Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dave's Joke of the Fringe

Darren Walsh has won "Dave's Joke of the Fringe" for this joke:

"I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It's Hans free."

I'm not a big fan of jokes, though you'll often hear me laugh at a pun, and Darren has many. I don't know of any comedian who thinks that it is logical to rank individual lines in order of funniness. Every performer is unique, and every performance is a one-off. And every performance is experienced differently by every person present. But there are moments when in spite of all this audiences become united, and for an instant an illusion of shared reality is sustained for the duration of a burst of communal laughter. How that happens is an actual miracle, nothing short of magic. 

Like the review star system, "Dave's Joke of the Fringe" is an attempt to suck all the magic, wonder and joy out of the experience of comedy, and to reduce it to an abstraction of craftsmanship, a formula for gags, a list of comedy sentences. What is the motivation for the existence of "Dave's Joke of the Fringe", aside from a publicity stunt? I think it is fear: fear that something might exist in laughter that is impossible to quantify, something ineffable and weird. To admit it exists is to admit that our shared reality rests on immaterial foundations.

Darren Walsh's joke works, because Darren Walsh works, and he deserves to be celebrated. He works conspicuously harder than most comedians. The joke works because only he can deliver it in the way he delivers it, at the moment he delivers it, in that instant that becomes memorable in the light of the audience, who light up in recognition of it.

My favourite Darren Walsh joke is this:

"I was in an Indian restaurant eating a curry when I got some surprise bad news: my naan had slipped into a korma."

Darren tells it better.

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