| Art

Trace Elements: Humour

I was hissed at once in a comedy club (I was performing stand-up) for telling a gag that went something along the lines of “My neighbour’s finding it difficult to come out of the closet. He’s an agoraphobic homosexual.” No offence meant, but taken. You have to respect that when it happens. Although at the time, I probably decided the hissers were confused about what agoraphobic actually meant.

Today I thought up a gag based on a lesser known historic fact. “Before the Nazis decided to eliminate the Jews by sending them to the gas chambers, they considered sending them to Madagascar. Just how bad were the hotels there?!” Now, obviously, there could be a taste issue with this one. So I asked a comedy writing friend for his opinion.

The friend reckoned some people would just notice the key words and take offence they were being used for comedy. Good call. Plus 10 minutes after writing it, I decided my gag wasn’t overly funny (yes, you’re seeing my priorities here). So I pushed the delete key.

This same friend then bounced a joke off me, concerned his too might cause offence. It went “My favourite party game’s called Titanic. Well, it’s a good icebreaker.”

I cited the movie as working in his favour, as Leonardo and My Heart Will Go On have diffused the public’s backview. Plus, importantly, his joke is funny. Although it interestingly works despite not being 100% accurate – as the ice didn’t break, the ship did. However, the gag hits you immediately…

Freud analysed humour. I wonder what he would have made of this?

I’m guessing Freud wouldn’t have cared much for my Madagascar effort – he was Jewish and the Nazis burned his books in the 1930s. He’s quoted as quipping: “What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now, they are content with burning my books.”

A good point, but not exactly hilarious, Sigmund.

Read more of James McConachie's Trace Elements.


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