Long ago, but not very far away, I was asked to cast my eye over the advertising poster for a youth event organised by my employer, and sponsored by the Queensland Health Department's anti-drug campaign. They wanted a proof-read. The names, location, dates and times were fine, but along the bottom it had a tag.
Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs free.
I burst out laughing, and asked the organisers if they really wanted it to say that. They laughed too, and rang their contact in Queensland Health. Yes, they really did want it to say that. They were baffled. What was the problem? This tag-line went on everything they put out. We laughed some more, and the posters went out as they were.
At the time, I wondered if perhaps I was just a little bit too pedantic. Now, however, I blame my youthful exposure to British television comedy. My parents were big fans of any funny person with a British accent. Political correctness had not yet been invented and so sexism and racism ran riot and it did indeed corrupt me.
We watched Dave Allen, the Irishman who sat in his chair in front of the camera and told jokes, just as if he was sitting in your lounge-room. I remember the one about Rev. Ian Paisley getting more and more excited as he preached hellfire on sinners and Catholics.
"And they will be cast into the outer darkness where there will be great weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."
A little old woman in the front row piped up timidly, "But I don't have any teeth...".
"TEETH WILL BE PROVIDED!"
Allen didn't go in all that much for double meanings but Benny Hill more than made up for it. We watched Hill's show religiously. Lots of it revolved around boobs and buttocks, but his funniest moments involved extremely silly situations leavened by ridiculous puns. Like Ernie, who drove the fastest milk-cart in the west.
She said she'd like to bathe in milk, he said, "All right, sweetheart,"
And when he'd finished work one night he loaded up his cart.
He said, "D'you want it pasturize? 'Cause pasturize is best,"
She says, "Ernie, I'll be happy if it comes up to my chest."
Or the sweet romanticism of "Garden of Love".
Now there’s a beetroot for the day you said that you’d beetroot to me
A sweet pea for the sweet way you always smiled at me
But you had friends who needed you
There was Ferdy, there was Liza
So, just for them, I put down a load of ferdy-liza
The sun and the rain fell from up above
And landed on the earth below
In my garden of love
Or if you can still stand more check out his gig as a German professor lecturing on English culture. But I think his best moment is a few brief seconds where he is embracing a woman in a darkened alley and she asks him passionately, "What is this thing called, love?"
However,this post wasn't really inspired by either of those comedians but by The Two Ronnies, appearing as their alter-egos Big Jim Jehosophat and Fat Belly Jones complete with the worst mimed guitar playing in television history. As well as the glorious "It Blows My Mind" ("And when the wind is blowing from behind..."), they sang a song called "We Knew What She Meant".
She invited the preacher to her house they say
She said, "It's a party, I'm nineteen today.
Ma bought me a dress and a bonnet so cute
So come round and see me in my birthday suit."
We knew what she meant, we knew what she meant
We heard what she said but we knew what she meant.
Take that, Queensland Health!