Getting

grumpy

You having a laugh?’ The catch

phrase of Ricky Gervais’ hopeful but hopeless comic in BBC 2 ’s Extras.

It’s a sure bet that most Britons today aren’t having a laugh. The likely response to the panto season’s query ‘Is Everybody Happy?’ would be a definite ‘No!’ Life is not only ‘real and earnest’ but increasingly miserable.

What is there to laugh about? Yet even during the war-time blitz laughter still rang out. Chalked notices defying Hitler decorated bombed-out shops – ‘always open, no roof.’ ITMA raised belly laughs from folks whose bellies were often empty because of rationing. Comedians such as Arthur Askey and Max Miller agreed with Ben Lyon and Ted Ray on the need ‘To Raise a Laugh.’

Nowadays hearty laughter-inducing comedy is out of fashion. Since the rise of the alternative comedians in the Seventies, it has largely given way to sneering or quasi-political ranting. ‘Having a laugh’ in Little Britain often means laughing at unfortunates who would normally demand compassion, for example, incontinent, confused old women.

Sure, Max Miller laughed at the mother-in-law but he normally also guyed the hen-pecked hubby or the luckless Lothario. All the while he confided in his audience, sharing his experiences with them, for his jokes were grounded in the real world in which they lived, not the world of grotesques that often inhabit modern comedy shows.

Similarly The Two Ronnies talked with their audiences rather than shouted at them and often made themselves the butt of the jokes rather than adopting the superior, hectoring attitude of the modern comedian ‘with attitude.’

The editor of The Catholic Herald recently said that he could never imagine Jesus of Nazareth having a joke. What? A carpenter’s son who spoke about men with planks in their eyes commenting on others with sawdust in theirs was bound to have got a laugh from his audience and been a popular guest at the parties he often attended.

Why do so many Christians find it easier to weep with those who weep rather then rejoice (or laugh) with those who rejoice? ‘You having a

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