Sunday 9th March 2003
The thing I most admire about babies is their ability to be constantly amused by exactly the same “joke” (and I put that in inverted commas, because often the thing that makes a baby laugh has no real humorous value to a grown-up). If human beings only carried this trait on into adulthood then my job would be very easy. All I would have to do is go on stage and sing the one line “I’m Ms Dynamite…ee ee” over and over again and the crowd would be rolling in the aisles. (I mean, what’s the joke there? I don’t think Paddy is laughing at the sophisticated mis-match of supposed and actual gender. It’s more likely that he enjoys the silly way that the “ee ee” sounds. I have to admit, I do do it very well.)
It would certainly save me from the living Hell that is writing a show, but I guess if I chose the wrong initial “joke” then I might be in trouble. What if I sang “I’m Ms Dynamite…ee ee” and the audience just stared at me like I was insane, or worse just not of any interest to them, which is Paddy’s reaction to many of the things that I imagine would make him laugh.
Then I would be stuck with an hour of “I’m Ms Dynamite…ee ee” and no back up material to get me out of it. If everything else about these adults had remained constant from babyhood, then I would have an audience full of crying, screaming, chatting and sleeping people, many of whom had inadvertently pissed themselves (but not in a way that the comedian usually hopes for) and shat themselves and been sick. So rather like my recent gig in Wellingborough then. (I thank you)
My sister bought Paddy a musical book of nursery rhymes for Christmas. As well as having the words and pictures of a nursery rhyme inside, it also has little buttons you can press at the side, which play you the tune of each of the songs in the book. Paddy really likes “Old Macdonald” and has worked out which button plays that song. So what he does is presses the button and then looks at you and expects you to sing the song. Then when you comply he laughs (briefly) and waits for the song to end. Then he immediately presses the button again, looks at you again and expects you to sing the song again. Of course you do it. He’s a baby. You want to please him. It does please him (though not as much as the “Ms Dynamite…ee..ee” thing) and so the second you have finished the song he will press the button again (sometimes in the interim he has crawled a little way away from the book to do something else, but he always returns and hits the right button).
This goes on and on and on.
Like the boy who cried wolf, it is the repetition of the “joke” that makes it more amusing for Paddy.
Very occasionally he presses the wrong button by accident and you get to do “Three Blind Mice”, which is a welcome change for you, but he doesn’t like it as much. It’s not at all funny. Of course not.It's violent and ultimately tragic (it’s not bad enough that these mice can’t see, the farmer’s wife has to cut off their tails as well. What kind of message is that to our children about the plight of the differently abled? “They can’t see? Well cut off their legs as well, that’ll teach them!” – all right the farmer’s wife was provoked, the mice after all, all chased after her, but when you think about it they can’t really have been doing that deliberately can they? Unless she had some cheese in her pocket that they could smell. Then she’s only got herself to blame).
So Paddy’s soon back on the one true path that is “Old Macdonald”.
Steph has had to endure this for a few weeks already and today wearily asked Paddy to stop quite early on, but I was up to the challenge. I am a grown man, he is a tiny baby. I could outlast him in this game. I was going to keep singing “Old Macdonald” until Paddy no longer found it amusing.
It was an old-fashioned “musical nursery rhyme book” stand off.
I had two advantages. Firstly unlike the dire "Three Blind Mice", “Old Macdonald” has an important piece of variety every time you sing it. That’s right. The animal and the sound it makes varies each time. Thus the song is not quite as monotonous and boring to the singer as it might have been.
Secondly, Paddy is a baby and can’t understand English, so some of the time I could just sing “Blah blah blah” and he’d have no idea that he had been duped. The tiny idiot.
I didn't want to use that second option though. I wanted to beat him on a level playing field. I could get through this. I would win.
But I’d done cow, sheep, horse, donkey, dog, cat, chicken, cockerel, goat (though I had to make up a noise for that one, because I wasn’t really sure what goat’s say) and duck and Paddy’s tiny finger was still returning to the Old Macdonald button. I was given some time, Paddy’s finger had slipped and the book was playing a nursery rhyme that I had never heard before (it sounded a bit like “After the Ball is Over”, but it can’t have been that, surely). I said “Sorry, can’t help you there, boy” and tried to think of another animal. I could probably have repeated, he wouldn’t have known, but it was becoming a challenge and it’s not like I’m stupidly competitive or anything, but I had to beat this baby. I’d wipe the delightful smile off his face.
“Pig” said Steph, which I took as a suggestion for the song, as I hope it was intended.
Of course, how could I have forgotten pig.
Far from being unamused, Paddy was laughing more than ever.
I was in trouble. He hit “three blind mice” by mistake. The fool. He’d given me an idea. A farm can have mice and mice go “Eeeek”. I was not to be defeated. I could see Paddy was kicking himself for making the mistake. But he still pressed on.
Surely I’d done the lot now. But I thought of rats and voles and moles and stoats and ferrets. ALl thanks to that mice mistake. Ha ha! But still, I felt I was getting in a bit of an “eeek” rut though that didn’t bother Paddy at all. His hand heading back ever quicker to the button. I thought of tractor. Paddy looked at me dubiously. I admitted I was possibly stretching the rules, but as long as it was on a farm and made a noise I think it counts.
But I’d been stupid. Who was to say that Old Macdonald only had domestic farm animals and traditional vermin? Perhaps Old Macdonald’s many years on this earth had turned him into a loveable eccentric, like Lord Bath, who has a safari park within the grounds of his “farm”. I had every animal in the world to choose from. I laughed at Paddy’s giggling face. I had the upper hand. He’d soon be bored.
Forty-five minutes later, I had got to zebra, which I imagined made a noise a bit like a horse, but with an African accent and Paddy was not remotely disinterested.
I on the other hand was going insane through tedium and was losing my voice. Even if I could have thought of another animal then I couldn’t face having to sing the same bloody song again. But that was what Paddy wanted and expected.
I could only think of dinosaur and I gave it a go, but I knew in my heart that after a life-time’s farming Old Macdonald would not have had time to perfect the technology required for a Jurassic Park style addition to a farm that was already putting Noah’s Ark to shame (though interestingly Old Macdonald only had one of every animal, which must have caused him some problems and made his farm somewhat unprofitable). I was crying into the sofa. But Paddy pressed the button and looked at me. I shouted, “All right, all right, you win. Leave me alone. Stop playing Old Macdonald. I admit it, you are better than me.”
The music stopped and Paddy pressed the button again. “Didn’t you hear me? I said you’ve won.”
Paddy pressed the button again. Maybe he was playing his inability to understand language card. Or maybe there was more to it than that. He pressed the button again.
“Please stop it. I can’t take any more. Please.”
Paddy pressed the button again.
It wasn’t enough for him to have won. He wanted to show me that he could have carried on this test forever. He pressed the button again.
So then Steph took the book and put it upstairs and hid it. She had spotted his one weakness. His inability to walk.
We all have an Achilles Heel. Paddy has Achilles legs.
The room fell silent.
But it didn’t matter. Paddy had proved his superiority. He simply crawled over to his box of toys and played with some squeaking eggs instead.
I wondered if Old Macdonald might have had one of those on his farm.
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