Home / Around DB Articles / DB Lampoon! Wise Up!

DB Lampoon! Wise Up!

Posted in : Around DB Articles, Out there on by : Around DB , , Comments: 0

We live in outrageously serious times. What the world needs now is silliness, and lots of it, says Peter Sherwood

I recently watched Monty Python’s masterpiece Ministry of Silly Walks. Timeless and brilliantly silly, it works because it’s meaningless. No political or social comment or rage against injustice, just a gentle swipe at bureaucracy. Really. Very. Silly. Today there’s not nearly enough irrelevant craziness to go around; we need more insanity reflective of nothing whatsoever.

‘Silly Walks’ should be required viewing in every school, to impress on young minds that there is more to life than logic. Python was successful because it is bonkers. A friend and I compiled a series of wacky books that sold internationally. We’d spent a lot of time being stupid, so why not put it in print and monetize it? As obviously unsophisticated as the material was, a few reviewers called it schoolkid humour. It was like calling a wombat… a wombat. The point of being innocently loony is precisely that there is no point.

Last Xmas I gave some children Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids. They loved Milligan’s nutty imaginings, and with no effort to understand it, which reminded me of The Little Prince: “Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” It was Milligan who smashed barriers to make way for Python with its educated lunacy. But silly to the same degree.

Silly verse and limerick go back centuries. Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense was published in 1846. A decade before, this little beauty appeared: “There was an old man of Tobago/who lived on rice, gruel and sago/till, much to his bliss/his physician said this:/‘to a leg, sir, of mutton you may go.’” And 120 years later this Milligan gem: “There’s a hole in the sky/where the rain gets in/the hole is small/that’s why rain is thin.” Spike took silliness up (or down) a notch with frothy foolishness like: “On the Ning, Nang, Nong/ where the cows go Bong!” (etc).

In the face of quality silliness, the admonition ‘Don’t be so silly’ rings hollow, yet half of humanity earnestly seeks hidden meaning, a search doomed to failure. There is intelligence and elegance in well-wrought silliness.

Python and Milligan often achieved that state of grace. In between devastating bouts of depression, a country called ‘Silly’ was where Milligan lived, churning out mountains of mad TV scripts, poems and books, as well as performing most of it. Hilarious to the end, the famous epitaph on his gravestone reads, ‘I told you I was ill.’

Python was side-splittingly funny, but they were writers and actors who had another life. For Milligan, ‘funny’ was where he lived. He’d wake from sleep with stuff like: “A lion is fierce/his teeth can pierce/the skin of a postman’s knee/it serves him right/that because of his bite/he gets no mail you see.” And: “I thought I’d read a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine.” Milligan was wired differently to the rest of us and, happily, had little control over his outpouring. “In the Nong, Nang, Ning/where the trees go Ping!” (etc).

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 20+ years. The former head of an international public relations firm, he is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

Tags: , ,

Add New Comment


× Thank you for your comment. Your feedback has been submitted to an administrator for approval.