Lawrence Leung On (Not) Knowing
Katherine Sullivan | On 16, Jan 2016
From tackling the Rubikâ€™s Cube to investigating the claims of so-called psychics and ghost hunters in his documentary series Unbelievable (ABC1), Lawrence Leung has always been driven by curiosity. But the conclusion and answers arenâ€™t the best part of tackling the unknown â€“ itâ€™s in the figuring out.
The Creative Issue spoke to the award-winning stand up, screenwriter and documentary maker about his upcoming secular sermon at The School of Life. Since 2008 The School of Life in Melbourne has presented wildly-popular secular Sunday Sermons exploring modern day values, virtues and issues. Previous speakers have been John Safran and scientist Dr Karl. On Sunday morning (10:45am) January 17, 2015, Lawrence will present his sermon entitled â€œOn (Not) Knowingâ€.
In this Secular Sermon, Lawrence Leung argues that the â€œnot knowingâ€ of something is the catalyst that drives human endeavour, science and some less desired outcomes. He will guide the audience on a journey of critical thinking and â€˜a-haâ€™ moments as he presents fascinating and funny hoaxes, conundrums, mindgames, illusions â€“ and downright lies.
Leung is an award-winning stand up, screenwriter and documentary maker. His projects on TV and stage cover the most curious topics: from professional pickpockets to UFOlogists, jetpack hobbyists to Sherlock Holmes wannabes. His solo stage shows have won awards at the Sydney Comedy Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Melbourne Fringe and his screenwriting has been nominated at the AFI Awards and Australian Writersâ€™ Guild.
TCI: What was the inspiration behind your Secular Sermon?
Lawrence Leung: Iâ€™ve always been interested in mysteries and the unknown. For as long as I can remember, Iâ€™ve always been crazy about solving puzzles, detective stories, how magicians do their tricks and whether ghost stories are real or not. This on-going obsession has taken me to investigate haunted castles in Scotland, UFO sightings in Roswell and meeting with psychics and sceptics from around the world.
The School of Life asked me to do a Secular Sermon this weekend. Itâ€™s basically a chance for me to tell my story about my passion for seeking knowledge and some of the lessons I learnt along the way. Why do we have a thirst for knowledge? What are the traps we fall into when reaching for explanations? And when is it okay to say â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€? So Iâ€™ve called my little sermon â€œOn (Not) Knowingâ€.
TCI: What can audiences expect?
Lawrence Leung: The idea of a Secular Sermon is pretty fun. It has all the great things you would find in a typical sermon (apart from the religious bit). So itâ€™s on a Sunday morning, thereâ€™s about 200 people or more congregating together, thereâ€™s music by the sublime Dan Kelly and Iâ€™ll be reflecting on the notion of knowing and curiosity. My sermon is not sombre in any way, itâ€™s full of funny tales and a few interactive illusions and mind-bending games.
TCI: You have admitted that you are obsessed with the unknown. Is this why you made the documentary series Unbelievable?
Lawrence Leung: Yeah, my obsession with the unknown culminated in me making a documentary series on ABC a few years ago where I slept in haunted Scottish castles, tested the claims of psychics and conducted all sorts of fun and fascinating experiments into the psychology of belief. The whole experience was very Ghostbusters-meets-Mythbusters. I wanted to ask whether the truth is out there or just in our heads.
TCI: Why do you think we as human beings love to believe the unbelievable?
Lawrence Leung: People are drawn to the mysterious. We often just want them to be true because they make great stories. There are many funny or weird stories you hear on the internet that sound too good to be true – and often with a bit of deeper digging, they are. There’s also the notion that some humans have a need to know their place in the universe, whether it be from within or externally from a greater power or some sort of pre-written fate. I prefer just living and finding out at the end. Or not finding out. I’m cool with that. Maybe I’m too scientific or maybe I don’t really like spoilers.
TCI: You have earned degrees in psychology and creative writing. Why did you choose to study these two subjects?
Lawrence Leung: Honestly, I studied psychology because I was a bit of a magic geek and wanted to know how tricks and scams fool the mind. I studied writing because I love telling stories and wanted to be a screenwriter. I guess it all panned out at the end when my feature film SUCKER came out last year (suckerthemovie.net). I guess it involved my two studies â€“ the psychology of scams and screenwriting!
TCI: What are your plans for 2016?
Lawrence Leung: 2016 is busy! Some more writing for TV, acting on screen and touring my live shows. One project Iâ€™m really excited about is â€œVery Strange Thingsâ€. Itâ€™s my solo show involving mind-bending experiments and bizarre coincidences that I have been developing for ages. It premieres at the Malthouse Theatre as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and then off to the Sydney Comedy Festival.
Very Strange Things Iâ€™ve designed practical illusions for TV shows and film but hereâ€™s a chance to hack some brains in the intimate setting of the theatre.
TCI: What has been a career highlight for you?
Lawrence Leung:Meeting James Randi and hosting his Australian tour was pretty great. I spent my teen years buried in his books.
What Lawrence Leung On (Not) Knowing
Where The School of Life Melbourne
When 17 January 2016
How Much $35
For tickets or more information, head over to the The School of Life website here.
Image Credit: Lawrence Leung