In an Edinburgh Fringe competition now well-established as extra depending on scandal than expertise to generate column inches, one story has emerged to lastly kick Glinnergate into the wings – the shortlist and eventual winner of TV channel Dave’s Funniest Joke of the Fringe award.
In response to the BBC and elsewhere, comic Lorna Rose Treen has been voted the winner this 12 months together with her pun: ‘I began courting a zookeeper, however it turned out he was a cheetah.’
I do know. I do know.
Lorna Rose Treen, whose personal identify accommodates the seeds of three extra promising botanical puns than her profitable zoological entry, was pictured holding the annual award, which by implausible coincidence is within the type of a Perspex elephant.
Does this counsel that the competitors concerned a little-known codicil that jokes needed to embody African megafauna to qualify? Is Dave only a shill for Large Zoo? This could clarify an ideal deal.
That is the fifteenth 12 months of an award that was greeted with cautious optimism by the trade in 2008. It appeared a fairly innocent counterweight to the high-status however barely enigmatic Perrier Award, which definitely launched some vital careers however left the broader viewers studying about it at residence, having to take the factor on belief.
Right here, with Dave, was a morsel you possibly can style for your self.
Dan Antopolski’s early win in 2009 – ‘Hedgehogs! Why can’t they simply share the hedge?’ – appeared to warrant this enthusiasm. It struck most individuals on the time as pleasant – tart and whimsy in good steadiness, and in a position to stand by itself little paws, when shorn of the prickles, or hedge, of context. An ideal pun.
Since then, there have been just a few different tasty tidbits, together with a number of from Tim Vine, comparable to: ‘I’ve simply been on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I’ll let you know what, by no means once more.’
Even the runners-up have been as soon as value a learn.
I nonetheless keep in mind Matt Kirshen’s fifth-place entry in 2011: ‘I used to be taking part in chess with my good friend and he stated, “Let’s make this fascinating”. So, we stopped taking part in chess.’ After which there’s Jordan Brookes’ Tenth-place effort from 2016: ‘Is it doable to mistake schizophrenia for telepathy, I hear you ask?’
The decline from this normal is nothing to do with ‘woke’, let me emphasise. None of those is remotely offensive, until you might be desperately attempting to get funding on your native chess membership.
True, all of them have a little bit of grit, of metal. Pun machine Gary Delaney seen fairly early on that puns want a darker factor. Like a number of jokes they depend on misdirection, however they’re so essentially childlike that you should assuage the saccharine with a drip of moonshine. You should realise not simply that you’ve got learn the signal on the door fallacious and entered the fallacious room, however that this issues.
Stewart Francis, one other previous grasp, created one-liners that steadily collected to furnish a state of affairs the place he spent his complete childhood along with his father attempting to complete him off like a Brothers Grimm woodman underneath the thumb of an evil stepmother. It was worthy of Edward Gorey.
No, this isn’t the problem with the profitable joke this 12 months. The cheetah joke merely doesn’t work, on any degree. It isn’t a lot a wonky carrot as a stillbirth. It jogs my memory of Malk, which Bart Simpson realises the varsity has been giving him rather than milk, and which seems to be water steeped in mashed-up newspapers – ‘accommodates precious inks’. This isn’t a joke, it’s a Joak.
Zookeepers and cheetahs are each present in zoos, sure. However to attach them on this means is just not misdirection, it’s a class error. The viewers don’t really feel tricked, they really feel, sarcastically, cheated. It jogs my memory of a way more profitable joke, writer unknown, a few boy getting into a pet store:
Boy: ‘I’d like a wasp, please.’
Pet-shop proprietor: ‘I’m afraid we don’t promote wasps.’
Boy: ‘Sure, you do. There’s one within the window!’
However the wider discipline is not any higher. This may sound like bitter grapes from an outdated fox who has by no means had a sniff of the outdated comedy-award vine. Nevertheless it’s not simply me. The overwhelming consensus on-line means that the British public are at greatest bemused, at worst actually fairly cross, with this farrago. They know there are higher comics working than this implies. A number of feedback beneath The Instances’ story about this 12 months’s profitable joke are effortlessly superior to the joke itself, comparable to this topper from one M Henderson: ‘A minimum of she managed to drag a quick one.’ Which is each humorous and in a really actual sense correct.
I don’t imply to denigrate Ms Treen. I’ve not seen her dwell, however the one clip of her on YouTube suggests she’s extra of a personality act than a pun service provider – the character on this event being a nine-year-old Brownie displaying off her badges and letting slip insights into her dysfunctional home life. This act, I think influenced by the nice Joanna Neary, is already significantly extra refined than her profitable Joak suggests.
However one thing has gone badly fallacious with the entire course of. As others have prompt, it’s nearly as if AI has someway bought concerned not in writing the jokes, however in proving unable to differentiate the essential spark that animates a dwelling being from a slab of lab-grown meat.
If I have been to take pleasure in my ever-twitching conspiratorial instincts, I’d nearly marvel if it doesn’t serve Dave slightly nicely to scale back the world’s best arts and leisure and particularly comedy competition to a piss-weak stream of dispiriting twaddle that hardly features as syntax, not to mention humour. ‘See?’, Dave execs could be suggesting. ‘Not value it, is it? Even earlier than you issue within the lease and the hills. Higher to remain at residence, order in a Deliveroo – word to self, appears like a sort of zoo animal, use subsequent 12 months – and simply let Dave take the pressure.’
However I anticipate it’s simply cost-and-corner-cutting as ordinary, and considering nobody will discover.
Don’t take heed to them. With all its sham, drudgery and damaged goals, it’s nonetheless a lovely Fringe. Be cheerful. Try to be blissful. Fuck Dave.
Simon Evans is a spiked columnist and humorist.