Well, it has been interesting (for me at least) this trawl through my archives. I have been made aware of many things. I feel certain that I will return to some of the themes I have discovered here, but most of what I wrote way back then, will remain where it is. It’s not that it is necessarily bad, nor even particularly dated – some of the very worst things have good moments whilst, unfortunately, most of the best are still not good enough – but the archive file is just where they belong. Reading through it now, a lot of what I wrote years ago appears new to me, like it was written by somebody else, and I find myself laughing at my own, long-forgotten jokes. This I find very disturbing. It puts me in mind of those who cannot stop admiring themselves in the mirror – of someone who considers them self to be so entertaining that there is little point in listening to anybody else. I do not want to be a politician. I do not want to be a social-media ‘influencer’ – what is a social-media ‘influencer’? My only excuse is that this was all written long, long ago and at least, in most part, is something of which I am not actually ashamed. As I read through the reams of pages I have written, I have discovered that whilst the ideas remain fresh and many of the jokes still work (as much as they ever did) the style – particularly obvious in some TV and radio scripts – is often wildly out-of-date: welded to the moment in which it was written. Humour, it seems, is not transient, but the rules under which it is delivered are.
Throughout my formative years, as the desire to write coalesced within me, ‘silly’ ruled the world. Inspiration was easy to find – Spike Milligan’s Q series’, The Goodies, Monty Python’s flying Circus… (For the most inspired piece of Monty Python silliness ever, just click here.) I love silly. Silly has no agenda, no axe to grind, no victim. I love all comedy, but I am particularly fond of it when it is not used as a weapon. Silly is funny simply because it is funny. If it makes you laugh then that is its complete justification. In the UK we had comedians who touched genius with silly – who were funny simply because they were: Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe and, latterly, Billy Connolly… I can think of no ‘modern’ equivalent. I’m sure that all countries have these ‘natural clowns’ – although the American comedians I recall from my youth were always much more polished, more slick, altogether more cerebral. In today’s world, in order to be funny, it is now a requirement that you have something clever to say. It puts those of us who are not brainy enough to be sharp at a distinct disadvantage. Nobody shouts ‘smart-arse’ quite as loudly as me trying to be clever. (Well, except, perhaps, for Russell Howard.)
Writing ‘with an agenda’ is all well and good. Causing people to think is always a good thing. Making them laugh and think at the same time is a difficult trick to perfect. The main problem with the ‘agenda’ is that it is fixed in time. It doesn’t matter how witty it felt when you wrote it, as soon as it stops being relevant, it stops being funny. In comedy terms, I guess you really did have to be there.
I vaguely remember the man who wrote these far-away pieces. He was brighter than me, better company without doubt. He embraced the silly, held hands with the nonsensical and kissed ridiculous flat on the lips. He worried some times, but not all the time. He wore better clothes, although he still looked like a bag of shit tied up with string*. He drank less and ate less and ached less. He did not fear for the future because he knew he was going to ‘make it’; it was just a matter of time. He was optimistic – pessimists should never have children. (Children are ‘hope’ in human form – even if it is loud and annoying and full of snot at times.) This was a man for whom introspection meant worrying about whether the second donut was wise. All in all, a bit of a prat – although he had many more friends than me.
I wonder whatever became of him?
*An observation of my dad, who sought to advise me against wasting too much money on clothes.
As this piece is somewhat inward looking, (and especially since I still have a couple of bits from the Odds & Sods file left to use) I will agonise over whether it is worth publishing. I will spend some time trying to find jokes to lighten it and, finally, in a panic for some reason or another, I will publish it anyway and then worry about it for hours – until I realise that it’s either this or the piece about my cousin’s stamp collection…
Anyway, just so that you know, I have scheduled it and, as I do not have the faintest of ideas of how to cancel a scheduled post, it will appear on Thursday at 7 pm. A decision I am already regretting. Come on, everyone loves a stamp…
Today’s embarrassing background tune: Silly Love – 10CC