Shared Moments: ‘Pre Christmas Thoughts from Oliver

THINGS would be worse if it wasn’t for the BBC’s health correspondent, who always signs off his pieces with a jaunty little rhyme: ‘Dominic Hughes – BBC News.’

It’s a pity he did not have a much earlier life as a foreign correspondent, in which case he could have signed off with ‘well, that’s all from me, Dominic Hughes – Moscow’ or ‘That’s all from me – Abyssinia.’ (Which might become mildly amusing if you say it aloud at least three times; if that doesn’t work try it on a very old person, who might just remember it from the days before they invented clever jokes

And yes I know that Abyssinia is now used only to describe an area of Ethiopia (because I’ve looked it up on Google) and that I’ve just sinned by recycling a terrible ancient joke, but these are hard times. We have to accept recycled bad jokes because, for now, there’s not much else in the television store cupboard.

Besides, old jokes aren’t always unfunny, just nearly always. Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, Morecambe and Wise or Tommy Cooper (most of the time) still work; I think this is more than can be said of On The Buses or the Carry On films.

It’s not the sexism or racism that bothers me, it’s the feeling that I’m being bashed in the ribs by somebody who won’t leave me alone until I laugh so much I need medical help. This is why I tire of Sid James or Reg Varney quite quickly but still laugh at Basil Fawlty and Captain Mainwaring, whose winning and enduring quality is that they have no sense of humour whatever.

I’m also resistant to Michael McIntire. I have to admire him on the grounds that he is (says Google) ‘the highest grossing stand-up comedian in the world’; it’s just that, were he sit next to me on a train and start to shower me with amusing anecdotes, I would feel the need to pull the communication cord, assuming that, in the wake of the pandemic,  there are still such things as communication cords, and, come to that, trains.

Perhaps the secret is to make people laugh without looking like you want them to laugh, a trick which 12-year-old boys can’t usually manage but should be within the range of most grown-ups (excluding The Krankies, who are obviously a special case).

I learned this week that Humphrey Lyttleton, who hosted the BBC Radio 4 show ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ from 1972 to  2007, didn’t initially think the programme, which has just been voted best radio comedy of all time, was very funny at all. He was so disgruntled with it that he wanted it to be taken off the air and only enjoyed the bits where he made rude comments about the audience and his fellow performers.

I suppose he mellowed over his 35-year stint on the show, but he still maintained an air of contempt for whole enterprise and never gave any sign of being amused. That’s exactly why the listeners loved it.

And now it’s my duty to wish you all a merry Christmas within limits. If possible. And a joyous new year.

And to you too Oliver from us all at Caring Together, until next time….