I've recently blogged about the first ever gig I did, as a child. That's not exactly the start of my interest in comedy. I was addicted watching slapstick on the television when I was three, with my earliest memories of seeing Laurel & Hardy shorts on Sunday mornings on BBC2; the utter silliness of The Goodies and of course the absolutely untouchable mayhem of Tiswas.
At some point in the infants school, I thought I could actually be funny. (Yeah, an adjective I still struggle to attain these days.) I'd do the Charlie Chaplin walk in the playground. Unsurprisingly, this didn't make me as popular as I thought it would. The kids just wanted to play 'War' as much as possible.
|Me, before a crucial stage performance in 1978. I'm in the checked trousers.|
Could it be possible to combine the thrill of imitation gunfire and slapstick comedy together? Film director Alan Parker thought so, and came up with Bugsy Malone.
The comedy what I wrote
Anyway, one Christmas, I had a brilliant idea to actually write some comic material. The opportunity came to me when my mum asked me to write a letter back to my uncle to thank him for the Christmas presents I got. I think I was six or seven. I can remember exactly what I wrote, but, it was really nowhere near as funny as I thought it was. It's not funny at all, to be frank.
Now, when a kid tries to come up with an original joke, the results are often confusing. They can result in laughter, but not in the way intended.
Take, for instance, the Tumblr blog Bad Kids Jokes, which catalogues rejected submissions to a children's joke website. Here's a fantastic example:
Q: what do you call a tiger with glasses on?
A: a scientist tiger
That is utterly magnificent. I like the way it ticks some of the boxes for being a joke, like the stereotype for a vocation and the off-beat anthropomorphic attribution. There's a good case for this being labelled as 'meta-comedy'.
A year ago, I was having dinner with the son of a very famous comedian1; plus two writers on classic comedy2. Our conversation turned to the comedic intentions we had when we were young. This led to one of my fellow diners reciting something his six-year-old daughter came up with...
Well, this one knocks it out of the park on sheer surrealism alone. I could dissect this one, but it's more fascinating for it to be left as it is.
So, what post-Christmas words did my uncle receive from me? Well, a sincere note of thanks for the gifts. You see, my mother took one look at what I originally wrote and stated that I couldn't send that. She didn't find it funny at all, and despite my protestations, I had to write a sensible thank-you letter.
She was bloody right, because this, in all its illogical glory, is what I wrote:
Thank you for the presents, they're better than fresh air. Well, I could do with fresh air because I need some for the tyres of my bicycle!
There's no getting away from how bad that is. There's not even any charm to it, unlike the previous two examples of kids' writing. If I had continued in that vein, I may as well have ended up as chief scriptwriter for short-lived Channel 4 show Tonightly.
1: Nick Emery, son of 1970s telly sketch legend, Dick Emery.
2: Georgy Jamieson, director of the British Comedy Society; Louis Barfe, biographer of Les Dawson and chronicler of light entertainment.