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