As a kid I had endless hours of fun with my cousins and sisters. With sometimes five of us squashing into one of old style telephone boxes, somehow managing to close door behind us we would start dialing numbers chosen at random from telephone directory.
The typical conversation being:
“Hello, can I speak to Mrs. Walls Please”? said in a rushed squeaky voice!
The person at other end would usually reply “sorry, wrong number”.
And thus we would respond in a breathless giggle “well, can I speak to Mr Walls then”.
This might go on indefinitely and to include Great Uncle Walls, hopefully long enough for recipient of our humor to say, “THERE ARE NO WALLS IN THIS HOUSE”.
And this was our queue for punch line of: “Well, how does your roof stay up then”.
This style of humor was often followed, once we had got over our fits of giggles, by one of us standing underneath all imposing clock tower in Rhosneigr town center and asking passerby’s for time. Or back into telephone box to ask if some poor housewife’s washing machine was running. Hopefully for a positive reply so that we could respond with “you better go and catch it then”.
My mother used to tell me of what she used to get up to with friends: tying of door knockers together, pulling string and watching many doors open at same time and some confused residents wandering what was going on. Or tying of a bit of string across road so that local bobby would find his helmet suddenly knocked from his head!
Such gentle humor in retrospect and compared to what we are issued up on television these days! Producers have taken practical jokes to a new extreme with each program trying to outdo next in daring and shock and none more so than Japanese who took it up a notch and past what any civilized person would call ‘funny’. The program that I remember was shown on British television maybe fifteen years ago and was based upon practical jokes and endurance tests for a series of what I would call mad people!
Scenario: A newly wed couple, having exchanged vows repair to open air reception. It seemed to be rather a grand affair with hundreds of people, marquees and even an archery range nearby for guests use! Anyway, after a few speeches and toasts bride having had a few drinks was persuaded to take a shot at hitting a target. Picking up bow and fitting an arrow took some teaching but after a few attempts an arrow was fired in general direction of target. When arrow would have hit target (if it had been going anywhere near) husband, who had been hiding in waiting staggered out from behind it. Covered in tomato ketchup over his white shirt and with an arrow suitably affixed to his chest he fell to ground, thrashed around for scenic effect and with a final scream finished his acting debut in death position.
The wife meanwhile having seen effect of her shooting was in hysterics, thumping ground and had a knife been handy she would have ended her own life there and then! Staggering blindly to her supposedly dead husband she held his limp body in her arms. Weeping untold sadness and apology she looked down through mist only to find him winking at her!
I am certain that couple did not repair to a bed of roses that evening, nor would they have a merry chuckle about day’s events over a cup of hot cocoa that night! But main aim of show and practical joke was not about wife’s feelings, but about providing an audience with some good humor. And judging by laughter of guests, husband’s satisfaction over success of his practical joke and audience’s laughter it was a total and resounding winner.
I imagine though that wife was either seeking annulment that very same night or was to spend time in local jail accused of murdering her husband with a meat cleaver. Naturally she would not get her sentence reduced through ‘justifiable cause’ – convicting judge stating that she obviously had no sense of humor and would therefore serve full term without parole.
But that was ten or fifteen years ago and from Japan, a country that considers endurance tests unworthy unless more than half contestants nearly die or end up in hospital with some serious disorders. Back home in UK, with more morally justifiable humor things were following another path, people no longer wanted ‘fun’ or revenge on next door neighbor they wanted fame. Before long every man jack and his border collie wanted to appear on TV, to have their ugly mugs shown to world however embarrassing it might be to themselves and their family, friends and neighbors.
Young guys and girls lined up by thousands to sing songs off-key and totally sadly, hopeful models tried to get through to a contract with some high profile magazine which preferred girls to be anorexic rather than ones who might have just come from breakfast at MacDonald’s and one-man bands who thought London Symphony orchestra was next step would not have sounded out of place amongst a steel fabrication yard at full swing.