Pretty much every week, a reader will write into the Metro to tell me that I need my head tested (it only really hurts when those people are UKIP voters: I mean, the cheek of it!). So this month I decided to act on your advice and get my brain thoroughly scanned. If we could locate the membrane in which I am insane then maybe something could be done for me.
I was taking part in an experiment conducted by the Experimental Psychology Department of University College, London who hoped to determine what differentiates fluent professional public speakers like me from the rest of you tangle-tongued, cloth-mouthed dolts who can barely string two words together if anyone is watching.
I was secretly hoping they would discover that I had some additional section in my brain that enabled me to be so very funny. I am not saying that I am the next step in human evolution, that is for science to decide.
I found myself being strapped into an MRI machine in a cold basement by some men I didn’t know and then being asked to play a solo version of “Just A Minute” keeping perfectly still so as not to blur the image.
At least that’s what they told me. If I know anything from watching sitcoms it is that all psychological experiments pretend to be probing one thing, when in reality they are testing something else, like the limitations of patience or your capacity to give people life threatening electric shocks. For some reason I felt suspicious of these strangers who had lured me to a basement with the promise of a ten-pound fee and then imprisoned me inside a massive magnet.
I got through the somewhat claustrophobic 45 minute test by pretending I was in Total Recall and I was about to go on holiday to Mars. Then that freaked me out, because I realised that I might actually be someone else entirely and Richard Herring was a constructed fantasy character in a weirdly unambitious dream vacation for people who want to experience what it is like to be a journeyman stand-up comedian and weekly columnist in a rubbish free newspaper?
I had to do 30-second bursts of talking about a subject that was presented to me on a screen. I was meant to try to avoid repetition, hesitation and deviation, but would not be penalised for mistakes. If I’d been them I would definitely have included an electric shock for errors, otherwise, what’s the point? (and what kind of psychology experiment has absolutely no electric shocks in it?) In between, to see how my brain functioned in more restful circumstances I had to count upwards from a displayed number for 30 seconds. I actually found this a lot harder than improvising. A couple of times I got to 79 and very nearly jumped to 90. It’s been a long time since I’ve counted upwards for no reason and it’s easy to forget some of the numbers. Was this the real test? To see if a middle-aged man could still count?
Afterwards they showed me cross section of my brain. It has some holes in it, but apparently they’re meant to be there. They said my brain looked young (which doesn’t explain why I keep forgetting the names of people I know) but just looked at me weirdly when I asked if there was anything extraordinary or unexpected (so I assume there was).
My brain was beautiful. It’s definitely my second favourite bodily organ. After my skin, without which all my other organs would just fall out.
I am very sad that Leonard Nimoy has died. Though given the number of people incorrectly calling his character Dr Spock, it’s probably fortunate for Benjamin Spock’s family that the paediatrician predeceased Nimoy. @listsofnote on Twitter revealed that the Star Trek creators had considered giving every citizen of Vulcan a 5 letter name that began with Sp and ended in K.
I would have given anything to play Doctor Spunk.