Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Comedy reflecting reality

Following my TV reflecting reality theme, in my first decade on this planet I was influenced by a selection of some of judaism's greatest natural comedians. None was a professional, in fact the majority were solicitors, but they instilled in me a foundation of my filthy and childish humour I was stuck with ever since. I just hope to goodness I finally have a child of my own I can pass this tradition on to.

I've already introduced Malcolm, who as well as his toilet remark, used to make nose picking jokes to which my mum would say things like "Malcolm, don't encourage him, he's bad enough already". Then Monty, a very quiet and subtle comedy personality, more like a British Woody Allen with a beard, who never actually said anything funny, but was funny just by being himself. My greatest influence of all though was Willy, who lived nearby and was around most of my life while he was still alive. He was the Jewish version of Frankie Howerd. Whatever story he'd tell you (which is more or less all he ever did) it would be in the same style but peppered with the language and direct sexual references Frankie (who I was lucky enough to also see perform once) always left out of his act. He was the one who made up the term 'budgie poopoo' for the ubiquitous deposits our two budgies left all over the lounge, and was the first person my parents knew to say the f word in front of me, when he was telling a story and said "the fucking pelmet", though I never knew the context of the story, which cracked me up at about the age of 8. I tried to get another one out of him for years afterwards but my parents had clearly given him orders to the contrary. He had neighbours where the mother was a psychiatrist but the whole family were more like her patients, and he would always get started when I mentioned the R-----'s. "That bloody woman" he'd start off, and then go on about the lunacy they'd committed in the last few months since my last enquiry. It was like filling a room with David Baddiel, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth and Jerry Seinfeld and getting them all drunk. It reflected a unique thread of personality that even heavily pervaded the concentration camps, where despite the conditions inmates put on classical concerts and produced art with the minimal resources they had, and often escaped death by entertaining the guards. Sex, toilets and mental illness seem to be the dominant themes, as well as personal conflict and disasters. But all made incredibly funny. Some of them could probably make cancer funny (as the not-so-Jewish pair Peter Cook and Duduley Moore did) as its not the subject matter that creates humour but the presentation, though also the darker the subject the greater the potential for humour.

In fact, Peter Cook may have been a stereotyped English eccentric but Dudley Moore always appeared to have been an unmarked Jew, like the policeman who drinks with criminals as a friend to gain information undercover, somehow took on the background of a Dagenham council estate, but may have been the abandoned child of Freud and Ethel Merman, had they ever met or probably been alive in the same decade... While I think of it, one Jewish parent is always enough to turn out identical personalities, while Alexei Sayle and Peter Sellers were sired by the right half (mother's side), Ben Elton curiously enough made me think, as Jackie Mason would say, at times he was almost 'too Jewish', only to find out his mother was an Irish catholic called Kathleen. But somehow his father's German professorial genes seemed not just to win, but assert themselves defiantly as 'you may be a yok but we're going to make sure you appear the total opposite!'.

Prior to entering these observations in the Radio Times or MIT journal of psychology, I've put them online here, but should a genuine publication ever decide to take them/realise the talent in front of them, it would only have been possible from all my work here first.

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