I finished Peter Akroyd's Foundation today and started on the second volume of his history, "Tudors". I also finished Caitlin Moran's book of old newspaper columns and TV reviews and moved on to Charlie Brooker's compendium of the same sort of thing, "I Can Make You Hate". All of these books are worth a read, even if four or five year old TV reviews mainly serve to make you realise how ephemeral television is as a medium and how quickly we forget certain actors and most reality stars. Luckily Moran and Brooker are just about witty enough to get away with what might be accused of being filler. Honestly, it's like someone packaging up their ten year old blog and thinking that's interesting enough for people to pay for. The difference for them is that some people actually buy their books!
One of my favourite bits of Akroyd's first history volume was a selection of fourteenth century jokes. Apparently in medieval times a way of flagging up a witty or clever saying was to use the catchphrase, "As Hendyng says". e.g. "as Hendyng says better to give an apple than eat an apple". I have no idea who Hendyng was (as I suspect nor did the people quoting him), but I like it a lot and want to try and bring it back. And I might try. But it does show how catchphrase humour has always been with it. Sorry, as Hendyng says, "It does show that catchphrase humour has always been with us.
There was also a medieval riddle like game called, "Puzzled Balthasar" (again I fucking love that name)- see if you can solve this hundreds of year old quips.
"What is the broadest water and the least danger to walk over?"
It is of course - the dew. Funny, hey? I don't know if I'd open with it.
This one is closer to being a joke, but one I suspect that will he hard for a modern audience to totally identify with.
"What is the cleanest leaf amongst all leaves?" I very much like the unnecessary repetition of leaf there. Just, "what is the cleanest leaf?" would have done, but it's funny to say leaves twice (and one of our early sketches involving the equally repetitive Simon Quinlank revolved around the phrase "What is the biggest leaf?" so some funny things can span the ages.
The answer to the joke is "The holly leaf, for no one will wipe his arse with it."
And this one could be an early Stewart Lee joke, "How many calves' tails can reach from the earth to the sky?"
Give in? The answer is, "no more than one, if it is long enough."
And there's also some Michael Mcintyre style observational comedy. How about this - "An hour's cold will suck out seven years of heat." If you were from 1390 you'd be pissing yourself right now. It was funny because it was true.
Comedy changes, but it stays the same.