Thursday, 7 April 2016

Comedy - You should have been there.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you quite literally had to hold your sides, you were laughing so hard?  One of those hysterical moments.  You know what I mean. The spontaneous outbreaks of funny, when someone else just didn't get the joke and that makes it even funnier. Ever tried explaining what you are laughing at, while your body is still racked with uncontrollable laughter?  Infectious too.  Raucous laughter spreads through a group like wildfire, even though many still may not know what they are laughing at.

Laughter is good for you.  Comedy is essential to life. It has always been so and always will. However, what we are supposed to laugh at has often been prescribed by governments in an attempt to curtail descent, prejudice and social injustice. Society changes and humour does too.  During my degree course, a mixed age group of students were shown a clip from, "Till death do us Part", a very popular sitcom in Britain from 1965 to 1975. I had only sat through the first few minutes as a young teenager and found the racist humour repulsive but even I was not prepared for the response of the younger students in the group. They were horrified.

Little Ronnie Corbett died this week, his partner in comedy Ronnie Barker having shuffled off  to Buffalo in 2005. The two met in a pub one day and just clicked.  Some of their 'Two Ronnies' sketches were the funniest moments I ever had watching TV.  I still can't go into a hardware shop without asking for 'four candles'.  Everyone knows and remembers that particular gag. I wonder what  magic made them work so well together. Perhaps they just had Funny Bones.

In 1995, there was great excitement here in Blackpool.  A movie was being filmed and many local people were recruited as extras to record scenes around the town. In the film, which wasn't a huge box office draw, the main character, Tommy Fawkes wants to be a successful comedian but his Las Vegas debut is a failure. He goes back to Blackpool, where his father, also a comedian started and where he spent the summers of his childhood. He starts to search for a partner, to form a double act. Scenes were filmed at The Pleasure Beach and St Anne's Pier. Jerry Lewis was here and my father's favourite actress, Lesley Caron. Dad was in his late seventies at the time but went as an extra.  The crew fell in love with Dad, asked him to do several more scenes and invited him to view the rushes. Dad had Funny Bones.

I have met many professional comedians.  Off stage, many of them try too hard.  They just can't help trying to be funny all the time. My Dad was just a natural.  I hope that I can do his wonderful sense of humour justice by telling you a true story.  First you need a little background: my Mum lost the hearing in her left ear when she was in her thirties. I am the youngest of four. I was having a party to celebrate my engagement.  All the family were gathered with their wives and husbands around a large table, drinking and sharing stories. Mum never got a joke, in fact there had already been a few funny tales that evening and she just smiled politely.

I asked Dad, "How is it that Mum is so naïve and yet she has had four children?"  At this point, everyone leaned in a little closer: at least everyone did except Mum. Dad looked around the room very dramatically, raised one eyebrow, leaned forward and stated plainly. "Well she is deaf in one ear." Well we all knew that, so I asked, "Well, what has that got to do with it?" "Ah," he said, "well, we used to get into bed at night and I would say to her, 'Are we going to sleep or what?' Your mother always said  -What?"

Mum hadn't heard what was being said, because she is deaf in one ear, so she leaned her head into the group and simply said, "What?" The overspill lasted for the rest of the evening and has to go down as one of my happiest moments of all time: all the family splitting our sides until it hurt. For 52 years, my Mum was my Dad's accidental 'straight man.'  He was still charming nurses with his humour at 83 the day before he died.  Mum has some very funny moments even now at 95, always unexpected and spontaneous. And she doesn't even know she's funny.

The best comedy is the stuff you don't see coming.

Funny Bones

What makes a comedian funny?
What makes us giggle and gaff?
A tickling stick and sticky up hair
or a magic trick that is certain to fail
by a man in fez who says,“Just like that”?
I am sure they all have funny bones
that make everybody laugh.

It might be an ostrich attached to your legs;
a phoney French voice and accent,
a clown in a beret and over-long coat,
who's a slapstick disaster at every stroke,
The phrase “Oooo Betty” brought tears to our eyes.
I am sure that these people have funny bones
that make us heave and choke.  

He’s fallen down into the bar again.
We’ve seen it a hundred times.
His comedy timing’s so perfect,
It could be considered a crime
but Batman and Robin are on the case.
I am sure that they both have funny bones,
to help them deliver the lines.  

When inflicting hysterical outbursts
of spontaneous comedy,
perhaps we should have them hospitalised,
so we can dissect them to see.
Or we could have them analysed – psychiatrically.
I am sure that x-ray will certainly
prove conclusively,
that funny people have funny bones -
and that makes comedy.
Thanks for reading.  Have a funny week.  Adele.


Lady Curt said...

A few years from now ...if the next generation read your poem, they'll wonder what / who you were going on about! Only our age group can get it !