Letter: How dare you laugh

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Sir,

Perhaps you shouldn’t read this. It might make you laugh.

Somewhere along the line, in the last five or six years, the world seems to have developed a serious crack in its funny bone.

And I do mean serious, no crack intended.

And there I go again, being flippant, trying to raise a smile in one or two readers, even if it might resemble a risus sardonicus. (It’s how people on Sardinia used to grin, that’s why.)

It’s a congenital condition – like my idiocy, claims my wife– that ever since I was young I made outrageous statements and people would say to me: ‘You can’t be serious.’ ‘Not on a regular basis, no,’ was my usual reply.

For the greater part of my 70-odd years, while laughter was still an acceptable knee-jerk reaction to almost anything, I prospered, in a vaguely penniless way, as a freelance writer of would-be humorous journalism.

Nothing too fancy, no slipping on banana skins, but not rocket science either.  (Although the rotation of the Earth really makes my day.)

In retrospect, I see now that my humour wasn’t serious enough. It had no underlying message.  It had no sociological content.  It was not of the variety that allowed people to feel wise, nod wisely, and say something wise, like: ‘Very wise…’

The mistakes of the past – of my past – included trying to make people lose control and laugh aloud, rather than just being able to smirk knowingly at my cleverness, if I ever was.

We live in a much more buttoned-up, uptight and insecure society than we used to (do you feel my sociological message approaching?) and it has affected the sort of things we feel we are permitted to laugh at, or not permitted to laugh at.

Scorn and ridicule can no longer be directed at certain people with impunity – the dishonourable exception being bankers and politicians, of course, who are still fair game, and rightly so, even if out on bail and technically innocent because they haven’t been charged yet.

But when did you last hear a blitz of jokes from a television comedian about a small, ethnic, obese, female bishop, even if she was his mother-in-law?

Don’t worry, the news isn’t all bad, and I can report that sometimes outbreaks of laughter can occur in the most unusual places – Dundee, for example – and at the most unexpected times.

Not long ago I saw a funeral procession led by a slow-marching, black-suited chaplain who was laughing his head off as he walked along in front of the hearse.

As I watched in amazement, his happy demeanour began to affect his slow progress, which became a sprightly strut, and it seemed at any moment he might twirl his top hat in his hands, or even produce a rabbit from it.

Only when I caught sight of the wireless device attached to his ear did I guess he was probably listening to dance music on a radio earbud. Death is no respecter of parsons.

Let’s hope the worst extremes of political correctness will gradually fade away, as common sense brings a return to humorous nonsense, and seriousness wilts in the face of jocularity.

A life without laughter?

You must be joking.

David Aitken,

Dundee.

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