The allegorical King of humour

By Ellan Vannin

One of the greatest joys in life is the ability to laugh. I knew someone many years ago who was a King who held Court.

His Courts were many. One of his courts was the Court of things Mechanical. One of his Courts was things Philosophical. I attended often and enjoyed the robust debate between devotees. But my favourite was his Court of Humour.

His jokes were memorable. Amusing, witty and, dare I say, Classic.

In every Court, he sat at the bar in the kitchen, lit a cigarette, poured a glass of whiskey and proceeded to speak. To some, it was pontification. To others, like me, it was gold.

Those that hated the smell of his tobacco left; those that hated the smell of his whiskey soon left and those that remained were the devotees of Humour. As the years passed, his courts grew smaller, but the bond between the devotees grew stronger. We were the loyal Knights of his court; his faithful Defenders and his lifelong friends.

When others castigated him for his offensive addiction to substances that would harm his body and the bodies of others, we members of the Circle of Few attended his gatherings eagerly and heard his latest rendition of old and new jokes.

I went to a wedding once. The King was reluctantly invited by the bride and groom but it was a dry wedding and one that banned the use of tobacco. The King sat in full magnificence in the church and, at the wedding reception, held his court outside. His flask of whiskey and packet of cigarettes, portable ashtray and latest stock of jokes was at hand. Slowly, the number of attendees at his court grew. It seemed that others had flasks of wine and cigars and a love of jokes. As the evening progressed his court grew and grew.

Inside the reception main hall, people talked and chatted but the laughter outside soon overshadowed the polite and controlled chit chat from within. People started slipping away from their tables inside to ?use the bathroom? and before long, most people were outside in the court of the King of Humour.

The King held court until the early hours. His flask empty, his tobacco consumed and his jokes told.

I, like many others, left the wedding remembering the Court of The King, not the night that the couple got married.

By the way, they got divorced.

No joke that he told was nasty, sexually abusive, cruel or political. He had a knack of finding jokes that were simply ? well, funny. He did tell a few Irish jokes and Catholic jokes but he was a Catholic of Irish extraction so probably no big deal.

But they had wit. They were funny. And his delivery was perfect. His timing on the punch line was outstanding.

He died a while ago. He had given up smoking and drinking and his last decade was miserable. He stopped telling jokes and he stopped laughing.

I often wonder if he would have preferred to have lived 10 years less and died happy?

Who knows?

I do know that being a friend of his was a hell of a lot more fun than being a friend of the wedding couple.

Sometimes, you have to laugh. These days, he would not be allowed to hold his court. We would never have heard his jokes, laughed and have had the fun as a group. We would all have been bored to tears in the reception room, hoping that the night would soon be over.