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James Ellroy and ‘Dog Humour’

October 2, 2009

James Ellroy is coming to the UK in November on a book tour to promote his latest novel Blood’s a Rover. Whenever he is on tour Ellroy is a wildly entertaining figure who destroys the cliche that book tours are dull and stuffy affairs. Ellroy is essentially a performer who shocks and offends and sometimes delights audiences with his unique schtick he dubs ‘Dog Humour’, an offshoot of his ‘Demon Dog of American Literature’ persona. Ellroy first developed Dog Humour with Randy Rice, his best friend in Alcoholics Anonymous.  It is a form of brash, crass and vile verbal monologues expressed through the form of frequently improvised onomatapoeic and alliterative sentences. I find Dog Humour to be hysterical, although it is very hit and miss. Once you get beyond the initial shock you see there is a level of outrageousness in Ellroy’s performance which stops you from being offended or taking things too seriously. On the other hand, by being deliberately shocking Ellroy is lampooning political correctness and the stifling of free speech.

Below is a clip of Dog Humour at its best. This is taken from an interview with Ellroy in 1999 on Late Night with Conan O’ Brien. O’Brien is a big fan of Ellroy, but he has some trouble persuading him to respect the censors!

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