Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Humour bypass?

I used to think I didn't have a sense of humour. I very rarely understand jokes, particularly ones with punchlines which rely on word play. When I was young, my mother taught me how to read someone's face, so that I could laugh politely when they cracked a joke that I inevitably didn't understand. It's only taken me forty years to realise that my sense of humour is triggered by schadenfreude: the humour of cruelty. If someone falls on ice, I chuckle. If someone's skirt falls off mid-dance routine, I laugh. If someone sings out of tune, or gets bow shakes whilst performing a concerto, I often go into hysterics. I've laughed in funerals, assemblies, serious pieces of theatre and many an audition.

Whilst working on Taboo in the West End, I used to look forward to the moments when things went wrong; those times when the props went missing, or the curtain fell off its hinges, or better still when the leading lady went into a low-blood sugar trance and simply sat on stage with an inane smile on her face whilst the rest of the cast covered for her.

Today, schadenfreude was out in force on the streets of London. I sat in the waiting room at the osteopath's whilst an elderly black lady talked obsessively about being saved by Jesus. Readers will be pleased to hear that Jesus rewarded her by revealing her dirty knickers to the world as she stood up. Something terrible had happened to her skirt, which was made of a ghastly man-made fabric which glued itself together as she was sitting on the chair. I followed her along the corridor with the most astonishing view of her underwear. It was like the skirt had become a Venetian blind, which had been pulled up to reveal someone pulling a prune-like moonie at the window. If Jesus exists, he has a great sense of humour.

Later on, I popped into a cafe where they'd just washed the floor. A rather tarty-looking woman with deep attitude arrived wearing pink stilettos. The lovely Russian woman behind the counter, with her dark l's offered the obligatory warning; "be careful of wet floor." Almost instantaneously, the woman slipped and then swore with such venom that she slipped again. I have seldom laughed so much to myself.

On the tube on the way back up to Highgate, we were entertained by a wonderful busker called Tony Sweet. I kept myself engrossed in my iPhone, but was hugely impressed by his chutzpah and courage. Frankly, anyone who makes it their business to cheer Londoners up deserves to make a living, particularly one who does so via the medium of live music. I gave him some money and he instantly spotted me as a musician, which I thought was rather clever of him. In fairness, I was dressed entirely in black, and hadn't brushed my hair, so there was perhaps an air of unkempt coolness about me. Maybe it was the silver elephant I wear around my neck, which more people seem to comment about than anything else.

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