Persona Cracked is a series that explores the intersection of artists, their work, and social media. My second guest, Joe Favalaro, often writes under the pseudonym ‘Joe Straynge.’ He is a 28-year-old poet, novelist, screenwriter, and musician set to complete a degree from Toronto Film School in 2022.
Why Joe ‘Straynge?’
There’s nothing mystical to it. One of my heroes and most crucial influences lyrically, philosophically and musically is Joe Strummer, vocalist and punk rock warlord for The Clash. I took being the weird kid growing up and married my wanting to be like Joe to the name Straynge. What’s in a name, anyway?
The Clash is one of my favorite bands, so congratulations on answering the first question correctly! Next: Is film school worthwhile? How do you see it helping you in the future?
If I’m being honest, and I hope to be, the reason film school has been worthwhile has been because it’s afforded me time. Time to write, time to sit still and reflect on ideas. I’ve learned a lot so far, there’s no denying that, and gained a good core group of friends with similar interests, so the connections that I’ve made through school have been the most important thing to me.
I don’t know how it’ll help me in the future. I know the skills and routines I’m learning have benefitted me but I barely know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
You have been candid in your posts about your struggles with alcoholism and substance abuse. Addiction is a common issue among artists (as well as hundreds of millions of other people out there), yet not everyone is comfortable discussing the issue publicly. How did you know you have a problem?
It’s a long story but it started before the pandemic. I had been living in Australia with my girlfriend. We left Canada in 2019. It was a party culture and I went into it already predisposed to years of degrading my body so by the time January of 2020 hit, I had been in a deep pit of boozing. I ended up being admitted to the hospital in Airlie Beach with slight cirrhosis of the liver. When I couldn’t keep even water down that’s when I knew it was a problem.
Fast forward to December 9th, 2020, I had quit on and off but the pandemic kinda kicked things back into gear, I was drinking again and after a very intense week-long bender, I decided I was done for good.
What drives the ‘self-destructive’ relationship you have with yourself? Will there be peace in this lifetime?
If I had an answer to this, I wouldn’t be paying a psychologist. Just kidding, I know the answer – trauma, a never-ending reminder of the impermanence of things, shaky and often unstable mental health, just existence in general.
The self-destructiveness used to be an attractive filter but the varnish has worn off. I treat it, now, less as a commodity and more as a reality of life. With or without me pursuing it, it’s bound to happen. Entropy and whatnot.
Your posts have also been candid about your long period of sobriety. What is it like coming out of the fog of intoxication and living sober? How has your mind adjusted to the day-to-day demands of life?
I adjusted by becoming more isolated. I became more inward and less concerned with what’s out of my control. Existence is often unbearable and miserable with a drink in hand so the day-to-day demands of waking up sober tend to be overwhelming but I stick to a routine, or at least a loose one, and carry on.
I don’t restrict myself from feeling things anymore.
2021 was a prolific year for you…”729 pages, 6 original features, 2 original pilots, 3 short scripts, 1 adapted feature, 1 spec pilot, 1 short story, and two written/recorded albums.” What inspired such creative output?
It’s pure survival at this point. If I don’t create, whether it be through poetry, prose or scripts, or writing songs or painting, I’ll drink and I’d rather not go through that dark dance again.
Psychedelics help, too.
You are clearly a multi-talented artist, yet so far you have gained the most social media attention on Instagram with 27,000 followers. Your Instagram account is also where you post your poetry. If you could make a living in only one art form, what would it be?
If I get paid to write, great. Music is and always will be my first love, so if I got paid to tour and record music, that would be fantastic, too.
What do you expect from yourself in 2022?
I expect toads for breakfast. That’s about it.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Ryan Hyatt, January 6, 2022