GLUMNESS settles on a large part of the nation whenever the subject of comedy comes up now. The lockdown has led to a more frenetic search for entertainment, and the current state of humour hasn’t wanted for critics. This week, Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson, 80, said it was dire, and listed several comedians, adding: “They should be done under the Trade Description Act.”

I sympathised with his assessment, while also feeling there were a few comedians today who are as fine as any of previous generations.

Milton Jones, for example, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 4 that I heartily recommend. I don’t like quoting too many jokes (spoilers, in a way), but here’s one example.

“My business floated last week.”

“You’re probably just not eating enough fibre.”

Think I ruined it by not telling it properly. It’s all in the timing. At the current time, incidentally, Radio 4 has been better of late, precisely because, with the coronavirus affecting production, it’s been utilising its archives.

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In the last couple of years, it’s become an excruciating repository of wokeness, with programme after programme majoring on political correctness and identity politics. It’s been relentless

It is, literally, propaganda, but achieved through process, a sort of osmosis, rather than needing a specific identifiable State Department of Comedy and Entertainment, though that can’t be far off, particularly in Scotland.

Talking of Scotia, Frankie Boyle is laugh-out-loud funny, being blessed with a fantastic imagination. People underestimate how clever and creative he is. You can cavil at some of his more wince-making subjects (including poor, defenceless targets like newspapers), or be dismayed by the fact that he seems uber-woke, but there’s no denying he’s a comedy genius.

Mark Steel, another contemporary communist, is also very funny, so I don’t think all is lost. That said, I’ve found myself delving into the past for comedic solace recently.

I remain a big fan of Alexei Sayle, another communist, regrettably enough, and can at least quote a couple of his jokes from the past (relatively recent), such as his observation that austerity was based on the assumption that the economy could only be fixed by closing Wolverhampton public library.

Or there was his line about the Universal Credit authorities saying someone dying in a doorway could have got a job as a draught excluder.

I’ve also been watching the late and lovely Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies, with its splendid characterisations of Lancashire folk (salt of the Earth, in my view), my favourite being Stan the repair man. Had he never married? “No, ah like to keep me spanners in the livin’ room.”

Or his chat-up line: “Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it, I wondered if you’d consider having some sort of sex wi’ me.”

The search for joy in comedy has taken on greater desperation while we’re all Home Alone. But home, surely, is where we always got most of our comedy.

I’d never dream of attending a “comedy club”, and also eschew larger venues as I cannot relax enough to laugh out loud in public, except when with my mates in the pub (a pub, children, is a place where nice people used to go to be happy).

I ought to come up with a punchline here but can’t think of one and can only say that, all joking aside, and speaking as a communist myself, I think there’s still a lot of good comedy around.

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Noises off

YOU’VE got to laugh. I certainly did, on this occasion at yet more research purporting to show that the garden is good for your psychological wellbeing.

You’re having a you-know-what. You’re lucky if you get 15 quiet minutes before the high-pitched DIY drills and horticultural ordnance starts up. The garden is now the last place I go to for peace and quiet.

For peace of mind, you’d be better off walking down Leith Walk or the Great Western Road. The constant, soothing drone of traffic is infinitely preferable to that awful moment that always occurs shortly after you’ve just sat down in the garden with a glass of lemonade* and a good book.

A light breeze ruffles the foliage of the trees. A blackbird sings intermittently. A dove coos. It’s very pleasant.

Then the high-pitched whine starts up and cuts through everything, the very air shaking above the supposed havens of peace outside your back door.

I’m starting to think that there’s something macho in all this too. If one person (man, generally) starts a racket, someone else will come out to start a bigger one. And, as ever, the formula holds: the bigger the equipment, the smaller the private parts.

While I’m having a horticultural moan, leave enough height on your grass for the daisies, buttercups and bees. In line with the buzzcuts of Brutal Britain’s heids, lawns in this country are scalped to within a millimetre of their lives, presumably to lessen the need to do them again quickly, since you bought a house with a garden but hate gardening.

No offence, but you really are the most peculiar species. I cannot begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to returning to my own planet.

* The names of some drinks have been changed in this article.

Two’s a crowd

HOW I sympathised with the older gentlemen who complained in the pages of this newspaper about young couples, in particular, who refuse to go into single file when approaching others using a narrow path or pavement.

I don’t understand this. Do they think they can just breenge into you like a collective tank? This sort of behaviour was bad enough before the coronavirus but is particularly reprehensible now.

On greenways and urban paths, and in city parks, the vast majority of complaints have cited cyclists and joggers. But nobody expected any better of these self-regarding narcissi.

Young couples on foot, and perhaps even in love, ought to be in a better frame of mind than the usual sweat-scattering bullies and fops. They should be full of the joys of life. They should be nice. They should be considerate.

We all wish them well. But, soon, we’ll be wishing they were imprisoned, or at least given on-the-spot fines, if they persist in their pathway truculence. One can only hope that, after this nightmare ends, the new Post-Viral Order will inaugurate compulsory classes in Decency and Manners for all citizens.

Lego my ear

LIKE most people who grew up to be decent citizens, I deplored both Lego and Meccano as a child. To me, these seemed pointless exercises for sprogs with cogs for brains.

I was similarly appalled by jigsaws. Why take a perfectly good picture and break it into pieces solely for the purpose of reassembling it?

Sadly, I was never in a position to campaign for abolition of these practices. If I complained about having a Lego set bunged at me for Christmas, Father would say: “Shut up, you.” Mother would intervene, saying: “Don’t speak to him like that, Robert Senior. He’s peculiar. I mean sensitive.”

Press photies this week showed former football star David Beckham proudly posing with a Lego model of Hogwarts Castle that he’d built. It was disgraceful.

Like me, Gandalf the wizard deplored breaking things into pieces only to reassemble them, saying: “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

In adolescence, I showed these words to Father but, in a surprisingly deft movement, he reached forward and twisted my ear immoderately.

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