I am not a comedian – although I am delighted that one who certainly is, Paul Kerensa, will be bringing his one man show about the BBC to where we live in Devon in March. Paul is an award-winning comic and writer for such shows as Miranda, Not Going Out, The Now Show (and many others) as well as an author and regular contributor to Radio 2’s Thought for the Day.
While I am unable to produce the side-splitting reactions of many (nor do I wish to), it has to be said that people do laugh sometimes at the things I say. Whether they laugh at what I write, I have no idea…
My sense of humour is quite dry and a bit obscure at times. Many hours were spent during my teens, 20s and early 30s reading Spike Milligan and listening to The Goon Show (not the original broadcasts, I hasten to add… I’m not that old…). They nurtured a love for the play on and the playing with words. Milligan’s lines such as:
“Did you have nice weather or haven’t you washed?”
‘”My name is Valentine Dyall – I have one boy.” – “That makes him a sun dial”’
Or to take another wordsmith – the wonderful Danish-American comedian, Victor Borge:
‘He’s our next window neighbour because we don’t have a door on that side of the house.’
As well as when giving talks, my own humour comes out in my writing, such as in Looking to Move On:
‘The locals call the 2B “The Shakespeare Bus” because sometimes it doesn’t turn up.’ *
Some get it, others don’t. One can say something one thinks is funny or might raise a smile – and nothing… It reminds me of a clergyman (a long time ago in a different place) who began every sermon – and I mean every sermon – with the words ‘Did you hear the one about…’ (He’s no longer a priest as it happens). And I too have been caught by the ‘misplaced flippancy’ of remarks on many occasions. Some get it, others don’t.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament is thought by some to have been written by the equivalent of a stand-up comedian. If you’re anyone like me, you probably know it for the ‘Time for every purpose’ verses (or Pete Seeger’s song, Turn! Turn! Turn! based on them). And of course, my ignorance is nothing new under the sun… but this writing, accredited to Qoheleth, a pseudonym used to disguise the actual speaker, is structured like a speech similar to routines used by many modern humourists. It is political satire combined with a very practical message about faith in God.
Aristotle observed that Greek humour of his time was full of exaggeration: and how many times Jesus used such a technique to make his point. ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’
Was it the use of irony that was part of Jesus’ reason for renaming the impetuous Peter, a ‘rock’ – or his nickname for the bickering brothers, James and John: ‘Sons of thunder’?
Jesus also talked about how people are more concerned about the speck in someone else’s eye than the plank in their own. As one writer put it: ‘A small child would laugh at the idea of a man with a big wood beam in his eye trying to find something small on another person. Literally, these verses appear ludicrous and silly, which is exactly the point! He is using a funny, exaggerated analogy to teach humility.’
Ian Paul wrote ‘If Jesus was fully human—indeed, the perfect embodiment of humanity – then we might expect him to be funny since this is a hallmark of humanity… and there are times when a good laugh can restore our sense of humanity.’
Details about the event with Paul Kerensa and my books are available at richardfrostauthor.com. * If you don’t get it – think Hamlet…
Image: ‘Jesus the Liberator’ (aka ‘Laughing Jesus’) by Willis Wheatley 1973