"Man plans, God laughs" is an old Yiddish proverb, the equivalent of "the best laid plans can come undone", but who undoes them? Does the fault lie with the person making the plans or does God, fate, or some predetermined outcome decide that sometimes, things just will not go your way.
It is a question which has been occupying the mind of Canadian comedian Glenn Wool recently and forms the theme of his new show, Creator; I Am But A Pawn, which he will perform in the Róisín Dubh this Sunday at 8.30pm. And it promises to be a treat, as The Arts Desk said: “When you watch Glenn Wool, you realise the heights that a talented performer can reach...a master of the craft."
"It's always been a wonder of mine," Glenn tells me during our Thursday morning interview when I ask him about his new show. "Maybe I'm extra perceptive but sometimes things happen to me and it seems there is somebody enjoying putting obstacles in my way. If that is the case, and you take it to its logical conclusion, than God is evil. I'm in Helsinki at the moment, in the amusement park, they have the oldest roller coaster in Europe there. Only a few days ago there was the roller coaster accident in England and now I'm looking at the ride here and I'm going to go on it. I'm under the impression that if I'm going to go out, then this might be it, but you know what? You wanna dance Devil, let's dance!"
The great escape
Chance - or the foiling/changing of human plans by the Almighty - has played a huge role in Glenn's life. His being Canadian as opposed to Estonian, Swedish, Irish, or British - all of which at one point could have been his destiny; his family's arrival in Canada; and the series of adventures that led his father's side of the family from eastern Europe to north America is an extraordinary one.
"At the end of WWII, my father, who was Estonian, his family and thousands of other Estonians ended up in a concentration camp in Sweden," Glenn says. "It wasn't a concentration camp in the sense that people were being killed, maybe a refugee camp if you want, but the Swedes told them they were to go back to Estonia and live under Stalin. Now even then it was know how bad Stalin was so most of the people in the camp committed suicide - the largest mass suicide apart from the Jonestown Massacre. Others, including my father, stole a WWI minesweeper and sailed across the Baltic Sea. It was 90 dudes getting that craft across the ocean by sheer force of will.
"They had to stop for fuel but in England they were refused permission to get off the boat, so they went to Ireland. A local priest gave them all a bath, food, and a blessing. My Dad found a photo on the net of when he and others landed in Ireland. There they were, photographed in front of the minesweeper and right in front is a child, and that's my Dad. The minesweeper was meant to go to New York, if we had landed there I would now be toikin' in a Noo Yoik accent, but we made it to Canada. I never really knew anything about this until I went to Estonia and Sweden. I mentioned it at a gig in Sweden and it turns out the audience knew about the camp and the story. I still have relatives in Sweden so some of them stayed behind."
Other chance factors, disrupting well made plans, also saw dramatic changes in the Wool family fortunes in Canada. "I grew up with a lot of different influences," Glenn says. "My dad was a police officer. He uncovered a scandal involving fellow police officers, but he didn't get a lot of support so he retired and became a lawyer, so we went from being fairly poor to being quite comfortable. People don't believe me when I say it, but actually when we were poor we were happier. It's also why I still finish all my food. I just cannot bear to see things go to waste. I've gained a couple of extra pounds because of it. I also tend to just get it down me, thinking, 'I'll ingest that later', have a few nice sausage burps to taste later."
Glenn vs conservative Christians
Given that Creator; I Am But A Pawn finds Glenn pondering such weighty issues as chance, fate, and is there a God, means religion will come under the comedian's microscope, and in recent years Glenn has delivered some hilarious, downright irreverent, but also thought-provoking reflections on religion's place in the world today. Inevitably someone along the way is going to be offended.
"I was doing a gig in the Bible belt region of Canada," Glenn recalls. "At the end this guy comes up and says, 'How does it feel to know you've insulted a Christian?' I replied 'Good! Now you know how I feel when you talk.' But really I tackle religion from the point of view of not judging. My mother is a very Christian woman and we've been at odds at times. I've heard about the controversy in Belfast about the bakery that refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. We had something similar over here and I've had arguments on Facebook and Twitter with conservative Christians, where I said I never once remember Jesus asking people if they were gay before he fed the 5,000. That got reTweeted and people were coming at me with Old Testament references and saying Jesus upheld and obeyed the law in Leviticus so he would have been opposed to homosexuality. I was just about to give up on him when I came across the quote from Jesus, that 'It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person'. He was challenging the old rules and so when people try to ascribe hate to Jesus I usually refer them to that quote. I love getting interviewed in Ireland, you guys still know what Leviticus is!"
Away from metaphysical and theological matters, Glenn admits that he would love to take a swim at the diving tower in Blackrock, marvelling at the hardiness of locals who swim there all year around. He's also a big music fan and is looking forward to presenting one of the Kerrang! Awards later in the year.
"I love metal," he declares. "I think Faith No More's new album is one of the best I've heard in years. But my taste is getting broader. I use music for different things. When I'm coming up with material for a show I rent a car and put on classical music. Its ambient sound, its flow and fluidity help ideas flow from me."
Support is from Karl Spain and Michael Downey. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh.