My favourite joke goes like this: A magic tractor drives down a road, turns into a field. Two drums and a cymbal fall off a cliff (bu-bum tsh) and I howl laughing at myself. Several polite companions may giggle but mostly I receive the curling of the side of the mouth and a slow shaking of the head. As my mother would say this joke is ‘summat and nowt’ which I take to mean you don’t know why something so simple can make you laugh but it bloody does. The mistakes I’ve made in recent years have been mostly centred on not actually realising that not a lot of people find the same things funny. You’d be surprised the amount of trouble this has got me into.
First and foremost, and I by that I mean most painful, was during an interview last year. It was the most intimidating experience of my life; there were as many interviewers as there were interviewees sitting opposite each other down a very long table. They all had our CVs in a pile in front them and stared us down as we stammered through our ‘please employ me, I’ll be your best friend’ routines. At the break before the next round of grilling all my peers, having actually watched The Apprentice and maybe having taken a little too much of it onboard, accosted the interviewers to press flesh and essentially pimp themselves out like unusually smart Victorian prostitutes (well they already had the teeth). As the odd man out I made myself look incredibly busy making a terrible cup of tea until one of them turned to me. He began to ask me about the films of the Coen brothers and in particular Fargo that I had filed under hobbies and interests and all I could think about was how weird this conversation would be if he didn’t actually have all my information in front of him. I couldn’t help myself, I said ‘Yes that one is my favourite. How did you know that?’ There was a short but nonetheless intense silence. He replied with ‘…I have your CV in front of me.’ I mean was he thick? I was obviously making a joke. From this point there was nowhere else to go but down the route of ‘yeah I know I was just, sort of, joking about the, you know God is it hot in here?’ Some of you may be surprised to hear I didn’t get the job. That would make you an idiot.
Yes it was excruciating. To this day my friend who I often talk to before interviews answers in the same way when I ask for last minute advice: ‘Yeah just don’t tell any stupid jokes.’ And maybe that’s it. Not so much that the jokes themselves are stupid (although they most certainly are) but that they’re in stupid places, when people don’t expect to hear them. The amount of times I’ve tried to joke with customers at work just for them to look at me like I’d actually offered to come into their house on Christmas Day and piss on their kids. It’s not as if these jokes are offensive. They don’t start ‘so an Islamic extremist, a paedophile and Fred West walk into a bar – Wait where are you going?’ It’s just that there is a time and a place and if that time and place you’re in is one that jokes aren’t often heard, well then you’d better be a damn good comedian.
The difficult thing for me is that I associate this awareness with growing up and becoming sensible (read: boring) which is something I vehemently do not want to do. It drove my ex-girlfriend mad but every time we went out to dinner I would deliberately mispronounce items on the menu. My particular favourite was pronouncing Pate as ‘payt’. She hated it because she presumed others around us would think I was thick (I’m pretty sure I saw people looking quizzical or smirking derisively more than once) but I didn’t care because it amused me. Did I mention she’s an EX-girlfriend? That shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a small piece of immaturity I don’t want to let go of. There’s got to be some way of combining a grown up real world life with silly little bursts of immaturity. Surely! Right?
If I made active attempts to not insert my foot directly into my mouth on a daily basis I’m pretty sure a good deal of fun would disappear from my life. As embarrassing as they are they’re hilarious memories months down the line. A friend of mine can tell you how well a joke about binary code of all things went down with a girl behind a bar once in Middlesbrough (a classic case of know-your-damn-audience) and it makes for quite an entertaining story. I might fail at the time but a few weeks or months transform the events into a self-deprecating tale that manages to get some laughs in the pub. In a roundabout way they work out eventually and that’s pretty much how I want everything to work out for me, a system of ‘getting there in the end’. So no I won’t stop doing it, no matter how painfully unfunny the jokes may be, no matter how toe-curling it might be for those with me because some day when I live far away from those who remember such incidents, I’ll have a whole new audience for them not to mention new victims for the creation of more stories, more laughs, more memories.
‘Oh man I remember this one time…’