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"I fail to see the humour"

These words were spoken by the late and great Walter Matthau in the film The Odd Couple. I love this line - spoken in a comedy - which has never failed to make me laugh. I need humour in my life because I am a very serious person. Anxious. My love affair with comedy and comedians began when my father introduced me* to Hancock's Half Hour, (the television series). The Radio Ham, The Missing Page and The Blood Donor are, even now after 50 years, among the funniest TV programmes I have ever seen.
On this page, I am collecting some of my favourite comedy one liners and stories.

* The 'introduction' was more of a sharing of something he liked than anything promoted for me. My father never pushed his children into anything, but in his last years he seemed to like nothing better than to retell me a story of what Bertie had been up to that morning in Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street tales in The Scotsman newspaper.


What's Another Word for Thesaurus?
A favourite from more recent times is the amazing STEVEN WRIGHT. An American, he is rarely bettered at the thought-provoking one-liner. 
His British equivalent is Tim Vine, who has twice won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2010 it was "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again". In 2014, he won with "I decided to sell my Hoover... well it was just collecting dust."
Wright has a seemingly back-to-front, inside-out and surreal view of the world, of which he says' "What I like about the jokes, to me it's a lot of logic, no matter how crazy they are. It has to make absolute sense, or it won't be funny."
Not all his one-liners make you laugh; instead inspiring an 'I need to think about that', which verges on the philosophical with the philosophy taken out. Here are a few examples...
  • When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, 'Did you sleep good?' I said 'No, I made a few mistakes.'
  • There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
  • A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths.
  • Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories.  
  • Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.
  • I intend to live forever. So far, so good.
  • I bought some instant water one time but I didn't know what to add to it.
  • Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen.
  • I went to a general store but they wouldn't let me buy anything specific.
  • If I ever had twins, I'd use one for parts.
  • If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?
  • I have an existential map. It has 'You are here' written all over it.
I like that.


"A pint? Have you gone raving mad?"

TONY HANCOCK. These quotes are taken from a list compiled by The Telegraph, and forms a good idea of the Hancock persona.
    The Blood Donor starred Tony Hancock
  1. "A pint? Have you gone raving mad? I mean, I came here in all good faith, to help my country. I don't mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint? Why, that's very nearly an armful."
  2. "This radio lark's a wonderful hobby, y'know. I've got friends all over the world, all over the world . . . none in this country, but friends all over the world."
  3. "It's a waste of time me reading, I can never remember anything. I've got too much on my mind, you see, nuclear warfare, the future of mankind, China, Spurs."
  4. "That was a lucky escape! I nearly got sucked into a social whirlpool there, diverted from my lofty ideals into a life of debauchery! The flesh-pots of West London have been cheated of another victim! Eve has proffered the apple and Adam has slung it straight back at her!"
  5. "I don't want any publicity – you get too many begging letters. If they're anything like the ones I send out I don't want to know!"
  6. "Give me a frothy coffee without the froth."
  7. "I turned my deficiencies into a workable thing, if you understand what I mean." 
  8. Mrs Crevatte: What's this 'orrible thing? Hancock: That, is a self-portrait. Mrs Crevatte: Who of? Hancock: Laurel and Hardy!
  9. "Ladies and gentlemen, I shall now bid you all good day. I'm off! I know what I was cut out to do and I should have done it long ago. You're all raving mad! None of you know what you're looking at. You wait 'til I'm dead, you'll see I was right!
  10. "Hypochondria is the only illness I don’t have.
  11. "I'm not a Method actor! I don't run around the studio scratching myself."  
  12. "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain? Brave Hungarian peasant girl who forced King John to sign the pledge at Runnymede and close the boozers at half past ten! Is all this to be forgotten?"
  13. "It's red hot, mate. I hate to think of this sort of book getting in the wrong hands. As soon as I've finished this, I shall recommend they ban it."
  14. "Am I sought out at parties? No, sorted out sometimes, then slung out."
  15. "Watch it mate, or I'll have you, with a punch up the bracket."
  16. "I don't know whether it's possible to be nostalgic for a time that didn't exist, but I think I am."
  17. "To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"
  18. "Culture, mate, that’s where the hope of the world lies. And a more cultural mob than us you wouldn’t find outside the Chelsea Embankment."
  19. "Look at this China Dog. A family heirloom. Intrinsic sentimental value, this. It was my mother's. Clacton's Fairground, 1926. She struck three darts in the six of diamonds without batting an eyelid. And Drunk, I might add. A feat unequalled by the rest of the coach outing."
  20. "Stone me, what a life!"      
The Rebel, 1961, starred Tony Hancock"Stone me, what a life!" A phrase that was often the cry of Tony Hancock's character. He died on June 24, 1968, in Australia, where he was making a 13-part TV series called Hancock Down Under. He had completed only three programmes before he committed suicide by an overdose of drugs in Sydney, aged 44. In his suicide note he wrote "things just seemed to go too wrong too many times." Fellow comedian Spike Milligan said of Hancock that "he ended up on his own. I thought, he's got rid of everybody else, he's going to get rid of himself and he did." (The Telegraph)

For many years, I championed the cause of Hancock's films - The Punch and Judy Man and The Rebel. Never seemingly much appreciated by critics, I loved them uncritically and still do, although i have not seen them in a while. Quote 9 comes from The Rebel. They have their faults - largely to do with fitting the Hancock character into a big screen role, when the half hour sitcom format was ideal. However, they were far from failures at least in the UK, where Hancock received a BAFTA award for Most Promising Newcomer.
Another quote from The Rebel is:
Mrs. Crevatte; Here, have you been having models up here - have there been naked women in my establishment? 
Hancock; Of course there haven't. I can't afford thirty-bob an hour. I did that from memory. That is women as I see them.
Mrs. Crevatte; Oh! ... You poor man!
Both films are minor classics of British Film comedy of the 1960's.


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