Yesterday, just for laughs, I attended a workshop called “Talk Funny”, run by the well-liked entertainer and funny-talker, Barry Hilton.
Barry is one of the few clean comedians on the SA standup circuit, which is odd when you consider that he lives in Cape Town and hasn’t had a bath in months.
There were a dozen of us at the workshop, ranging from a lawyer to a psychologist to a radio producer to the sports broadcaster and conference speaker, Arnold Geerdts, who is known for his sharp and easygoing wit at the podium.
Barry, who has the kind of elastic, panda-eyed face that is just perfect for a career in comedy, kicked off by asking us to estimate how many jokes he has told in more than 35 years of professional joke-telling.
Thousands of jokes? Millions of jokes? Several dozen hundred jokes? Then came the punchline.
“I’ve told three jokes,” said Barry, and he lowered his jaw and checked us out with his Barry Hilton face.
Of course there was a catch, and the catch was that that there are only three types of jokes that Barry tells, woven into his shtick of physical comedy and observational humour.
There is the False Logic joke, an example of which is: “Two fish in a tank. The one says to the other, you drive, I’ll man the guns.”
The second type is the Exaggeration joke. Example: “I used to be so overweight, I was a reserve for the whales in Hermanus.” And finally, the Pun.
Barry gave a real-life example, based on his appearance a few years ago in a court case over the, ahem, disputed ownership of a painting. “Your Honour,” Barry told the magistrate, “I’ve been framed.”
Three jokes, and within their orbit, an infinite variety. Let me explain it to you this way, said Barry.
What do you need to bake a loaf of bread? Happily, someone had the answer, which was: wheat, flour, and water. And how do you make olive bread? You add olives. And a cheese-loaf? You add cheese.
So to make jokes, if I understand Barry correctly, you just add olives and cheese. Then it was our turn to write a few jokes. “Don’t worry how kak they are,” said Barry, by way of encouragement.
We toiled for a while, using Barry’s Einsteinian formula of “A plus B plus C = Funny”, and I came up with one about the water crisis in Cape Town, since I had just come back from a few days in Cape Town. Well, that’s my excuse.
I took a deep breath and delivered my joke to the room. “Did you hear about the new alphabet they’re using in Cape Town?” I enquired. “A B C D E F G, P Q R S T U V, W X Y and Z.” I paused for a moment. “It’s because they haven’t got H2O.”
My apologies to Capetonians and everybody else, and my thanks to Barry Hilton, my Cousin and yours, for a highly entertaining and informative day of serious endeavour.
*You can find out more about Barry’s workshops at http://www.barryhilton.co.za/talkfunny.