international poll. I feel for them. In the 1920s, a brilliant young comedian called Adolf Hitler was on the verge of ousting Charlie Chaplin as the world’s premiere clown. Then the Germans put him in charge of their government – immediately his jokes grew stale, and by the outbreak of WW2 he had completely lost his comic timing. As the war drew to a close, even his moustache stopped being funny. Little wonder that he killed himself.
The Hitler debacle severely disabled the German sense of humour, making it virtually impossible for them to laugh at verbal gags. A recent example of this incapacity was seen in the dismissal of an office worker in Mainz for saying “Ja wohl, Mein Führer!” to his boss’s secretary. Although a court later re-instated the man, it did so on the grounds that he had deserved a warning before being sacked. His claim that the remark had been jocular rather than nostalgic fell on deaf ears. The only acceptable jokes in modern Germany are slapstick pranks, such as a wedding singer swallowing his microphone.
The dire post-war climate forced the few remaining funny Germans to emigrate. Once such luminary was Professor Heinz Wolff of Brunel University, whom I met many years ago in a VIP lounge.
“Professor Wolff,” I said, “I watched you perform on television and you made me chortle like a chipmunk. Do you employ joke writers or is it all your own material?”
“You misunderstand my role, Mr Bananas,” replied the egg-headed one sternly. “I am a scientist, not a comedian, and any humour in my remarks is incidental to their main purpose. I do not have a comedy act and would never perform in a circus as you do.”
“Come, come, Professor Wolff!” I protested. “You enjoy making people laugh as much as I do! If all you cared about was Science, you would stay in your laboratory doing experiments.”
The professor tossed his head in irritation, briefly dazzling me with the glare from his shiny pate.
“I admit I would enjoy making people laugh by performing experiments on you,” he said in a slightly menacing tone.
I decided not to rile him any further. You never know what these German scientists will do when they get a bee in their bonnet – look at Dr Frankenstein.
I am glad to say that Professor Wolff did not tone down his comic persona as a result of our tête-à-tête. The pinnacle of his career came later, when he gave his views on penis enlargements in an interview with Ali G. Being a seasoned wag, he was quick to point out that he didn’t need one himself, whatever his sympathies for men who were meagre in the meat-pole department.
Sadly, there is no medical procedure for a humour deficiency. Perhaps the Germans should pay more visits to the USA, whose citizens were voted the funniest in the poll. Many of them manage to make people laugh without even trying. Take Mr Chris Roller, for example, who believes he is God and has tried to sue famous magicians for misappropriating his divine powers. This excerpt from a talk show shows what a promising talent he is.
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