Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Ray Stevens Funny Man
 Gary Lewis & The Playboys Everybody Loves a Clown
 Elmer Bernstein Airplane!
If there’s one joke that never greatly humored me, then it would be the one aimed at myself that concludes with the punchline “that guy’s not even slightly funny”. You would cut off both my legs at the knees, arms too, before impaling me with an alloy rod and pronouncing me a Fusbol player, but I swear blind I could still prise get at least a chuckle out of you. Tell you what, I double-dare you not to laugh at least once while reading this rambunctious rant and reckon I’ve got this one in the bag. You know, right next to my pet Calamari, Clifton. I haven’t got a Calamari named Clifton of course, that would be preposterous. His name’s Curtis.
Hmm, tough audience. Would it help if I were to mention that I’m here all week? My Bar Mitzvah prices really are rather competitive and include two-for-one Saturdays and senior discounts, I might add. What I’m doing right now is replaying my very worst recurring nightmare as I’d hate to be the guy that shepherds the crook from beyond the right hand curtain while the barbershop quartet shuffle in on the left to When The Saints Come Marching In. Where’s the dignity in that, I ask? Crashing and burning publicly is a fearsome notion to ponder, much less entertain. Looking out to an auditorium of blank faces and all that cotton candy instantly resembles tumbleweed – that’s blind terror right there which is one worse than creeping dread. Suddenly, crickets come back into season and that once comforting spot light blinds us to the words “TÖTE IHN. SCHNELL!”
What does one do at this point? I know what my old pal Betelgeuse would do. He’d turn on the juice and see what shakes loose, likely with the aid of a pair of fully wound wind-up teeth and levitating rubber chicken. But it’s a grim realization at a mighty inconvenient moment and one that would invariably keep me awake night after night, had it not been for the fact that I’m actually rather partial to a good phantasm at the end of a hard day’s shenanigans. Making folk laugh is the most gratifying feeling in the world and I’d be devastated to learn that I’d failed my quota. Nobody wants to be the sorry sap that people chuckle at out of pity. I can just hear it now – “Here comes Keeper. Quick, laugh at his jokes. He goes away quicker”. I just got a shiver, you know.
Mercifully, I’m reasonably convinced that I can tickle a funny bone or 206 and the reason for my certitude is that every word I write goes through rigorous testing. Hands up if your own jokes are the funniest? I’d hedge a bet there are a lot of bingo wings flapping right now and you’d be right to rally those feathers. The ability to amuse oneself is critical to any GSOH as it’s the one place you’re always guaranteed a hee-haw or, at the very least, a tee-hee. I could be having the biggest ass turd of a day in existence but, provided there’s a mirror in the vicinity, belly laughs need only ever be a contorted face away.
Sometimes I find myself making goofy faces when I drive, just to offer up a snapshot for any fellow motorists and a smidgen for my own general amusement, naturally. You know the kind of ridiculousness – rigid upright posture, both hands on the steering column at ten to two coordinates, protruding lower jaw, googly eyes, and perhaps just a slither of chin dribble for bonus gurn points. It took me three years to find the hooter on my Nissan and I now have even more fun, at mostly my own expense admittedly. And I think that’s key, you know. A willingness to be at the butt end of jokes, even your own. Nay, especially your own.
I had an ego once but it run away during the great self-esteem crash of 2013. Now all I have are these size twenty-six loafers and a squirty flower that appears to be defective. Woe is me. Or is it? Nope, the only tears this clown is looking to shed are of overspilling glee and entail the thought of me attempting to dismount a Penny Farthing and, needless to say, failing in a manner most miserable. I’d rather be the biggest goon in the room than Mr. Cedric Bollock-Chops any day of the calendar year and, if you don’t believe me, here’s his yearbook photo.
Look at him, sitting there all self-important. Plum-chinned motherfucker. If he got all up in my grill, I’d be like “Go suck ya girl bumbo-bloodclaat wasteman. Brrp, brrp”. Actually, I’d be more likely to give them a playful flick and watch the pain travel south to his abdomen. The point I’m trying to make is this – stop being such a frightful stick in the mud old bean and break out those gums for a change. I appreciate that you’re ferrying a pair of somewhat precariously dangling wrecking balls and also that dentistry doesn’t come cheap but you won’t know ’em if you don’t flash ’em once in a bluey. Try it, you might like it.
So we’ve established that solemnity isn’t my gig. Brooding may work for some, but seriously, where’s the hijinks to be gleaned from glumness? There’s a reason why they call it “a face like a slapped ass” that dates right back to the time I got called into the headmaster’s office for making high-pitched fart noises with my armpits when I should have been sussing out the square route of twelve. More than anything else, it just looks so unappealing. Victoria Beckham is an attractive girl but would it crack her skull to bust out a cheesy grin, just once a season? Fuck pouting and all the facial constipation that comes with it; I’d much rather allow my lips to luxuriate than keep them bunched up tight like an anus.
There’s one cardinal rule to offering yourself up as light relief and that’s not overplaying your hand. Should the maximum humor have been extracted from any given situation, then it’s better to burn out quickly than fade away slowly. Similarly, comic timing is imperative to tickling those funny bones and I’d recommend holding back on the emojis too, at least for the all-important punchline. After that, throw a wild emoji party by all means to celebrate your achievement, but there’s a lot to be said for deadpan delivery. That said, there’s something endearing to me about stand-up comedians laughing at their own jokes on occasion. Perhaps that has something to do with humanity.
One thing that really grope my grapefruit are those who simply seemingly cannot function on any other setting than imbecile. In the UK we have Leigh Francis (or the dreaded Keith Lemon to yours truly) and I found this “stand-up guy” vaguely engaging for around the first twenty minutes that I had to endure him. However, Leigh is apparently incapable of dropping the persona, and that soon became tremendously aggravating. There’s a fine balance to be struck here and this feckless fool appears to have packed his whoopee cushion instead of the spirit level. I guess it all comes down to knowing your audience and when to rein in the theatrics, just a smidge.
I was always rather fond of the Airplane! mentality, you know, throwing it all at the wall and seeing what sticks. Hit ratio is all important here as is knowing how to touch down safely when surrendering altitude. Some days I make a conscious effort to ration myself to a handful of larks, and others, admittedly less so. But I’m never happier than those priceless moments when comedy gold meets pay-dirt. If I can make you laugh, then perhaps you’ll pay that forward, and the world could become just a tad less deadly serious. Wouldn’t that just be delightfully novel?
Unlike coffee, which I traditionally take with milk and sugar, comedy is a brew most flavorsome to me when served jet black. It’s not that I wish either harm or foul on my fellow anthropoid; more that misfortunes will happen whether we like it or not so seems a shame not to mark the occasion with a ruptured temple vein or two. Should my dodgy knee give way in a public place (and it has) and my reward be a grillful of gravel, then I’d feel hard done by not receiving at least a faint ribbing. Hell, clap like drunken sea-lions if it gives you a titter; I’ll be far too busy locating my shattered molars to give you an unimpressed glare. Besides, if the faulty kneecap was on the other foot so to speak, I’d be starting a Mexican wave and profiting from whatever YouTube royalties I can rake in.
The ultimate goal should always be happy tears. Snorts are more than welcome, howls commonplace, and snot bubbles acceptable; but the best way to gauge how funny something is entails how many droplets those ducts can relinquish. I’m never more content than when doubled over in agony, hyperventilating into a paper bag, and at severe risk of urinary seepage. For this stage to be reached, shit needs to be either one beyond rib-tickling, or all parties involved chortling from the same hymn sheet.
My father and I were politely ejected from a plush Spanish restaurant once, purely because he leaned across his grilled salmon and inquired as to “what’s green and smells?” I was thirteen years old, had heard the joke on numerous occasions previously, and was fully aware that the answer was Kermit’s asshole. However, while this poser alone was sufficient to provoke a mild coronary, it was the tense stand-off that played out afterwards that sealed my fate. You see, pops had a tendency to howl like a basset hound when charmed and the fact that a party of Germans were sat opposite and suspected these yelps were at their expense only served to crank up the crooning. Eventually my mortified mother kindly requested that we take five. We did and the moment we removed ourselves from the danger zone, it ceased being quite so hilarious. Our work here was evidently done.
You know, I think that is one of my all-time favorite anecdotes and the reason for this is elementary my dear WhatsApps – it’s one of my all-time favorite memories. And I guess that’s where I’m shooting from here with all this funny bone business. It’s those quick-release endorphins that truly make laughter such an unbridled joy to entertain. God bless the happy pheromones and their tireless graft to making us less grumpy. Taking their cues from the dastardly “fearomones” that horror endorse and, of course, porn’s number one tribute act, the “fuckomones”, these chemical secret agents are liberated with the purpose of making us more sexually desirable to other mammals on our patch. So I ask you – what’s not to love about pheromones?
Anything that can bring two people together so enthusiastically for the common good (or more if it’s a key party) is worth celebrating right? The more we laugh, the more we desire one another, the more we make love, the more STDs we can spread, the more anti-inflammatory creams are sold, the stronger our economy becomes, the more tweets Donald Trump composes, the more we laugh (at him, not with, and with just a vague hint of creeping dread). Thus the cycle perpetuates itself and over seven billion people benefit in some small way. Speaking of which, I’d very much profit from knowing how I fared up with the whole “dare you not to crack” deal. Give it to me straight and don’t feel obliged to pull those punches – am I a funny boy? Not even close you say. Well, this is awkward. Actually… Fine! Come on Dennis, pop ’em back in as we’re evidently not wanted here.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2017