As a child, I was talkative, with a good-sized vocabulary for my age, as I read early and lots of different material. We (sister and I) used to listen to radio comedy shows, and my Dad had a wicked sense of humour. I would often get into trouble at school, by making “smart-mouth” wise cracks aside from the teacher’s lesson.
Then I was sent to elocution lessons, as I was speaking poorly, due to my brain working faster than my speech organs could keep up. During the study of elocution, I came to learn how people’s accents were formed by the placenment of lips, tongue, use of hard or soft palate and teeth, upper throat constriction etc.
And, along came television. Black and white, one channel, showing dreadful locally produced shows, US westerns, and classier dramas and more significantly comedies from the UK. Accents! Lots of them!
And, thanks to the elocution lessons, I could reproduce the accents. The first I mastered was Harold Corbett playing Harold Steptoe (Steptoe & Son), with the running gag line “You Dirty old man!”, Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part,, Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ’Ave ‘Em. and the whole cast and scripting of It Ain’t ‘Alf ‘Ot, Mum.
In my final secondary school year, attending a Catholic Girls Boarding School, I was the only pupil (being a “day girl”) who got to see the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night. During class study classes, without a supervising nun, I would repeat the film’s dialogue and sound effects and entertain the other twleve girls in the class.
I mastered the double entendre and innuendo, so could (and did) slide the odd line into conversations at parties, leaving total strangers snickering or bellowing with laughter, often directed at one of their party.
But, am I good at comedy? Not really – just a bit of a show-off, and making strangers laugh was easier than getting to know people closely.
But humour definitely plays a role in my life. When at age seven /eight I got my first pair of glasses, my Dad prepared me for the inevitable school teasing, by spending the weekend calling me every nickname anyone would come up with for a wearer of glasses. I was teary at first, but after a weekend of it, and it becoming less and less painful and more and more amusing to try and imagine “new” nicknames, Monday was a breeze. Yep, the kids in school tried them all… “Four-eyes”, “Specs”, “Goggles”, “Glassy”, “Frame-face” – and I was able to laugh them off, suggest far more interesting nicknames – and leave them at a loss of how to take it. (What? She didn’t cry?)
I’ve used humour to defuse playground fights – “Oy! Don’t punch ‘im – pull the hairs on ‘is legs!”. When a pupil did something angry-making, I’d use humour – “Do that again, and I’ll rip your arm off and hit you over the head with the soggy end.” (Not an original line, that one – a steal from a Brit comedy.)
Over the years I’ve found that words considered offensive become funny if delivered in the right accent. Who’s not laughed at Father Ted’s routine…
“Fether, what would ye say tae a nice cup o’ tae?”
“Feck off, cup!”
There are funny people, and there are comedians. And as a rule, US TV comedy is not funny. I, as most Nzers do, prefer Brit comics. Benny Hill, Morecombe & Wise, Kenny Everett, Dick Emery, and other UK comic actors, brought from the variety show heritage, set a standard for comedy not matched by many “new” comedians. Stand-up comics – I can only name a few, and they are … completely forgotten right now, so fleeting an impression did they make.
Of the latest comedians on screen, those I rate most highly are Catherine Tate in her own show, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous, Miranda Hart in her own show.
In real life – the funniest person I know would have to be either (on equal footing) my husband, or my daughter’s fiancé . Both have a wicked sense of fun, are quick with rib-cracking innuendo and wise-cracks. I love them both. They can also be poranksters or practical jokers, and bring fun into the routine of daily life.
Humour can relieve boredom, lighten a mood, split tension, entertain, provide a “way in”, and make and keep friends. Blessed is he who brings a smile to your face, a twinkle to your eye, and a chuckle to your lips.
© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2013
In response to the daily prompt of 26 August ’13 at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/daily-prompt-clever/
“Do you consider yourself funny? What role does humor play in your life? Who’s the funniest person you know?”