Firstly, a big thank you to the people who have followed my blog so far. Cyber-hugs to you all. XX
Now to this week’s post – humour. The on-line dictionary defines humour as ‘the quality of being funny’. What one person finds funny another may find cringe-worthy. Also, what we find amusing can change at different stages in our lives. Comedy is very subjective. I’m sure humour snobs exist, but are they being too serious? Do they understand comedy has no rules? Like art, it doesn’t require permission to exist.
What is universally true is that humour is entertaining, emotionally healthy, and a powerful antidote to stress, conflict and general life-angst. Humour is good for the soul, it connects us to each other, and lightens our burdens (real or imaginary).
Humour has done all those things for me, but it has also shaped who I am. I was a bit of an anxious, serious child, enough to be put on some sort of medication before I was ten. I remember telling the doctor about ‘the long shadows’ that descended on me every afternoon, probably influenced by events when I was very young. Anyway, shortly after beginning this medication, my parents handed me over to an air hostess (that’s what they were called then) and sent me off to stay with my maternal grandparents on their sugar cane farm in northern Queensland.
I think it was the best summer of my life, and I remember in subsequent years opening my birthday card with joy to see an airline ticket back to the farm. Within two weeks of my initial stay I remember sitting on my grandmother’s lap, telling her I didn’t think I needed the tablets any more.
Coming from a blended family, I had many new cousins to meet on that first visit to the farm, and was instantly accepted into the fold. We ran amongst the sugar cane, chewed cane stalks, ran the gauntlet of bulls in paddocks to climb wild mango trees and still be picking the stringy fruit from our teeth hours later.
We hunted feral cane toads, swam in the river, played cricket on the beach, Murder in the Dark, put on dreadful shows for our suffering grandparents, sang at the top of our lungs on trips to town, ran under thumping irrigation jets.
At bath time every night, Nana would boil two kettles and add some cold water. Any visiting cousins would go through that same sheep dip, two at a time. I remember taking turns sliding down the sloped end, the bath water sloshing over the edge in tidal waves onto the bathroom lino. I also stopped being a city wuss, drank the wriggling mosquito larvae in my glass when the rainwater tank was low, and the soles of my feet became tough as an elephant’s running around barefoot. My Grandfather was playful and witty, Nana seemed content in her role as second banana. Every afternoon he’d host happy hour on the wide verandah of the Queenslander, telling exciting instalments of stories he’d cut short at critical points, always ending with, “to be continued.” He’d serve us clandestine shandies of beer and lemonade. He always threatened to play his violin, and conducted ridiculous (but hilarious) quizzes over dinner on the topic of ‘city vs country’. I was right, and he never let me win! Also at dinner, he’d transfer dreaded pumpkin from our plates to Nana’s when she was in the kitchen (looking back on all this, she must have known). Later we cousins slept in mosquito netted beds and giggled helplessly at nothing in particular. Sweet tea and thick buttered toast were delivered in bed every morning. Looking back now, we must have been exhausting visitors. Poor Nana and Grandfather never complained!
Two cousins in particular lived in town. In later years I’d stay with their family in town sometimes. I loved staying there too. These two cousins also encouraged my sense of humour. How? I’m not sure if it was the merciless pranks, teasing and taunting, their sense of the ridiculous, their crazy friends (yes, you, GH), turning table tennis, billiards, Monopoly, card nights or test cricket into absurd scams and squabbles. Perhaps it was the relentless Monty Python re-runs, but I will always remember an inner unfurling, a lightening of my soul. I remember arriving for a visit one summer in my mid-teens to open the wardrobe and see a hand drawn, grotesque face. Underneath was written, “This is a mirror.” I guess you probably had to be there. We never seemed to tire of short-sheeted beds, cold showers, 1001 ways with toads and/or ice cubes, ghouly night visits. Looking back, my cousins were witty, kind, fantastic sports; and good for my development. And I thank them for that.
I remember they had a cassette tape of Monty Python skits, which we seemed to find hilarious, even with repeated listening, especially:
The Dead Parrot –
and a perennial favourite – How To Do It
It was silly then. Admittedly, a lot of lines aren’t that funny. But it’s still silly, and I laughed when I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail again last week.
I make no apologies for never outgrowing Monty Python. Along with my cousins’ influence, the Monty Python team were the foundation stones of an important, playful inner journey for me that continues to this day. Absurd, irreverent, nonsensical comedy isn’t sophisticated. But it has a special nostalgia for me, tickles my emotional health, and reminds me not to take myself so seriously.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail – gems
ARTHUR: How dare you profane this place with your presence! I command you, in the name of the Knights of Camelot, to open the doors of this sacred castle, to which God Himself has guided us!
FRENCH GUARD: How you English say, ‘I one more time, mac, unclog my nose in your direction’, sons of a window-dresser! So, you think you could out-clever us French folk with your silly knees-bent running about advancing behavior?! I wave my private parts at your aunties, you cheesy lot of second hand electric donkey-bottom biters.
ARTHUR: In the name of the Lord, we demand entrance to this sacred castle!
FRENCH GUARD: No chance, English bed-wetting types. I burst my pimples at you and call your door-opening request a silly thing, you tiny-brained wipers of other people’s bottoms!
ARTHUR: If you do not open this door, we shall take this castle by force!
Bedevere: What makes you think she is a witch?
Peasant: Oh, she turned me into a newt!
[Bedevere gives him a disbelieving look]
Bedevere: A newt?
Peasant: Well, I got better.
Peasant Crowd: Burn her anyway!
Guard: Who goes there?
King Arthur: It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!
Guard: Pull the other one!
King Arthur: I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master.
Guard: What? Ridden on a horse?
King Arthur: Yes!
Guard: You’re using coconuts!
King Arthur: What?
Guard: You’ve got two empty halves of coconut and you’re bangin’ ’em together.
King Arthur: So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through…
Guard: Where’d you get the coconuts?
King Arthur: We found them.
Guard: Found them? In Mercia?! The coconut’s tropical!
The Life of Brian – gems
Oh! It’s blessed are the meek! I’m glad they’re getting something, they had a hell of a time…
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
PFJ Member: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace? SHUT UP!
Stan: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
Reg: But you can’t have babies.
Stan: Don’t you oppress me.
Reg: Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?
What, or who, were your important, humour mentors or milestones?