The conversation had got round, as it so often does, to the best-ever British sitcoms; ‘Gavin and Stacey’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’, ‘Porridge’, all the usual suspects. And so, naturally, on to the best comics (British too, these people don’t do American). Again, no surprises – Morecombe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Ken Dodd … They’d been to see Ken at one of his three-hour standupatons a few years ago: “And not a single swearword!” They all agreed that swearing and comedy never mix: “Completely unnecessary. Uncalled for. Offensive.” Yadayadayada.
I silently slightly disagreed. I can think of several brilliant jokes which just wouldn’t work without the judiciously placed swearword. (Alexei Sayle’s story of the two bee-keepers, for one.) I couldn’t tell them (the jokes or the people), of course, but it did set me thinking. What is it that makes us laugh?
I realise that I blogged about the philosophical underpinnings of this question a few posts ago, so I’m not going to go there again. (I hear the relieved ‘phew’s and the unclenching of grinding teeth.) But I still want to know. I laugh at Buster Keaton but not at Charlie Chaplin, whereas you might do the opposite, so funniness isn’t an objective attribute. In fact, I can find something or someone hilarious one day, and just irritating the next, so it’s not even to do with me or my relationship with the funnything, at least not in any durable sense. It seems to be something independent, out there in its own right, like a draught.
Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to go there, and then went. But I least I managed to stop myself before I got on to neuroplasticity.