Ask any nubile young girl as to what one redeeming quality she would want in a man if she were to marry him. Her answer usually is: Sense of humour. This is usually a lie.
I base my observation on two irrefutable facts:
1) Leonardo Di Caprio. As far as I know, he is among the most drooled over young stars. But I don’t remember he ever having exhibited his sense of humour, unless otherwise you include his hairstyle, which is a bit of joke.
2) I have been writing what I believe to be humour. Okay, agreed it may be of a very tame variety. But still, not even a tame girl has approached me with any kind of proposal, if you get my drift. The only women who call me are bored tele-callers, proposing to offer bank loans at interest rates that, well, only Di Caprio can afford.
Another misconception about humour writers is that they are usually tall, dark and handsome. At least, I am not (I am handsome, tall and dark). ‘Okay, where is Mr Balakumar?’, ‘Oh, Bala hasn’t come with you’, ‘We suppose Bala is caught in a meeting and hence you have come…’ are generally the gist of lines that greet me at whatever function they invite me to, based on the premise that being a humour writer that I will have that one defining quality of a truly funny man: Good looks. And when I tell them that I am indeed the ‘Mr Bala’ they are waiting for, they generally break out into a heavy, hearty laughter, which I understand to be fully bogus much like the wholesome happiness we exude when the neighbour’s kid comes first in the IIT exam.
Also, to all those who believe that humour writers make for witty speakers, I must point out that just because its egg shell is not black, the crow doesn’t become any whiter. Just catch hold of the recordings of the couple of humour club meetings to which I was invited as a guest speaker, you will figure out that what I say is indeed true: That is, crows are indeed black, as they were the only things fluttering around with any kind of enthusiasm at the meeting venue.
The members of the club, to be fair, had come well prepared; ready to guffaw, even if I were to possibly recite the multiplication tables in some random order. It’s just that I couldn’t come up with even that.
Humour club meetings, it should be pointed out here, work on a well-honed formula: People laugh all the time, while someone, in the gap between two laughters, say something that is generally deemed to be a joke because what ensues is, well, laughter. There is always a sense of pandemonium and chaos at humour club meets. In that, it’s a Parliament session, but not totally useless or devoid of purpose.
But even here I managed to create a record of sorts, when people stopped laughing and began to sport the look that seemed to suggest that they were attending a convention of Amway representatives (A multi-level-marketing meet is actually no different from a humour club conference, except that here jokes are not treated as jokes, as they form the company’s core philosophy). Sensing the reaction of the crowd, I tried feebly that real humour goes beyond merely recounting a joke. The crowd chuckled heartily. They thought this was the only good joke that I had made all that evening.
Anyway, luckily for me, there was another guest speaker at the same meeting, and he more than compensated for my shortcomings as he reeled out one joke after another after another after another, till everyone exhausted all the laughter that they had come tanked up for the evening.
After these experiences with me, the two humour clubs did the best thing in the circumstances: They winded up their operations and started an MLM company.
The point I am trying to get across is that it’s difficult for a humour writer, especially if he is me, to be equally witty in his speech. But I would like to think that it’s equally hard for screen comedians and performers of fun to be similarly amusing in print.
I bet the Tamil film comedian Vadivelu can barely come up with his version of a humour column, especially because it is impossible on paper to get physically beaten by everyone, which I believe constitutes his entire oeuvre. Also, it’s equally impossible to conceive on paper the biggest tool that makes it clear that you’re watching comedy sit-com on TV: Canned laughter.
Ok, there are a few stand-up comedians who are turning in some wonderful humour pieces for publications. I assure you they are writers first, who know that they will be accepted as stand-up comedians because they operate in locations where liquor is available in abundance.
As a rule, spirited liquids work wonders on your sense of humour. Try this at your home: Have a peg or two and then attempt to read Cranks Corner.
One, you may find it humorous.
Two, you may even begin to think that I seem like Di Caprio.