That Is Jokes

Sunday 22 April 2007, 11:36

Richard Hurst Richard Hurst Writer

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I'm in rehearsal at the moment for Potted Potter, a comedy show for children, loosely – and parodically – based on the adventures of Rowling's adolescent wizard. So, for the last week, we've mainly been running bits of it, and then trying to work out if it could be any funnier. Could my life be any more arduous?

We've put a new bit in now which has the three of us giggling like schoolgirls, although we also feel sure, somehow, that the audience will never find the joke as funny as we do. I think that when you're working on comedy, there's an extent to which you're just guessing whether an audience will find something funny, and this effect is doubled when your target audience's age is in single figures. When I did my first kids' show last year, the first week of the run was a very steep learning curve as we ditched a lot of my favourite stuff that the five year-olds just weren't going for. Tough crowd.

One of the actors in Potter has a friend who's a teacher, and she overheard some of her charges the other day saying, "That is jokes!", meaning something was funny. Is this common? Or is there just some corner of the country where that usage is, well, used? Nonetheless, I think I might adopt it.

In a few weeks my play about Bill Hicks will make a long-overdue visit to Brighton, for the Brighton Festival Fringe. In it, the late comedian returns from heaven to talk about events since his death in 1994. This means that every time it's on we update it to take in recent developments, and given that we have a long section about US gun laws, we're now going to have to make at least some reference to the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech. It's easy to write something about sensitive subject matter like this that would get a laugh; breaking taboos is central to comedy. But it's much harder to find something to say about them that's both surprising and true, and doesn't slip into gratuity.

That is jokes.

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