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Terry Johnson Biography

(1955– ), Insignificance, Unsuitable for Adults, Cries from the Mammal House, Tuesday's Child, Hysteria

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Tama Janowitz Biography to P(atrick) J(oseph Gregory) Kavanagh Biography

British playwright, born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, educated at Birmingham University; he was brought up in Watford, near London, where his father was a builder. His first successful play, later made into a film, was Insignificance (1982), a satiric fantasy which brings Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, the baseball player Joe DiMaggio, and the politician Joseph McCarthy into the same New York hotel room. Subsequent pieces have included Unsuitable for Adults (1984), about alternative comedians and other cabaret performers combatively at work and play in a London pub; Cries from the Mammal House (1984), which involves a group of mutually estranged people trying to save a zoo from collapse, among them a conservationist who goes to Mauritius and returns with a live dodo; Tuesday's Child (1986; with Kate Lock), about the appearance of what seems to be a pregnant virgin in an Irish village; Hysteria (1993), in which Freud, spending his old age in Hampstead, is visited by phantasms, notably the painter Salvador Dali, and accusing memories of former clinical cases; and the highly successful Dead Funny (1994), which involves both troubled marriages and the obsessive people who belong to groups dedicated to the appreciation of Benny Hill and other comedians. Johnson's work, usually comic but sometimes sombre in tone, is marked by a Stoppardian delight in ideas and unexpected imaginative connections.

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