Letters To A Young Comedian

Monday 10 October 2005, The Stage

I’m sorry but please allow me this rant. If I do not deliver it I will surely start foaming at the mouth and twitching like Shakin’ Stevens.

Ann bloody Widdecombe - go away!. Yes, I know this is hardly a new or controversial thought. Widdecombe has long been the easy way out if you can’t think of a punchline, since she fits the bill in several categories - ie she is an ugly, fat, high Tory, Catholic virgin who is moralising, humourless and unimaginative. She came to our attention for her shackling of pregnant women and has never become more sympathetic.

When she lost her seat in parliament, she should have been allowed to shuffle off and write bad novels for no one to read. Instead, she appears on every type of TV show, from reality and makeover shows through to serious documentaries, in which she trots out her rabid and extreme views in her grim, predictable way.

Widdecombe must have an answerphone message saying “Yes I’ll do it”. She has taken over from Jeffrey Archer in the role of right wing rent-a-quote - that will be fifty pounds please. Booking her as a guest is the last resort of the lazy producer, so no doubt she will be on a Louis Theroux programme soon…

Thank you for allowing me that. From now on I will never again say or write the woman’s name.

“A joke”, remarked someone who probably spoke French, “is an eitaph on the death of a feeling.” In my thirties, I would never have gone on stage and told the sort of joke that you hear from a bloke at work. You were meant to write your own material and to try and be original. Trotting out a ‘man goes into a pub’ story would have been an admission of failure.

Now, though, I have relaxed these rules and have learned to cherish the robust structural beauty of a good gag. Here is the one I have been enjoying lately.

A man goes into a pub and goes to get some fags from the cigarette machine but the machine says: “Oi, you, piss off!” Alarmed by this the man repairs to the bar where a bowl of peanuts remarks: “You seem like a very nice man.”

The man is confused and asks the barman: “What’s going on?”. The barman replies: “Oh yes, I should have told you. The cigarette machine is out of order and the peanuts are complimentary.”

I realise now that the written version of the joke is stymied by the ‘i’ of complimentary. This is probably significant in some way.

I note with pain that I have been rubbished in Wallpaper - the newsletter of the Max Wall Society - by a pompous chap called David Drummond. Max Wall was brilliant but the journal that remembers him is not. I suggest Mr Drummond looks up the word ‘prolix’.

click to go back


Join Arthur's mailing list!
Pop your email in here
& click subscribe!