That difficult age when they think they’re funny.

Children are great. They carry our genes on into a future that we will never see. They are like little genetic time capsules. But you try to bury one in your garden, and just see what sort of trouble you get into.

Think back to those heady days of yore. You were 6 or seven years old. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and you were excited about almost everything. Perhaps you had a birthday coming up, maybe it was soon to be Christmas, or perhaps you had just stumbled upon the funniest thing in the whole wide world ever. Perhaps it was a joke, or maybe it was a story. It could even have been a song or a dance. It could even have been something that you said unwittingly that all the adults around to had laughed at uproariously. Whatever it was, it had girded you with the power to make people laugh, and you felt mighty. There was no longer the need to fill your head with the confusion of the world all around because you had found the holy grail of social interaction. You were comedy gold.

What you had probably missed was that a good gag is rather like toilet paper. It’s great to have it there, but it needs to be flushed away after use. Certainly, if you try to use it more than a couple of times (absolute tops), then you are just going to end up with shit up your back and nobody wanting to stand next to you.

Kids who think they are funny are perhaps the most annoying kind. The ones who hit other children or damage property can be handled with a swift telling off, but the ones that come at you with the same gag time and time again are different. These kids are actually making an effort. They are looking for approval and positive attention, so telling them to shut the fuck up doesn’t really seem acceptable.

When I was teaching back in England, the piece of comedy gold that was doing the circuit was the song Gangnam Style. If you were fortunate enough to have missed out on this magnum opus, it was a dancy kind of tune by a Korean lad called Psy. In the video, Psy, in an ill-fitting suit, would pretend to ride a horse while shouting ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Hey sexy lady’. It was kind of catchy the first time around, but quickly became torturous. 

Sadly, the dance was not only ridiculous but also easy to reproduce, and the regular reference to the sexy lady (whoever she was) made the whole thing irresistible to every boy between the ages of 7 and 11, and the bane of every primary school teacher’s life for what seemed like 15 years. They loved it. They would do the dance and shout one of the lines, and the other boys would be helpless with laughter. Not a school assembly went by without one group of boys or another offering to perform Gangnam Style for the rest of the school. Not a playtime passed without some kind of Gangnam Style incident. It was the tune of laughter, the dance of rebellion, the voice of a generation, the funniest thing it the whole world ever. 

It was shit.

More recently, Baby Shark has taken its place. Korea keeps exporting this stuff. I can’t say that I blame them.

The whole phenomena of erroneous childhood comedy is only made worse by the parents that continually laugh at it, going ‘Oh, little Tyson is so funny. Go on, darling, do that dance’. Not only does this lead to the rest of us sitting through the whole thing again and again, but is also a very poor life lesson for the children involved. They need to be made aware that being funny is more subtle, and requires more thought than this.  If not, we are failing them.

Imagine the scene.  Little Tyson turns 18 and goes into a London pub with his friends.  He makes some inane comment that upsets one of the regulars.

“What’s that, mate?  Are you trying to be funny?”

“Oh, no.  I don’t have to try.  I’m just funny.  Ask my mum.  Watch this”.

The enraged bar fly stands aghast as Johnny does his Baby Shark dance.

We can all imagine how the story ends.  In fact that’s all we can do, because right now, little Tyson is only 8, and we have 10 years left before he walks into that pub.

We still have time to put him straight.  Whether or not we succeed can be discovered in the police and hospital records about a decade from now.

Grantham Montgomery

Minister of Stuff.

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