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You’re having a laugh (I hope) …

Aug 05, 2018
Being on holiday at the moment, we spent a very enjoyable evening with two Dutch families. Apart from their almost superior knowledge of English, they also had a very good understanding of our sense of humour. Either that or they were very good at pretending ….

Tony Allen: And finally...Anyway, on the way home the lady wife and I got to  talking about the subject of humour. You see after    many years together, she is very familiar with the way my mind works in this direction and has endured my ‘spontaneous’ comments many times before and as a result is often accused of being indifferent to my attempts at levity. For example, we were in a well-known stationery shop the other day and a new till was opened up because the queues were getting too long, the new cashier shouted out “Would you like to come round?” and I shouted back, “Yes, what nights are you in?”. I’m sorry but I just can’t help myself.

Humour is universal and is often an ideal way of taking the sting out of difficult situations. The trouble is that it also thrives on its shock value, for laughter is one of our conditioned responses to danger. In these days of highly delicate political correctness, it seems that the only way that comedians can now shock is by adding a stream of expletives to often recycled jokes.

I use the word recycled because humour has been around from time immemorial. Shakespeare’s plays were peppered with, sometimes esoteric, jokes, and in the 14th century Miller’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer had already discovered the comedic value of someone breaking wind – although I’m not quite sure how this would fit into today’s canon of political correctness, but it’s maybe a great way of expressing an opinion!

Scientists have proved that there are eight basic patterns that all jokes fit into regardless of the civilisation, culture or personal taste. The funny thing about this is that maybe they would have been better off using their efforts to find a solution to the world’s plastic problem.

Of course, whoever we are, we all have a therapeutic need for a good old laugh.  The earliest recorded joke was found scratched graffiti style into some stone work in Egypt; translated, it goes as follows … Two crocodiles were laying in a swamp and one says to the other, “It’s funny but I keep thinking that today’s Thursday.” … Yes I know, me neither, at first.

But the essence of this joke is an ironical one; what does it really matter to a crocodile in a fetid swamp miles from anywhere what day of the week it is? Maybe you don’t find this funny at all, or even think that I’ve gone bonkers, but I genuinely do find this amusing. And by the way I think that Egypt was the first country to ban pyramid selling, but I digress.

So humour is a very personal thing, but of course it’s always much more enjoyable when shared with others for laughter is contagious. Old fashioned comedians could go through the whole of their working life with just one basic act, now the whole world can share a joke in seconds.

To get back to my original comments, and in fact how this article came about. We Brits for example are apparently very good at telling self-deprecating jokes, and whilst with our Dutch friends they commented that whilst they could see the funny side of this type of joke, they were never quite sure as to whether it would be polite to actually laugh at them. They agreed, however, that the ability to laugh at one’s self was a precious asset.

At one time within BAR we had an organisation called Fedepack which was an association of all of the buying co-operatives throughout Europe, and it produced some worthwhile industry benefits. On a clear and crisp German evening when we were relaxing after a particularly hard day’s effort (and maybe after being forced, out of courtesy, to drink copious amounts of schnapps) we decided that each nation should relate a joke in their own language. Although nobody really understood what was being said, the whole process was absolutely hilarious; laughter is a universal language. Although, I’m ashamed to admit that every one of the other nations were able to understand my joke, obviously, told in English.

So can I just finish by imparting that we should never forget the true benefits of laughter, which ‘starts on the lips, spreads to the eyes, but most of all emanates from the very soul’. I can’t claim any credit for the last statement but I think it sums up the situation most adequately.

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