Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 18 May 2012

"Will someone please tell me why it's funny?"

Here's a litttle something guaranteed not to brighten your day; passengers on the Chiltern Trains London to Birmingham service are to be treated to 'comedy' announcements scripted by 'Green Wing' writer Richard Preddy.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning’s announcements are brought to you by Chiltern Railways in association with the nation’s favourite comedy channel, TV Channel Gold, and my lovely, lovely voice."
In a cynical marketing ploy, the rail company has signed up Tony 'Baldrick' Robinson (who is presumably at a loose end when not urging a bunch of muddy archaeologists to beat a spurious excavation deadline) to give guards lessons in comedy timing as they deliver such gems as:
"Passengers might be interested to know that you are travelling on a Mark 3 train with a gauge of four feet eight and half inches and an average carriage weight of thirty seven tonnes. (pause) Look, I did say ‘might’ be interested."
Now I'd like to think I have a reasonable sense of humour but this just leaves me cold. It's bad enough being startled from a reverie to be told, quite unnecessarily, that 'selection of hot and cold beverages' is available in the buffet car; the last thing I want is to be assailed at intervals by pointless drivel from a bloke who fondly imagines he's just a step away from being onstage at Jongleurs.
"If there is a Mr Mowgli on the station, Mr Mowgli you have the following message. “Ooh, oobee doo. I wanna be like you. I wanna walk like you. Talk like you, too.” That was a message for Mr Mowgli, thank you."
Comedy has its place - as a culture, we British are pretty good at injecting it into almost any situation - but the key is surely spontaneity, the quick-witted response to the unexpected. True, the young and trendy flock to comedy clubs and sit expectantly waiting to be diverted - the result is the sort of Pavlovian response that has led to the rise of some truly dire 'celebrity' comedians - and material.
"Soon we will be passing Warwick Parkway’s famous herd of alpacas. There are rumours that one of them is actually Gareth Gates in a costume. Can you spot him?" 
Hence Chiltern's attempt to cash in - tell people that the announcements are hilarious, goes the reasoning, and, encouraged by a bit of stardust, they will rush to board the Laughter Express (their phrase, not mine), ready to guffaw uproariously at every announcement.
"Please don’t store heavy luggage in overhead racks. Other things which shouldn’t be stored in the overhead racks include geese, canoes and wheat. Thankyou."
It's going to make things very trying for passengers who don't wish to share in the common amusement. And what happens the next time someone throws themselves under the 9.15 doesn't bear thinking about.


The announcements reproduced here - and all the others - can be found here at UKGold's website.

6 comments:

  1. No scripted 'comedy' could ever hope to match the wit of (allegedly) genuine Tube announcements:

    http://tinyurl.com/6orfgq4

    Comedy by committee might be PC and safe, but it isn't comedy, as such.

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  2. The best humour is the unintended kind. Like when the guard announced that the reason our train was delayed was because of a chicken on the line. Yes, seriously. It damaged a fuel line and we were stuck at Swindon for an hour...

    I don't think the chicken came out of it too well either.

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  3. Thanks for that link, Julia!

    I suppose, to wax philospohical, it's all part of the 'instant gratification' culture; jokes on tap all day every day instead of waiting for the witty off-the-cuff remark or the unintentionally entertaining chance situation.

    Unexpected announcements like yours, LR, do cause those wonderful moments of unspoken communication and rapport between strangers; I can't imagine the scripted ones having the same effect.

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  4. Stealing this now:

    Now I'd like to think I have a reasonable sense of humour but this just leaves me cold. It's bad enough being startled from a reverie to be told, quite unnecessarily, that 'selection of hot and cold beverages' is available in the buffet car; the last thing I want is to be assailed at intervals by pointless drivel from a bloke who fondly imagines he's just a step away from being onstage at Jongleurs.

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  5. I've used the low cost bus services from Glasgow/Edinburgh to London and some some of their drivers patter is hilarious ... brightens up the journey no end ...

    ReplyDelete