Lockdown hasn’t been a barrel of laughs. Every day, The News has been dominated by depressing statistics of death and disease, and scenes of over-stretched hospital wards. Nevertheless, the BBC News at Ten still often tries to end its broadcast with a more light-hearted story, so that it doesn’t send the nation to its beds feeling overly despondent. So, in recent weeks, we’ve had the story of the Texan lawyer saying “I am not a cat” after getting stuck in a Zoom filter; the 116-year old French nun who beat Covid; and the blind fox who lives with a dog and a deer in a house in Nuneaton. And then we’ve had the viral phenomenon, which is the Handforth Parish Council meeting.
Footage of the chaotic online meeting of the Handforth Parish Council has been shared countless times on social media, presumably because it is considered so riotously funny that it will lift the spirits of the nation. For me, the footage has precisely the opposite effect. Rather than view this incident in comic isolation, I believe that it is simply a depressingly bog-standard representation of the petty-minded bureaucracy and bullying local tyrants that plague local councils up and down the country.
And now we’ve had Handforth Parish Council, the sequel. A similarly dispiriting re-run, this time with the added irritation that the council members are more knowing; all too aware of their brief moment of celebrity, like a gauche participant on Gogglebox or a later series of Big Brother.
But perhaps this is what lockdown has done for us: without the regular rough-and-tumble banter of daily social interaction, our idea of what we think is funny has been dumbed-down?
For me, the corner-stone of humour in British society is the pub. It is the place where friends meet to chat and joke and share stories. It is where you go to josh and be joshed. It is the place where everything is funny after three pints, even when it is not; God knows, maybe even the Handforth Parish Council meeting could be funny after three pints.
The pub is the place where I find most humour in life, and I normally spend my time in the pub entirely on my own.
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue shares a private joke with herself.