Magazine article The Spectator

We on the Right Have the Best Jokes Because We Accept That the World Is a Bowl of Toenails

Magazine article The Spectator

We on the Right Have the Best Jokes Because We Accept That the World Is a Bowl of Toenails

Article excerpt

There's a new application you can get for your iPhone called Baby Shaker, where a baby cries and cries until eventually you get so sick of it you shake your mobile so that large red Xs appear over the baby's eyes and the crying stops for good. Or rather there isn't, because someone took offence and complained to Apple and now, annoyingly, it has been withdrawn.

Would I have acquired a copy myself?

Well the graphics looked pretty rubbish but I still think it was probably worth the 99 cents, just on the off chance one might have found someone to offend. Sicko, child-related jokes are very useful in this respect, I find. One of my favourites when I was about 14 was:

Q. What's the difference between a truckload of babies and a truckload of marbles?

A. You can't unload marbles with a pitchfork.

More recently, when my kids were about six and eight, I tried enlivening dull supermarket trips by training them to pipe up as we passed down the wine and spirits aisle: 'Oh please don't buy these drinks, Daddy.

You know how it makes you angry and you hit us and we don't like it, Daddy, we don't!'

Problem was, it was too long a speech for them to learn and they could never get the intonation right. Could have been fab if we'd pulled it off, though, eh, readers?

I mention this by way of a preamble towards the beginnings of a thesis I've been working on, viz. why left-liberals have no sense of humour. Tough one, I know, for of course it provokes the obvious response: 'What about Polly Toynbee? Yasmin AlibhaiBrown? Naomi Klein? George Monbiot?

You saying, what, that they're not funny?' Yes, all right. Point taken. But I still believe there is a basic underlying truth to my theory that the funniest jokes are a phenomenon of the R ight, not the L eft.

This struck me again just the other night while watching a cabaret artiste called Frank Sanazi, who wears a Hitler moustache and croons in the style of Frank Sinatra, makes jokes about his friends in bands such as SS Club 7, and sings songs like 'Strangers On My Flight' ('they make me nervous') about fear of flying with suicide bombers. OK, so you probably had to be there and not all of it worked.

But when you did laugh it was laughter of an altogether different quality to the kind of smugly consensual, Radio 4-sanctioned, oneeyebrow-raised-in-sly-mirth laughter which, say, Jeremy Hardy elicits from the studio audience when he says something wry about Margaret Thatcher on The News Quiz. It was the kind of wild, abandoned, naughty laughter where you exchange delighted glances with the friends who are watching with you, as if to say: 'Wow! Did he really just say what I think he said?'

Modern stand-ups don't go in for this kind of humour, as a rule. There are exceptions, such as Jimmy Carr (he of the infamous joke: 'The male gypsy moth can smell the female gypsy moth from up to seven miles away - and that fact also works if you remove the word moth' - for which the BBC later issued not just an ordinary apology but an 'unreserved' one, to show just how offensive it was). Generally, though, they opt for less dangerous genres like surreal flight-offancy comedy (Ross Noble, Eddie Izzard, Paul Merton), or broken-sketch catchphrase comedy ( T he Fast Show; Harry and Paul) or organic, wholewheat, stoneground, guaranteed-free-of-all-humorouscontent-but-by-gum-it's-good-for-you comedy (Mark Thomas, Jeremy Hardy, Marcus Brigstocke). …

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