Waaaay back in the mists of time (ok, a few months ago) I wrote a couple of posts about lessons learned from Mary Poppins, here and here. I’m coming to regard Mary Poppins as a kind of life guru, as here’s another post based on the wisdom found in one of the best kids’ films ever.
Remember the scene where Mary and the children go to visit Uncle Albert? And he’s doing cartwheels on the ceiling and they end up having a tea party in mid air? The song that goes with that is one of those where you can’t remember the words but it’s infectious. Rather like a good laugh, funnily enough.
I love to laugh, loud and long and clear
I love to laugh, so everybody can hear
The more I laugh, the more I fill with glee
And the more the glee, the more I’m a merrier me!
I love this. I’ve always enjoyed a good laugh but in recent months I’ve come to appreciate really good comedy more. Andrew and I have been watching the latest series of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and the gap between the acts who were ok and the ones who had us in stitches on the floor was remarkable, and makes me realise how hard it is to do comedy really well. But not just that, also how amazing it is when it is right. Michael McIntyre is one who gets it right every time, just by being himself as far as I can gather. I highly recommend his book, his voice just rings true on every page.
I like loads of different aspects of entertainment. I like a gripping storyline, a good historical with beautiful costumes, a good romance, musical shows, I’m easy to please. But I think the thing, certainly at the minute, that really gets my attention and makes me hungry for more is outstanding comedy. ‘Clever’ comedy, I think – more verbal wit and sparring than slapstick. David Mitchell and Lee Mack on Would I Lie To You have me in stitches every time because they parry each other and pick up on the tiniest details to beat each other with.
That, for me, is the killer. The detail. It’s a skill I’ll never have, although I appreciate it very much in those who do. Being able to take an ordinary story and find the one or two details in it that make it hilarious. And nine times out of ten, it’s a detail we’re painfully familiar with; I think this is at least half of Michael McIntyre’s skill. For example, he gives a few examples of his experience of parenthood, which resonate perfectly with us. Or a situation that most of us have been in, but he manages to make it go horribly wrong. The highlights of his autobiography were those sorts of situations. Or, for example, Fawlty Towers. I know it’s grossly exaggerated, but it pushes the buttons that we can identify with. A example – being interrupted several times while in the middle of a job to be reminded to do the job we’re being interrupted from. The details that fit in horribly well later on, like the out-of-date kippers in The Kipper and the Corpse.
We’re also discovering new (to us, anyway) stand-up. I have been ill laughing at Adam Hills and Craig Campbell. They don’t just do a reel of jokes or poking fun at the audience. They observe what’s going on around them, and then let us in on their observations. And because they pick up a few killer details, it’s suddenly more real and therefore funnier. Here’s a treat: try watching this video of Adam Hills (disclaimer: it does contain swearing).
It’s not just tv or books either. When I’m on Twitter, the conversations I tend to pick up on and the ones that hook me and keep me on Twitter for far longer than I should be are the funny ones. Sharing a joke, a funny hashtag. I love it. If I’m in a group (a Real Life group) I have so little self-confidence and assertiveness that I tend to stay back and listen, and generally wish I wasn’t there, but when someone makes a really good joke or I find the courage to say something and the people around me find it funny, I shed a little of that self-consciousness.
I think comedy should be a part of everyone’s life. I’ve had a fair bit of time over the past year or so where we’ve felt really low, floundering. And watching or reading some comedy has lifted me, almost tangibly, every time. Our best times as a family are when we’re laughing together. I love to laugh, and I hope I keep on laughing for a long, long time.
*NB No copyright infringement intended. Words and music by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman