Sunday, 7 October 2007

Killing Jokes published Oct 7

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there are some people for whom it can be a long journey before they come to the realisation that they can’t tell jokes. There are only so many times you can look at a sea of confused faces and announce: “you had to be there!” I am one of those people. Know me before you judge me.
The main problem appears to be the punch line. I forget it. Usually just after I’ve started telling the joke. But I sail on confident that it will come to me before I reach the end, like magic, and it never does.
This is a rare disability which is not so much short or long term memory loss, its important information memory loss of the creative kind.
I can sit through half a movie and read half a book before I realise I’ve seen or read it before. Don’t ever ask me if I’ve read or seen something because I just won’t know. I’ll have to ask you to describe it in detail, including all the action up till about half way through, when I’ll say “Oh yeah – and in the end she strips naked and floats away on the iceberg. That’s, like, my favourite movie of all time!!!”
On other occasions I give away the punch line before I’ve even told the joke. “I’ve got this great joke about a doctor having sex with his patient,” I’ll announce.
Fortunately in my world there are people who tell jokes very well indeed. One of my favourites is Kerre Woodham. Her jokes usually involve a lot of set up and every moment of it is exquisitely described as she captures the scene and takes you on a journey of marvellous humour. Passers by watching me listen to Kerre may mistake me for a love struck groupie, so heavenly is it to be entertained by her. I sit huddled in intense anticipation, like an addict about to get their fix and when it comes I shriek like a mad woman and ask for more. I’m ready to admit that I’ve become a bit of a Kerre cheerleader of late, recently interrupting a Paul Holmes lunch so that everyone could hear my Kerre tell her joke. As Kerre positioned herself at the head of the table, thrust her tits out and launched forth I took one look at Paul Holmes’ face and suddenly remembered with horror that it was a Paul Holmes lunch not a Kerre Woodham lunch and if anyone was going to be telling long funny jokes at the head of the table it was the star of the lunch thank you very much. Sorry Paul.
What Kerre and of course Paul have is timing. When you earn your living as a broadcaster you learn to take it easy and not rush into your joke with the sheer enthusiasm of a beginner. An immaculately told joke will always contain at least a pause or a brief silence for effect. And I’ve never been good at silence, even for that long.
A good joke teller will also have the desire to entertain. Years ago we decided as part of our blended family easing-in strategy to get everyone in our family of six to tell a joke at the dinner table. Everyone would swat swot up their joke books and deliver everything from “Why did the man throw his toast out the window? To watch his butterfly” to every knock knock joke you never wanted to hear. Except my son who when it came to his turn said: “Why did the chicken cross the road. Because he could” every night. His need to entertain was obviously very slight. Either that or his need not to feel like a dick was very high.
Recently I’ve been determined to end my long career in killing jokes. I just want to be one of those people at the dinner party who makes people laugh out loud because of a punch line not because I’m drunk and waving my skirt above my head. I’ve been receiving instruction from my husband who has learned not to shake his head in dismay quite so often as I stunningly destroy great jokes simply by telling them. I’m not quite comedy festival stand-up material yet and I’ll never be a Kerre, but if you hear me telling a joke in the future, please at least pretend to laugh.

Image by Anthony Ellison

No comments: