Hello folks, here is another ‘legacy’ post (from February 2011) that I was prompted to resurrect by something I read recently. I never thought this column would turn into a book review, but do rush out and read Chris Boardman’s Biography. It’s called ‘Triumphs and Turbulence’, and strikes me as one of those rare biogs that is as interesting to the layman as it is to the expert. In it, Boardman describes perfectly what this post is all about.
‘…as any schoolboy will tell you, there’s something about a situation where mirth is absolutely forbidden that renders even the tiniest spark of it especially dangerous; and once the fire is lit, the flames spread.’
The picture here sums up without words what I love about being a musician. Here you see Roy Eldridge and Lester Young cracking up in a dressing room This was probably some time in the 1950s, but it could just as easily be today. Of course, in some situations laughter is inappropriate. Unfortunately, laughter is no respecter of such situations!
I’ve mentioned many times before in these jottings that no word exists in our language to describe the phenomenon whereby something becomes twice as funny if you’re in a situation where you’re not supposed to laugh.
‘Corpsing’ as it’s known in the trade has caught out many an actor/musician/announcer, as the recorded examples here show. The term comes from when an actor was having to play dead and the rest of the cast would try to make the corpse laugh. Here’s something from James Naughtie to whet your appetite. I think this qualifies both as a Spoonerism and a Freudian slip, but that’s not what I personally find funny; no it’s hearing him struggle on up to the handover to the newsreader that kills me. Check out the first minute or so – corpsing at its best.
As an inveterate giggler I can vouch for how excruciating this can be. I well remember being the only musician visible to the audience of the ‘pit’ band during a school production of ‘Grease’ some years ago. It was a combined staff and students band and, since the two sax parts were pretty boring, by the second night my chum who was playing the other sax was doing his level best to get me going.
During some dialogue, I silently pointed out to my colleague that the sixth form boy on bass guitar had his left forefinger knuckle deep up his hooter. We started to giggle and things deteriorated from there. We had to play a short passage between scenes and the bassist was taken by surprise when the MD gave the upbeat. He whipped his finger out of his nose to play and as we launched into the ‘vamp ‘til ready’ we noticed his finger was still connected to his proboscis by a thick string of snot. This was mucus of the highest quality. Never before had I seen such elasticity!
I was, of course, helpless with mirth but unable to make a sound as the next monologue had already started. I fought it and fought it. I ended up purple-faced with my head between my knees and sweat dripping off my chin. My chum was no help whatsoever. He leant across to me and whispered “Cookie, there’s a gag coming up in the script. Wait ‘til the audience laughs and let it all out in one go.” Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the gag. Very embarrassing, but such pleasurable pain!
And here are a couple of my favourites. If you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, listen to these. I guarantee you’ll be smiling afterwards.
…and on to tv. This remains the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but not for the obvious reason – watch the patient in the dentist’s chair!