Laurie Taylor Column

" Southampton Solent University has launched the world's first degree in comedy writing and performance " - The Times Higher, April 7 Good morning and welcome to your degree course in comedy.

In today's opening lecture, I will be considering a topic of fundamental importance to any historical or contemporary understanding of humour - the intrinsic nature of jokes.

As you will see from your handout, we will begin our study with a classification of jokes based upon an alphabetical ordering of their subject matter.

This means that our first topic will be jokes that are primarily concerned with accidents. Here are three classical examples from that category: A man goes into a pub and admires the stuffed lion's head mounted above the bar. "What a great trophy!" the man says to the barman.

"I wouldn't call it great," the barman replies. "That damn lion killed my wife." "My God - were you on safari?" "No," the barman replies.

And number two:

A cowboy is buying an insurance policy. The agent asks if he has ever had any accidents, and the cowboy says no. "But on the application form you say you were recently bitten by a snake," the agent says. "Wouldn't you consider that an accident?"

And number three:

An Essex girl is involved in a bad traffic accident. A paramedic rushes to her aid. "Whereabouts are you bleeding from?" he asks.

So, there we have it. Three classical examples of Accident jokes. Before we analyse their common characteristics, let me ask if there are any questions so far. Yes, the boy at the back with the large glasses. Name?

Leacock, sir. It's only a small point, but none of the jokes you just told seemed at all funny.

Thank you, Leacock. Well observed. And I wish it were otherwise. But I'm afraid I have to announce that in line with the current industrial action being undertaken by my union, Natfhe, I will continue to tell jokes in the usual way but, until further notice, I will be withholding all the punch lines. Now, are there any more questions?

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