Artists and Writers In Their Own Words: Greig Johnson

Artists and Writers In Their Own Words: Greig Johnson

Greig Johnson creates epic, surreal and downright bizarre musical comedy on YouTube. He is a one-man meme generating machine who writes, films and designs all of his sets, costumes, VFX and songs to satisfy nobody else except for himself. His pitch black memes are dredged up from the depths of the internet and underneath of dusty piles of VHS tapes. His videos are standalone macabre masterpieces that should be in the same comedy cannon as Monty Python.

His comic creations include Belgian action star Lunge Dolphin, music production guru Woody Brown and northern poet Brian McMorley, and he has recently appeared in BBC Two’s The Mash Report and CBBC’s Class Dismissed.

Artists and Writers In Their Own Words: Greig Johnson

My dad used to sing songs with all the wrong words, so it may well come from there. I just love gibberish. It’s nihilistic and silly at the same time

I just love things that almost match but don’t. And making films that require multiple viewings.

I remember my school English teacher being gently disappointed in my choices; she wrote in my yearbook ‘In a world of pictures, don’t forget the words’

I studied English Literature at school but I was also in a band. I also did a degree in Graphic Arts & Design. Then an MA. After this, I had a year of working in a green grocer’s and a call centre. Then back for a PhD! I’m literally a doctor, which seems ridiculous to me now, but was a great opportunity at the time.

The craziest thing I’ve made was last year’s Christmas video – a recreation of The Muppet Show, shot entirely in my flat….

I don’t quite know how I got this finished. You just have to build it one shot at a time.

Every project for me is different. Making props and costumes is the only part that gives me unadulterated pleasure

I’ll start by jotting down notes and sketches at random, then group those together into potential sequences, then make all that into some kind of script. And I make lots of lists. Props, shots, sound effects, things I need to buy, etc. It’s very planned. I never turn up on the day and see what I come up with. That may work for some, but for me it simply leads to sitting in the edit thinking of all the things you should have done.

My character of Lunge Dolphin was inspired by Jean Claude Van Damme and an unmistakably European idea of American Manliness

I created Lunge Dolphin about fifteen years ago, when some friends and I were getting together to get drunk and record improvised comedy. We challenged each other to come up with characters. I find it very endearing. I spent five seconds turning ‘Dolph Lundgren’ into ‘Lunge Dolphin’, however the very first time I performed him, I realised I could be him for hours.

It’s a very exciting thing to have a character you just know; what they would say and think about any subject. Like being delightfully possessed

He’s a joy because he’s so much more confident, optimistic and rude than me. I don’t think he’s a particularly popular character – not that that stopped me from spending a year doing a full-colour, 165 page book about the making of twelve of his movies. As for what inspired Lunge, I think he’s just the anti-me. He’s carefree, sexy, self-indulgent, confident, brave, successful, boundlessly enthusiastic and stupid.

Creating costumes is completely instinctual

You just know how a character should look. You can see them, based on what they are. In terms of doing it all yourself, I love spending hours looking for stuff on eBay. That’s pure joy. I’d do it for a living. And the odd bit
of makeup – e.g. greying my hair or drawing on wrinkles and liver spots with Ikea felt pens – is just whatever the character requires.

A lot of people who are scared of embarrassing themselves think you need a professional to help you do things ‘properly’, but there is no properly. Especially when you’ve got no money

I just have a go to the best of my ability because I might be dead next week. And I’ve got nothing to lose but my dignity, which is meaningless. Abandon the idea of embarrassment and do the thing you say you want to do.

‘You should be popular’ is by far my most common YouTube comment

It’s lovely, but I don’t know what to do with it. If anyone reading this is a powerful Reddit-er, then; share my stuff thanks! For some reason, people assume I make money out of my YouTube channel, which I of course don’t. If you wait until you know your creative practice will make money before you do it, you’ll never make anything. If it’s not your vocation, don’t do it. I put what little I have into making things because making them is why I get up in the morning and I want to have something to be proud of on my deathbed.

We aren’t what we dream of doing. We aren’t what we say we’re going to do. We are what we do.

I would love it if you support my work by following, sharing and liking it on your own channels. Please subscribe on YouTube. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook Also feel free to reach out for any collaborative or creative opportunities.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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