The second secret of comedy

Warning: Nothing gaming related about this post at all.

Recently a twitter dialogue with Eric Idle reminded me of an incident in my youth in which I was lucky enough to meet Neil Innes. For those not familiar with him, he is a performer who worked with Monty Python in the late 60s and early 70s. for some reason, which I am at a loss to understand, Neil actually appeared as a special guest at my high-school when I was in grade 9. What desperate circumstances lead him to be travelling in Northern BC lecturing on satire to high-school students I was never able to discern but, luckily for me, appear he did and my English class was privileged to listen to him.

Neil started his talk with a discussion of who he was and some of his work history. He then asked us if we knew “what was behind all Monty Python skits?”. Being the smart-ass that I was, and am, I said “sets”.

Everyone, Neil Innes included, thought that I had said “sex” and I got a hearty round of laughter and an appreciative comment from Neil. He had, inadvertently, taught me the second most important lesson of comedy, if the audience misunderstands you and you get a laugh, don’t correct them.

The first lesson of comedy is to not call members of your audience n*****s.

This lesson came to mind recently when I was involved in a twitter discussion with Eric Idle. It started out with Mr. Idle making a quip about string theory. I actually have a fondness for physics and replied back about the actual length of a string in superstring theory.

The remainder of the conversation had me feeling like Lou Costello on stage with Bud Abbott. This is a danger when entering into a discussion with witty people. I asked Eric if there was a tradition of straight men in English comedy. Ads you can imagine, Eric turned the comment around and suggested that they were all in fact gay. Hardly surprising as the average English comedian will try to turn any joke to transvestism or sodomy.

What was surprising was that people favourites my comment and not Eric’s response. The second rule of comedy was in effect again. I, naturally, didn’t take the opportunity to correct people’s misunderstanding.

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