It will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me to learn that I was a bit of a rebel at school. In fact, I got expelled. I was caught one evening in the Japanese Garden after I had persuaded Terry, the boy who delivered the meat, to come there and teach me how to French kiss. I was a very tall girl and he had to stand on a log which didn’t add to the romance of the occasion. Suffice to say I told my friends that it was completely disgusting and that Hell would have to freeze over before I did that again! Adding to the failure of the evening was the fact that I was caught and our headmistress, a monumental snob, was furious, I suspect that had I been caught with a duke’s son rather than the butcher’s boy I would have been forgiven, as it was, I was expelled. At the moment it does feel as though we are all back at school with the Government acting like bossy teachers. ‘Rules are rules and whilst most of you are obeying them, there are some, and you know who you are, are not. If you don’t start obeying these rules the whole school will be punished.’ Of course, there must be rules to get us out of this dire situation, but maybe it would be better to enforce the ones in place already than to crack down on innocent old ladies stopping to catch their breath on a park bench, or someone daring to take a cup of coffee on a walk.
In any case we need to get through this, and they say laughter is the best medicine. Having a really good laugh does wonders for the spirits and if there was ever a time when we needed a good giggle it is now. I’m hopeless at remembering jokes but one of my all time favourites is the old Bob Monkhouse one – ‘I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father, not screaming and terrified like his passengers’. So why does that make me laugh? If you analyse it, there is nothing funny about it. It is describing a tragedy, albeit a fictitious one. But analysing humour is impossible. When people tell you a joke and you don’t laugh they sometimes make the terrible error of trying to explain it to you. Everyone likes to think they have a good sense of humour – apparently on dating websites one of the most desirable qualities is GSOH – but rather like no one ever admits to being a bad driver, no one is ever going to put NSOH (No Sense of Humour) as part of their dating profile. Just for the sake of interest/research and general mental well being I looked up the ten funniest jokes from the Edinburgh Festival in 2019 and they’re listed below. Obviously, I have a fantastic sense of humour, but some of them mystified me – didn’t even produce a smile.
The winners were:
1.) “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
2.) ”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy
3.) ”What’s driving Brexit? From here it looks like it’s probably the Duke of Edinburgh”
4.) “A cowboy asked me if I could help him round up 18 cows. I said, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows’”
5.) “A thesaurus is great. There’s no other word for it”
6.) “Sleep is my favourite thing in the world. It’s the reason I get up in the morning”
7.) “I accidentally booked myself onto an escapology course; I’m really struggling to get out of it”
8.) “After learning six hours of basic semaphore, I was flagging
9.) “To be or not to be a horse rider, that is Equestrian”
10.) “I’ve got an Eton-themed advent calendar, where all the doors are opened for me by my dad’s contacts”
I thought the first one was quite funny. I thought 2, 5, 7 and 8 were OK and 9 was clever. Being a bit thick, I didn’t understand 4 to begin with – have got it now! Didn’t think 3, 6 or 10 were funny at all. Doubtless other people will have a completely different point of view. Also, it has something to do with they way you tell them. We all know people who can make you weep with laughter telling you how they got a parking ticket and yet others who can make your jaw ache from trying not to yawn when they tell you ‘a funny story’. Always a bad sign when someone says ‘I’m going to tell you something really amusing’ – I think I’ll be the judge of that.
What a delight it is when you meet someone who shares your sense of humour but equally how disconcerting when you meet someone who has absolutely no sense of humour. Do you think these people recognise each other and naturally gravitate together?
Inappropriate moments to laugh include funerals and during sermons and lectures. I once had the terrible experience of having to attend a long and, in my opinion, extremely boring talk, on health and safety at work. I was sitting about four rows from the front, but everyone else (who must have been forewarned) went much further back so I was in the direct line of fire. I fell asleep quite early only to be woken by the speaker asking loudly, ‘Am I boring you?’ I think we all knew the answer to that one, but I lied and denied it. I then sat digging my nails into my palms to try and keep awake. He ended his talk with a series of slides that he had taken whilst on holiday and I got the most appalling giggles as I imagined his wretched wife posing in front of an ancient church, waiting patiently for her husband to take a snap of her while all the time he was busy taking a picture of some scaffolding that infringed health and safety regulations. There was a shot of the inside of a luxury hotel with a sofa blocking the fire exit and another one of a man smoking while re-fuelling his car. Hardly your typical holiday pics. I had the feeling that while his family leafed through brochures to try and find a resort with beautiful beaches and atmospheric little tavernas he would be looking for somewhere with a lot of re-development going on so that he could seek out building sites where he might find workmen contravening regulations by not wearing a helmet or a high viz jacket. I have just discovered, to my delight that there is a website called Safetyphoto which features endless photos of Hazards in the Workplace. Probably not many other people would find this funny, but then I’ve never laughed at clowns.
The wonderful thing about laughter is that it is infectious. Seeing out takes of actors ‘corpsing’ is enough to set anyone off. I’m not that interested in cricket, but I defy anyone to listen to the clip of Brian Johnson and Jonathon Agnew dissolving into uncontrollable mirth over a stupid remark about someone getting their leg over. It is so silly, but so entertaining. We are lucky to be living through this pandemic in this computer age – at the touch of a mouse we have access to some of the funniest moments on television, radio or the written word. Whatever turns you and whatever makes you laugh.