I came across an old video featuring Spike Milligan before an 'invited audience.' This was shortly before he died and he was very funny, as he often was. He is of course one of those responsible for my twisted humour. As a lad I used to sit with my head against the gramophone while listening to 'The Goons,' 'The Glums' or 'The Billy Cotton Band Show' on a Sunday afternoon. What great times they were in those days of long ago! The whole country would be also listening to these matinees and laughing their heads off. Later we added the Ferranti television set that we acquired in 1958. By turning the large knob on the front we could receive two, yes two, channels! On Sunday afternoons films were shown, at least ten years old I believe and most well over that! But we watched the black and white action quite happily. I confess had I to watch such movies today I would be violently sick! It's amazing what a young mind will accept without thinking. The attitudes shown have coloured my life ever since, hopefully I have lost them now. However every so often there were films not only worth watching but that will live for ever! Foremost among them were Marx Brothers films and the 'Road' movies made by Hope and Crosby. Such films contained the fast moving repartee that I admire, and strangely have discovered this attitude appears in most places where I have been employed. Possibly this explains my constant moving from one job to another and my lack of references therefrom I don't know.
The anarchy of the Marx Bros and the fast one liners from Hope were new to UK audiences before the war. Our humour had a different slant to it but Tommy Handley made a meal of fast paced one liners during the war in his wireless programme 'It's That Man Again!' Today his scripts are totally unfunny but to a nation standing alone while the rest did their best to avoid the obvious it gave heart. While German radio spoke of 'England (racists!) faltering' those that dared to listen into the BBC heard nothing but laughter! The war left its mark on those who were to become the entertainers for the next thirty years. Most had served, some had suffered, like Milligan had from being mortared, and all wanted to get away from the military authoritarian society. A revolutionary attitude prevailed. 'The Goons' were probably more radical in their humour than most!
So many other things have influenced me that sometimes I wonder what I would have been like without them. However I expect my sick black half wit would out. This can of course upset some folks, especially when they have little sense of humour or are too full of themselves. Sometimes they need a laugh, other times a good slap is more desirable. While working in the Royal Infirmary in 1974 a very tall lass was admitted and the nurse muttered sympathy for her height. 'At least she will get a long lie in the morning' I ventured, but was not admired for it. Making a 'slap' gesture to the backside of one young lady meant I was loudly warned off by another. Simply mentioning that the first lassies was half the size of the one protesting enabled the first to take my side, and the second to turn needlessly violent. Well, she was Irish. Talking to some of her friends after my sister died I mentioned it was the first time I had seen her with her mouth closed and received only querulous stares. I suppose stepping out from the usual routine is wise only with folks who know you well.
The fact is humour is Gods gift to us all. It relaxes us after stress, releases pent up emotions and allows those in difficulties a way of escape from their troubles. Eastern Europe was awash with humour, an escape valve for those who could not overcome the dictatorship that ruled them. Front line soldiers used black humour to prevent themselves going mad with the strain of trench life, shaking hands with arms jutting out from the sides of the trenches. Wit enables pupils to absorb what is being taught, because if it is dull learning is difficult. We remember better that which we enjoy. Wit can prevent diplomatic incidents. During the Cold War Harold Macmillan,the UK Prime Minister, was speaking at the United Nations. Kruschev resorted to his latest tactic of removing his shoe and pounding the desk in front of him. A tense silence filled the hall, with the Cold War at its height any wrong reaction could lead to a diplomatic 'incident.' “Can we have a translation of that?” said Macmillan, and the whole place rocked with laughter! The tension ended, Kruschev was put down, but nicely, and he stopped the shoe thumping.
Humour can be used to be hurtful, and we all laugh at our enemies to make us feel better. Not always is it necessary. Cynical humour has been commonly seen in recent days in the UK, but often used to attack others rather than as wit to expose their faults and build something worthwhile. There is no point in satirising a politician if you have nothing positive to offer in his place. No point in joking about people unless you aim to like them or get the best out off or from them.
There again, laughter is the best medicine and whatever the problem finding humour in it can aid the body keep healthy. We are made to laugh and smile but we spend our time frowning. Surrounded by plenty we complain of what we lack. Half the folks in hospital suffer because of diseases caused by stress. The body responds to happiness and disintegrates under stress. Oh dear, I think I ought to have looked in the mirror before writing that. Oh dear oh dear.........
An American decided to write a book about famous churches around the world.
He bought a plane ticket and took a trip to Orlando, thinking that he would start by working his way across the USA from South to North.
On his first day he was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read '$10,000 per call'.
The American, being intrigued, asked a priest who was strolling by what the telephone was used for.
The priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God.
The American thanked the priest and went along his way.
Next stop was in Atlanta. There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same looking golden telephone with the same sign under it. He wondered if this was the same kind of telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a nearby vicar what its purpose was.
She told him that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 he could talk to God. 'O.K., thank you,' said the American.
He then travelled all across America, Africa, England, Japan, New Zealand. In every church he saw the same looking golden telephone with the same '$US10,000 per call' sign under it..
The American decided to travel to Scotland to see if Scots had the same phone.
He arrived in Scotland and again, in the first church he entered, there was the same looking golden telephone, but this time the sign under it read '40 pence per call.'
The American was surprised so he asked the minister about the sign.
'I've travelled all over the world and I've seen this same golden telephone in many churches. I'm told that it is a direct line to Heaven, but in all of them price was $10,000 per call. Why is it so cheap here?'
The minister smiled and answered, 'You're in Scotland now, son - it's a local call'.