It’s no laughing matter

I have just  returned to the office after one of those random encounters where a group of male codgers coalesced around coffee.

One had recently returned to our shores after 25 years in the UK. He was asked if he thought our sense of humour had improved since he left.  No was his quick reply. Oh dear. That opened up a whole discussion referencing Graham Norton, Jeremy Clarkson, Miranda Hart, Bill Bailey, Billy Connolly, Dave Armstrong, Tom Scott and Australia.

It was generally agreed that we are not funny enough as a people. The Irish and the Jewish are kilometres ahead of us. What is wrong with us we asked?

We tend to be reserved, politically correct, overly respectful of authority and we embarrass easily. Laughter may be the best medicine, as they say, but Pharmac doesn’t supply it.

Billy Connolly has his biggest audiences per capita in New Zealand because office workers pay serious money to be legally offended, that is to hear language not permitted in their workplace. Back home in Glasgow, Billy is just another one of the funny lads, hardly worth paying to see.

Graham Norton though is paid a million pounds a year by the English to make his audience laugh.

Our impromptu group of experts  thought that we Kiwis are not particularly happy in these  uncertain times and we seriously need to ‘lighten up’

Some of our insecurities  were  noted .

  • Offence is taken too quickly. We are very thin-skinned .
  • We tend toward  politeness and deferential  behaviour rather than honestly expressing our feelings.
  • The behaviour of men at dinner parties tends to be controlled by their wives. Aquiescence is no substitute for lively debate.
  • Our drinking culture is based on slurping rather than sipping.
  • We binge drink perhaps to throw off our suffocating repressions.
  • Our dislike of Australia. Why do we say our cousins across the ditch are arrogant, when they see themselves merely as confident
  • Our public (television and stand-up comedy ) humour tends to be driven by bodily functions,  rather than by subtlety, situational juxtapositions  or word play.
  • We tend to seek comfort in social groupings. We seem uncomfortable with individuality. The only difference between the Kelburn Ladies Bowling Club and the Mongrel Mob, is the level of violence.
  • Our art and film-making errs on the dark side.

I have always taught my kids to ask questions. This has not led them into either rebellious or anarchic behaviour, but rather imbued them with an infectious sense of humour. If humour is a natural hormone affecting most human behaviour, then I hope we get more infected .

It was a decent coffee and an even more decent conversation this morning.

I must get Sam Neil’s ‘Cinema of Unease’ out of Aro Video.