My father-in-law is not a man to idle away his retirement years alphabetising his sock drawer or polishing the cat. In fact, he spent the first part of his ‘retirement’ (I use the word loosely) teaching part-time at the roughest school in his area, where one’s ability to teach was secondary to one’s skill in crowd-control. As a result, he became master of the withering one-liner, for when those nine-foot-tall, hormonal, teens tried giving him jip. The meanest class bully soon learned not to push their luck. They might be taller, but he was sharper.
Despite all this, it still came as a little bit of a surprise when he announced that he was off to London to take an intensive stand-up comedy course. “Are you sure?” we asked him.
He was sure.
He’s several weeks in to the course, now, and we (the Stoic Spouse, the twinnage, and I) went to Essex to stay with him last weekend. He wanted some help with his course homework whilst we were there.
Naturally, I took yarn, but you’d doubtless guessed that already.
(I’m crocheting small rounds in all the Stylecraft Special DK shades, to make colour-planning easier for future projects.)
It was pretty, in south Essex:-
But however far our feet wandered, the conversation never strayed very much from the serious matter of jokes.
This week’s homework was tough. Father-in-law (hitherto known here as the Gregarious Grandfather, but I still think we need a better name for him) was tasked with writing and delivering three minutes of LOL-worthy (even ROFL-worthy) humour in the form of one-liners. Yikes. We’ve all got our different strengths, and I’d like to hope that this blog raises the occasional half-smile, but one-liners are not my forte. If you want thousand-word, rambling anecdotes about the time when my knitting got caught in the top of a famous industrialist’s favourite fig tree, with a side-reference to the curious history of commercial marmalade production, then FORM A QUEUE BECAUSE I’M YOUR WOMAN. But snappy witticisms? Sorry people, I got nothin’.
We walked and walked, we consulted books, and we consulted the wine bottle. (Remember that quote misattributed to Hemingway: ‘Write drunk, edit sober’?) None of it helped all that much.
By Sunday morning, you could see father-in-law longing for a funnier calibre of son/daughter-in-law. The twinnage tried to help in their sweet way, but at the age of seven, their home-made jokes can best be categorised as surrealist.
Still, the view was nice.
And I finished my crocheted rounds, because it’s good to have an easy task for your hands whilst your mind is hard at work.
Imagine the scene, though: three grown adults pacing the house, muttering speculatively to themselves about current affairs, and well-known phrases, indeed anything that could possibly be shoe-horned into a joke. We did come up with a few ideas, but do you realize quite how terrifyingly long three minutes actually is? I swear that entire empires have risen and fallen in less time.
When it came for my father-in-law to wave us all off on Sunday afternoon, I feared that it was with some disappointment at our comedic failings. But mere hours before he was due on stage, help came from an unexpected quarter. My brother-in-law is a quiet man, the very last person who’d ever snatch the microphone to bellow ‘Did you hear the one about…’ But it turns out that he has a hitherto secret ability to write short jokes.
So by the time that father-in-law stepped up on-stage last night, he was armed with a decent repertoire of funnies. Some of them were his, some of them were ours, but a very large proportion were thanks to brother-in-law. Want to know how it went? Well I’ve just listened to a recording of the evening, and his performance went down a storm. Phew!
I don’t yet know what this week’s homework involves. I can only hope that it’s to write a long, rambling anecdote about one’s knitting getting stuck in a famous industrialist’s tree, in which case I’ll be first in the queue to offer assistance…