Saturday, 22 October 2011

Probably the least funny post you'll ever see on comedy ever. In the world. Ever.

Did you hear the one about the argument between the dentist and the manicurist? They ended up fighting tooth and nail. 
Badoom- tssshhh!

Jokes are incredible aren't they? Not that joke. Never that joke. But jokes really are absolutely bloody great. I like to chuckle at them and frankly, if I could spend a good 30-40% of my time splitting my sides with laughter I reckon I'd be pretty much the happiest man on the planet. 
If you're suspecting that this might just be a rehash of my last blog post, well you're pretty much right except there'll be less crazy men and more of the old soul-searching bullshit. If you prefer crazy men then feel free to fuck off back to the last post. 

I met a guy in Africa once who called himself Wario, or Mario, or one of those characters anyway. He hailed from just outside Harare and liked to fish. This is all background gumph though because he basically had one characteristic: the most infectious laugh of anybody ever. He did it all the bloody time. He'd be talking about the size of elephants, or the taste of his beer and then he'd smile, throw his head back and give a hoot of extraordinary laughter. It was almost giggly in its childishness, but with the presence and clarity that can only come from an adult voice-box. He did it washing up, or driving his truck, or complimenting women, or scrubbing mud from his boots or even in the many confrontations with bribe-hungry police officers we met. We spoke as much as we could. His English was passable, he knew sentences and conversation but certainly his grasp did not extend to allegory or word trickery unless you explained the jokes to him. He didn't care if you explained. He would crack up exactly the same whatever happened.
Suffice to say he was one of the best people that I have ever met.

Interestingly, what we define as humour, the Japanese pretty much just accept as part of life. Their words ‘Tatamae’ and ‘Honne’, respectively the difference between reality as we understand it and reality filtered through what society expects of us. I actually got this from a humour site by the way, so all credit to them- but I thought it would be good if I could elaborate further. Apparently the Japanese don’t consider either of these realities any more ‘true’ than the other, they just accept it as part of life. That’s a very noble sentiment, and certainly if you look at a lot of UK fiction influenced by Japanese philosophy like Cloud Atlas by Merseyside author David Mitchell, you can see the power of following that kind of philosophy in literature. Personally, I actually like that we see the difference. 
Maybe it’s our history of class struggle, our straightjacketed Victorian past clashing with enlightenment thinkers, our history of literary jokers and satirists from the Swift and the scribelarians to the Pythons, but I’ve come to the conclusion that one of our greatest assets is our ability to look at ourselves and see the absolute ridiculousness of it all. 
That’s all very well, but let’s have a quick look at the Man Booker prize. Ok, we all know that the Booker is a piece of shit and nobody cares about it, but why in this new quest for readability or whatever, could we not at least have a few bits of comedy. After all, what do people like more than laughing? Or would that be pushing it too far? After all cynical sniping is all well and good, but something that actually brings genuine joy to somebody... 

We’re not talking simply about salesmanship either, though I think there’s a reason that the new Pratchett just cashed in on something silly like 400’000 copies, and this in the day when publishing is supposed to be dying a death. 

But I do think that overtly insulting swipes by authors like McEwan on the nature of comic novels are out of line. Just to rejig the old memories, he recently wrote an absolute piece of crap called Solar. A bunch of presumably soulless trainee accountants loved it so it still did OK. That and McEwan is “a good writer” (I do like some of his books so I’m not just being a prick for no reason) so he can pretty much do whatever the hell he likes these days. Just to rejig your memories, McEwan basically said that he didn’t like a lot of modern comedy because it wasn’t subtle enough and included to many ‘in your face’ jokes. 

That’d be the funny bits then. The bits that Solar completely lacked. And you know who’d agree with me? Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s right. 

In his refutation of the Marlowe conspiracy theory on the origins of the works of Shakespeare, Bill Bryson touches on one of the most important points (apart from the fact that Marlowe was y’know, dead), that Christopher Marlowe was about as funny as quantity surveying. No offence to quantity surveyors. 

Shakespeare was the master for two reasons: he could make us laugh and he could make us cry. Emphasis on the first. But more importantly he could do both. 

That’s why the following link is the best ending of any comedy series ever. 

Do you know what, I’m going to get off my high horse. Comedy awards are bloody ridiculous anyway. 

Though there is one more thing, there was this Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman who all went into a bar...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ode to Joy.

Today I’m going to talk about two people who have brightened my day. It’s not that I have particularly depressing days. They’re actually not bad. But I’m doing one of those jobs right now. You know the ones that are being done in black and white by northern popstars in the 80s until they break it big. Except I’m probably not going to get big and neither are the majority of you. 

I’m not trying to get you down either. I’m just stating the facts. What I really don’t want you to do is take it to heart, because that’s all too easy to do. 

You see what happens to people who do. Those drudging, smirking Englishmen whose greatest delight is to proclaim out loud at how utterly shit everything is. It’s mainly Englishmen who are like this by the way. I’m not saying we’re a dour nation of downtrodden, entitled nincompoops, but we’re a dour nation of downtrodden, entitled nincompoops. 

One particular specimen, let’s call him Exhibit A because it’s more exciting than his actual name which is something like Dan Bread or Mr Stobbs or whatever, greeted me the moment I stepped into my office this monday morning nursing both a warm coffee and a sniffy nose. 

“Alright mate,” said Exhibit A whilst scratching his own anus. He might not have been doing that last bit. 
“Alright, I’m Jake,” I said, because I am.
“Yeah mate, you’re the other one.” he said. Obviously. 
“Yeah,” I said. 
Just as a by-the-by, today I returned from a week off and this lovely young man joined whilst I was busy not venturing outside of my lair and preparing the winter hibernation. 
“It’s shit here, isn’t it?” he said. 

Oh goody, I thought. I mean, I totally agree. My work fucking sucks. But why this means I have to spend my time talking about it to other people who hold the same opinion I don’t know. It’s not like one of those AA meetings. We’re not getting anywhere or gaining some sort of spiritual insight; we’re just making ourselves more sad. 

He took my lack of response to mean yes I suppose. That or he just really wanted to get what he had on his mind out. Kind of like when Jack Karoauc wrote ‘On The Road’ in three days... probably. 
“Just can’t engage my brain in this job, know what I mean?” he asked me. I knew exactly what he meant- we were connecting on so many levels. 
“Yeah, my last job I worked at Alton Towers doing those pictures you know, the ones on the rides. It was brilliant, just people, people, people you know. And it was interesting too. Lots of facts you know. Stuff you wouldn't think."

By this time I was nodding enthusiastically. What good friends were going to be. 

“I got a statistic,” said my new chum, “Did you know that like one in 50 birds get their tits out on the water slides? So every day you’re going to get at least one fit bird's knockers on cam.” 


“Yeah,” he said, “This is so shit.” 

I’m going to take an intermission here from my dialogue with a man whom I now suspect is in fact, a disgusting little goblin and who I am going to be working with over the next few weeks. 

By the way, he isn’t one of my two people. He actively ruined a little bit of my precious time by being a pernicious little prick. Yet I know how you can become like him. I’ve seen it. Seen it in my last job where, when asked if he was going to get back into his old hobbies my colleague replied, “What’s the fucking point?” The pursuit of happiness I suppose. The world of office work is a strange one, where people try so hard to keep a lid on their own personalities that you can almost physically see their brains attempt to shake themselves apart inside their cranium. The worst bit is when someone says something that even vaguely alludes to interest in an actual human activity. There’s an awkward silence, one that can last minutes and minutes. Then someone will bring it back to things we all know about such as, 
“So how about that rush hour?” 
And we can all joyfully affirm that yes, the rush hour is shit. 

This I truly believe is how monsters of people like Exhibit A are created. He was a man once and no more. Now he is but a moving sack of skin programmed to say occasionally racist things, complain about his salary and learn by rote the names of the Arsenal FC first XI. 

And this too is why when people come along with a little something else, a certain sparkle, that I remember how beautiful our human race truly is. 

Exhibit A had long ago slouched off, and I sat with my coffee waiting for the royal mail to arrive on my desk. I waited, suspense coursing through me, for I knew exactly what is coming. 

“JACOB!” hows a delighted little man as he bounded into the corridor, mailbag larger than him on his back. He is tiny, completely bald and always dressed in a t-shirt that clashes so beautifully with his luminous green postman’s vest that you often find that you can barely take your eyes away. 

He’s a sort of Manwell figure: his English almost certainly learned from a book and spoken with such enthusiasm and vigour as if every word was a song to be sung from the rooftoops. He is in short, the sort of man who should always be hired to deliver mail because for that one moment as he brandishes his booklet in your face for signatures, the world somehow makes brilliant multicoloured sense and even the dreary whitewashed walls seem just that little bit more colourful. 

All people are strange. You talk to anybody long enough and they’ll bring out some absolute gems. But is it not just refreshing that one man can just throw it right out there: their absolute bald-faced strangeness in the most honest way they can? 

It makes perfect sense that the mailman is not from England. 

But I should not do us down. For we cynics have another, arguably better weapon at our disposal: our never-ending willingness to unleash a snarky quip or two. 

I’m talking about my train driver. Picture the scene: London Bridge station at 6:10pm. It is rush hour and as a result TFL have decided to only use a short train to go through several of the busiest stations in London probably because they have run out of small possums to torture and need new sport. The sardine can... sorry that would be train that I am crushed into is full to the brim and people are still trying to force their way on in that awful passive-aggressive manner of millions of frustrated Londoners. The stench of sweat is intense. Outside it is freezing, but inside it is like an oven and nobody can move to take their coats off. Sweat and body odour mingle in the air like young lovers rutting to the music of influenza struck passengers coughing and wheezing their maladies into their fellow commuters. 

The driver is on the tannoy, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are sorry for extreme overcrowding. Please stop attempting to board the train.”

He has a sharp, responsible voice. I trust this guy. 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the train is ready to depart. Please move away from the doors.”
People are obeying him. He has authority. Wearily resigned and muttering whispered swearwords people step back from the human mincemeat that fills the carriage and the doors slide shut. I am pressed against big fleshy fellow wearing what smells like recently skinned cowhide and once again failing to love every minute of my existence until...

The train has been moving for a couple of minutes, slowing down and stopping every now and again just enough to make us scared that we’re going to have to spend even more time not awkwardly socialising with the creatures inches from our face. Then the driver gets on the tannoy one last time. 

“Well, we’re near enough Grove Park and the end is in sight. Once again, sorry for extreme overcrowding...”

He pauses. It’s coming. 

“Sorry guys, I should have said, if you wanted to ride on the top deck I’d have been happy to provide straps and harnesses.”

I snort right into the fleshy man’s face. 

That is what I love about our humour. However shitty things are looking there will always be somebody with a quick one liner because basically, screw everybody- a laugh is a laugh and laughing is a really fantastic activity to be engaged in.

People are incredible. 

I’m not saying we should all try and be totally ‘out there’ and ‘mad’. But in all seriousness, these two guys genuinely made life worth living and I can only wish that out there someone will here my call and act on it. 

I’ll finish up with a movie comparison for this is the best example that I now of. 
In the 1993 Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, one guy follows the Exhibit A road exactly and right here I’ll show you where it gets you. 

Yep. That is where you are headed. Right there. 

And you have to think, how can I avoid the ignomity of threatening to gat somebody over a fucking Wimpy’s? Well I’ll tell you. Right at the end of that movie there’s a bit where the protagonist has a big old showdown with the cops. It’s really dramatic and there’s lots of sneering and shouting and people screaming and stuff. But the best bit... the absolute best bit is in the crowd of onlookers, the crowd that watches as a policeman faces off to a man whom society has utterly broken, is an absolute lunatic of a man wearing nothing but pink hot-pants. 

I shit you not. 

Watch the movie, it’s pretty entertaining. And look for what I’ve told you. 

You don’t have to wear the hot-pants, but at least don’t be the middle-aged guy with the screaming wife, the threat of suicide and a psychotic tendency that comes from just missing a McBreakfast at your favourite stomach-filling shit shop.