Major Misunderstanding – How Comedy Is A Lot Like War And Why You Should Burn As Many Fossil Fuels As Possible If You Actually Care About The Planet
Once upon a time, before I had to get a proper job, I was a semi professional stoner. Baggy clothes, hair down to my arse, lying in bed until the afternoon. The whole smash. And during one of my daily burn ups with a housemate, I decided to improve my mind a bit. So I went out and bought a science and technology magazine.
So, in between pipes and bongs and buckets, I idly flicked through this magazine. Amazingly, I had actually made it through University so, technically at least, I was a qualified rookie physicist. After an hour or so, I hit on an article that showed how an ordinary bucket of sand was transformed into millions of dollars’ worth of microchips. That’s what silicon is made from : sand.
As my housemate passed me a rather impressive Camberwell Carrot he’d just sparked up, I said:
“Did you know that microchips are made entirely out of sand?”
My friend pondered this for a few moments and then screwed his face up and replied:
“Surely there’s some potato in them?”
Tears of laughter streamed down my face as I explained, in between gasps, that I meant computer microchips, not the McCain variety. I probably found this a lot funnier than it actually was, for obvious reasons. But kind of thing is essentially what all comedy is about: misunderstanding.
If you’re familiar with The Two Ronnies, and you really should be, then Spoonerisms should be an old friend. Ronnie Barker used to do them all the time. If you don’t know what a Spoonerism is, then I’ll tell you.
The Reverend Dr William Archibald Spooner (1844 – 1930) was an Oxford academic. He was also an albino, but that is an unrelated point and not what he was famous for. He was actually renowned for a peculiar and unique speech defect. He would unintentionally transpose parts of words when he spoke. The following are probably the most famous examples:
“You have deliberately tasted two worms and hissed all my mystery lectures” was how he berated ones particularly lazy student.
“Here’s to our queer old dean!” when toasting Queen Victoria.
“It is kisstomary to cuss the bride” while officiating at a wedding.
There are many, many other examples attributed to the man, but most of them were not uttered by him. Apparently it became something of a sport amongst Oxford undergraduates to make up more and more outrageous Spoonerisms and claim that they’d heard the old man say them.
There is an old saying that there are only three rules for good comedy. These three rules are : “No Puns, No Puns, No Puns.” And it was a hard and fast rule right up until the early 70s, which is probably why most comedy was a bit shit up until that point.
Anyone who’s ever watched Jon Stewart on The Daily Show can tell you that puns are hilarious. Ok, not all of them, but good ones are very chucklesome. In England, things like Spoonerisms and puns are the secret guilty pleasure of the middle class. Don’t believe me. Have a look at The Times Crossword. It’s chock full of puns, but that’s ok because it’s intellectual like.
So, comedy is about misunderstanding. If you want to explore it any further than that, then read The Naked Jape. There is something else that is also about misunderstanding which isn’t very funny at all. War.
Misunderstanding of cultures. Misunderstanding of intentions. Or, in extreme cases, misunderstanding of simple written messages. Though it could be argued that war is about understanding exactly what the other fellow is about and just really not liking it very much. World War Two being the most obvious example.
So War! What is it good for? (Altogether now) Absolutely nothing! Well, not really. I hate to disagree with the late great Edwin Starr, but war has brought us lots of good things. Virtually every life saving surgical technique and almost all technology have been driven by or forged in the heat of war. Even the cool stuff from the Space Race was a result of the cold war.
Plus, there is a theory –a fairly cynical one- that war, in itself, is actually a good thing. This is because it thins out the population. Or rather, certain elements of the population. It’s a rather depressing fact that the vicious little rogues who hang around our street corners relieving us of our wallets at knifepoint are the very chaps who wantonly charge machine gun nests and win posthumous VC’s when conscription starts. In fact, lots of them become posthumous without winning any medals at all and therefore never bother anyone on street corners again.
It’s pretty much indisputable that fewer human beings in the world is better for the planet. There’s far too many of us and we have some pretty disgusting habits. We are, as Bill Hicks famously pointed out, just a virus with shoes. Short term, we really should be reigning in our energy use and recycling and suchlike. But what about long term?
Despite all the damage we are doing as a species, it’s rather arrogant of us to assume we are important enough to matter in the long run. When we say “We are destroying the planet”, what we mean is that we are making it unlivable for us.
The Earth has survived far worse disasters than the irritating skin rash that is Humanity. There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the world. One of them, The Permian Extinction, wiped out up to 95% of ALL LIFE. We would have to raise our game a hell of a lot to get even a fraction of that
After we inevitably wipe ourselves out, or industrialize ourselves so far that society collapses back to the stone age, the environment will heal itself. And it will do it, in geological terms, in the blink of an eye. So I say burn that oil and eat those hamburgers as fast as possible and get it over with. The sooner we’re gone, or living in caves again, the sooner The Earth will be a nicer place to be for whatever life is left.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013