The Lighter Side! Where did funny go?
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The Lighter Side! Where did funny go?

All comedy requires an audience, so until we can congregate in venues and stand-ups aren’t sat down, Brigit Grant we’re stuck with jokes that wouldn’t make it into crackers

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Have you heard the one about the two bubbes bragging about their grandchildren during the pandemic? 

“Mine blows kisses through the window,” said one.“That’s nothing,” said the other. “Mine are so good at social distancing, they won’t even call me.” It’s not a great joke, yet various versions of it appeared in The Scotsman, The New Yorker, Elle and other publications during the festive period with another hackneyed joke about the chicken crossing the road because of ‘fowl’ social distancing.

Actually I improved it by inserting ‘fowl’, but its still a weak gag for a family lunch, particularly when most of the family is isolating elsewhere. 

The truth is, comedy – good or bad – requires an audience, so until we can congregate in venues and stand-ups aren’t sat down, we’re stuck with jokes that wouldn’t make it into crackers. 

Even comedians who use death as a trigger for dark humour can’t spot the wry in rising mortality rates or global unemployment, and if they could they have nowhere to road test their material. 

I was living in New York when 9/11 stopped the laughter and comedy was pushed to the kerb. Wit was unwanted understandably, but comedians know it’s all about timing and audiences were ready when just weeks later Jon Stewart, then host of The Daily Show opened with: “They said get back to work as there are no jobs available for a man in the foetal position crying under his desk.”

That Israelis have hung on to their humour throughout the Covid crises is no surprise as nothing (pogroms, the Holocaust, suicide bombings) is off the table for the irreverent Holy Landers living on red alert. Hence the hilarious video that went viral of Ashkelon mother Shiri Kenigsberg Levi ranting about virtual home schooling and the Fauda spoof on satire show Eretz Nehederet, which had the tough guy combat unit pursuing a tech worker who refuses to quarantine after going abroad.

Shiri Kenigsberg Levi

It’s on YouTube if you missed it, and so is Hollywood’s humour hero Mel Brooks enjoying a window visit from his son Max while delivering a zappy health warning to the nation.

It takes more than leaded fenestration to block Brooks’ banter, just as it takes more than an empty auditorium at JW3 to ambush Ashley Blaker.

Time and again the Orthodox comic has appeared virtually, cracking up home crowds from Hendon to Hull without a tin opener, unlike Jewish American comedian Bill Maher who wants canned laughter in his streamed garden gigs.

In Bill Maher’s garden the laughter is in the can

That Ashley defeated the odds and imagined the giggles is admirable at a time when most comics are on mute and even Michael McIntyre has been forced to work at the BBC fairground. 

Ashley Blaker running on empty

Personally I’m desperate for laughs, but couldn’t find them in South Park’s Pandemic Special as it just wasn’t funny for me.

Perhaps that was the subliminal intention of creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker who couldn’t mask the impact of Covid no matter how many cartoon bats and chin diapers they threw at it.

So I’ll be conserving my chuckles until Ashley Blaker’s series, 6.5 Children, starts in the summer on Radio 4. I just hope laughter doesn’t have a sell-by date.

Show me the funny South Park

Day of Birth

As days become weeks and weeks feel like days, it’s easy to miss significant dates. I had one of those last week, which not only coincided with Joe Biden’s inauguration, but stood out numerically.

My birthday was on 21/21/21, a particularly auspicious day when, at a certain point last Thursday, it was the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.

This was not the case if you follow the Hebrew calendar, but for myself and others it was a once in a lifetime moment that Stephen Fry considered worthy enough to tweet about:

Brigit’s birthday celebration

“21 21 21 21 21 21 21 etc… the smallest vibration in the force and a very loud hoot from a barn owl were the only clear signs of our transition into a new age of post 21-ness But we confidently expect more signs and portents to show themselves..”

If the local owl hooted near my house, I didn’t hear it, as I was receiving balloons from my daughter along with perfect  cupcakes from Junior Bake Off star Maddie Noah (@maddiebakes_1).

My sister also persuaded Zoe Hart at Cake From the Hart to make me a Woody Allen strawberry-filled sponge homage, which I ate while watching Annie Hall.

Gifts from husband, family and good wishes from pals courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg magically halted Covid repetition for 24 hours. And to think I could so easily have missed my 21st! 

 

 

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