Born in Cardiff in 1967, Jon Ronson has published nine books including The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Psychopath Test and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. He co-wrote the screenplay for Lenny Abrahamson’s 2014 film, Frank, as well as Bong Joon-ho’s 2017 Netflix film Okja. He has presented the BBC Radio 4 programme Jon Ronson On, as well as podcasts The Butterfly Effect, The Last Days of August and 2021’s Things Fell Apart. His latest podcast for Audible, The Debutante, about a white supremacist turned informant, is out now. Ronson lives in New York with his wife.
They’re the best punk band – and Amy Taylor’s the best punk frontwoman – since punk. I got into them last year and I’ve been listening to them ever since. I love their song Guided By Angels, and they have a great comedy punk song called Don’t Need a Cunt (Like You to Love Me). They’re so original, and I know this sounds a little glib, but I love the fact that they have mullets. Working-class Australian culture is a perfect venue for punk – punk is a feral thing, and American punk never felt quite feral enough.
The best narrative podcast I’ve heard in a long time. Josh Baker has done a brilliant job – it’s so gripping, you’re on the edge of your seat. The podcast was maligned by culture warriors who said it was inappropriate for the BBC to whitewash this terrible person. But it does exactly what journalism should do: it’s curious as opposed to judgmental, and examines the story from every angle. It makes an impeccably strong case for her to be allowed back into Britain. What kind of society are we if we judge people on a decision they made at 15?
We’ve only just discovered this drama starring Mackenzie Davis. It’s about the early days of the internet and people trying to do startups in the 80s and 90s. I would say that people could start watching from the beginning of season two, because season one is a slog. But then it really reinvents itself. The last half of the fourth season is some of the most powerful, affecting TV I’ve ever watched. I can’t get it out of my head. They knew they were being cancelled so they really pulled out all the stops.
When we moved to New York 10 years ago, the very first thing we did was see this exhibition. It’s a multiscreen installation set in a creepy old mansion, which is very beautiful and atmospheric but definitely needs some renovating. And on each screen there is somebody playing an instrument – the accordion, the drums, the violin – and as you walk around the gallery you’re hearing another part of the music. It was just mesmerising – I’ve never been to a better installation. It’s always on somewhere and it’s currently in San Francisco.
This came out in 1981 originally, and it’s just been reissued and made to look incredibly beautiful by the BFI. It’s a concert starring the Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, the Bodysnatchers and the Selecter – you’re seeing these bands at their very best. The director made a really simple decision that makes it unique and extraordinary, which was to film it all from the stage. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be right there, sandwiched between Terry Hall and Lynval Golding as they’re singing Nite Klub. I think it’s one of the best concert movies ever.
I live in a part of the US where weed is now legal and has society crumbled? No, nothing bad has happened whatsoever, and there’s all this tax money flooding in. The effects are very tailored – like, if you want something that will put you to sleep, or make you feel uplifted – and you wake up with no hangover. I was listening to a news report about Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s murder, and a policeman was saying: “This is why you shouldn’t take cannabis, because you’re contributing to the livelihood of these evil dealers.” But I was thinking: “No, this is why we should be legalising it.”