Legally, it’s difficult to specify the boundaries, confines and parameters of a joke, especially one you think is private. We almost enter into a social contract of trust, an understanding that you know I don’t mean what I say, it’s just a joke, some banter. It’s often just an attempt to lighten the situation, to relax tension.
While telling a private joke to like minded colleagues, we enter into areas we normally wouldn’t dare to tread. One of the most important aspects in any piece of comedy, is context. Context is everything. For the sake of laughter we are allowed to meander off into more shocking territory. One that can include racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, bestiality, homophobia, disability and if you’ve got a really good joke, all of the above.
The true intent isn’t really to hurt your sensibilities. If they are hurt, they probably deserve to be. The real goal and desire is to get the laugh. It’s all done with the understanding that you’re mature enough to appreciate it’s a joke and the structure of a joke means I need to maybe seem racist, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, (all of the previous in the correct tense) for it to work and it’s normally always done within context. You wouldn’t randomly tell an overtly sick joke to a stranger in a checkout queue or a tosser on the train who has never been near a mountain or a hill, with a huge piss-addled rucksack that keeps hitting you in the face. (Though as I write, I’m thinking that might be fun, not the rucksack in the face, the chance to wind them up).
Something which has really irritated, in fact infuriated me over the General Election campaign has been David Cameron holding up the ‘no money‘ note from the previous incumbents in the treasury saying, ‘I’m afraid there is no money’. He’s held it up everywhere on the election campaign and hasn’t been challenged over it. He even used it during the ITV leaders’ debate. Cameron has taken a friendly, humorous note and given it a Machiavellian twist, a dose of pious self-righteousness. He holds it up to other pious self-righteous idiots watching and they believe it too, he’s deliberately taken the line out of context. There were hundreds of billions of pounds left, (truth, not a lie) which Cameron went on to spend like a lotto lout.
He holds up the note (which is a lie) appealing to people who don’t understand it’s a private joke to a new colleague taking over your old job. The note was left by Labour’s Liam Byrne to his successor, David Laws, who took the high moral ground and decided to go public with a private note. Yes, there would be a huge deficit but there was plenty of money and with David Laws there would be irony. He became infamous for having the briefest cabinet career in parliamentary history. You may recall he was responsible for the first major plot twist in the newly formed coalition. The honeymoon was quickly over and he was replaced by Danny Alexander. Laws had been appointed with the task of cutting a £156bn deficit and was forced to resign following revelations over his expenses. £40,000 claimed while he lived in his partner’s house. (Truth)
Liam Byrne should just stand up and hold a note that says ‘I’m so sorry you’re not intelligent enough to understand sarcasm, but there’s loads left. Hundreds of billions, under the floorboards, behind the filing cabinet and up my arse.’
We live in a political climate where critical thinking is anathema and intelligence is stifled. When leaders are advised not take on their rivals in a TV debate. Where their strategists see a boring, safe, a gaff-free TV appearance as a successful performance.
Cameron knows how fragmented the marginal seats in England are with Labour. He is desperate and no doubt under the tutelage of his political strategist, Aussie ‘master of the dark political arts’ and ‘the Wizard of Oz’ Lynton Crosby looking for anything to seal a win. Cameron paid £500K to ensure Crosby would deliver victory in the 2015 General Election. At that price he is willing to hold up anything, in this case a note (a lie- there was loads of money, from a note provided by a someone who lied and had to resign in shame over their expenses; the truth). His dark political arts stratagem thus far has been along the lines of (adopts clichéd beer swilling Aussie V/O) ‘here, Dave, mate…you’d look more fiendishly evil and wicked if you took off your jacket, rolled up your sleeves and held up that note mate’. (A lie). Happy voting.