Recent scribblings on this blog and others have touched upon Les Dawson - though not in a “bad” way - and made me realise how much I miss the man. If you don’t know, Les was a very fat comedian from the North of England. Lugubrious (a word which may almost mean “very fat and from the North”) was a common description of him. When they could get him sober enough he stood on a stage and told jokes. (Though he also wrote novels, apparently, and was a fine connoisseur of language). He wasn’t considered exactly a modern comedian but I had a secret regard for him, based mainly on the fact that the worse his jokes were – and oh they could be bad – the funnier he was. I thought: anyone who can make me laugh by standing still on a stage telling crap jokes must be a genius. I think it was something to do with the pauses. But, and here’s the important issue now, I paid scant attention to the content of his humour, the staple of which was The Mother-In-Law Joke. Examples:
I wouldn’t say my mother-in-law was fat, but when she got run over the driver said although he had enough time to drive around her he didn't know if he had enough petrol.
I took my mother-in-law to Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors, and one of the attendants said, “Keep her moving sir, we're stock-taking”.
My mother-in-law said “When you die I’m going to dance on your grave!”. “Good”, I said, “I’m being buried at sea!”
Is it coming back to you?? It’s relevant as I’ve had a bit of friction with my own mother-in-law, a fine woman with whom I usually get along famously. It’s all my fault. After all, she survived and kept a family clothed and fed through 30 years of Nicolae “The Genius of the Carpathians” Ceauşescu & co. And I’m just a ponce. I may technically be in the right - “blah..blah..blah” - but in all other respects... I’m still (comparatively) a ponce. I pledged not to wash my dirty laundry in public, but maybe I’d have been better prepared if I’d listened to Les. When I peered at him on the TV screen back in the 70s from under my Brian Connolly fringe his wisdom was wasted on me. In fact, I was the teenager that mothers of girlfriends warm to: nervous, vulnerable, but, crucially, giving off the slight suggestion that in another life I’d have found them as attractive as their spotty, specky daughters. The naivety of youth - I must have thought I could handle women. My mother-in-law and I have more than made up now, and our bond is all the stronger. As it turns out, Les was as inaccurate about my mother-in-law as he was, apparently, about his own. But in his stumbling way he felt burdened with a truth that he knew must be told - may his name be honoured!