteristic my friends are always quick to point out that this is based on me. (They always assume the nicer characters are based on them.)"

"It may sound paradoxical, but comedy is quite serious enough for me. As a writer, I am happy enough to remain in this meĢtier. There's nothing that I want to say, at least to date, that I can't say - and would not prefer to say - in comic terms. One can deal with fairly serious human issues nonetheless. My latest play,
Absent Friends, contains the double theme of death and the death of love. It also has a woman having a nervous breakdown. It's a comedy and people are laughing at it. Not, I believe, in a cruel and heartless way, but with the laughter of understanding. Laughter in the theatre can be an amazing bridge. It can persuade people to keep their minds open long after their inherent prejudices have told them to close them. There have been a lot of false claims made as to what theatre can or cannot do - that it can stop wars, or alter people's voting habits. I believe that the most theatre can hope to achieve is to ease, and then only infinitesimally, the problem of how to tolerate all those other obtuse, sometimes infuriating, individualists with whom we share this earth."