Earth Inc by Michael Bollen

earth inc cover Blog Day 2
Ideas: None.
Marriage proposals: None.

If today’s entry is bad, it is entirely your fault.  Alright, so one of my demands may have been a bit unlikely, a bit too much to ask for.  After all, ideas are hard to come by, but would it have killed you to propose?

Oh dear.  It’s going badly.  Already I’ve stooped to the lowest form of wit.  No, not sarcasm, sarcasm is brilliant (and I’m not being sarcastic when I say that).  I’m talking about those jokes that have two subjects, the “humour” coming from a hilarious mix up between the two.

I’ve not explained that very well, but you all know what I mean.  If you’ve ever listened to topical radio comedy, or seen any TV panel show, you’ll have heard umptillions of jokes like this:

“Bernard Manning and the Queen Mother did a stand up gig together last night.  The audience was a bit taken aback by the constant swearing, sweating and racism, but Bernard Manning went down very well.”

Oh my aching sides (sarcasm there, brilliant eh?).  And yes, I know that Manning and the Queen Mum have both shuffled off their mortal clogs, but that just goes to show you how old and decrepit that joke structure is.  It’s cheap and easy (I could do a “Your Mum” joke here, but that’s an equally bad gag format).  I think these jokes are called “And that was just the teachers! gags”, after the one that starts “My school was rough, really rough.  Smoking, drinking, knife crime…”  But it doesn’t matter what you call them, they’re bad, and I promise I will never write one again.  Unless I get really desperate.

And speaking of desperate, I still have absolutely nothing to write about.  I was supposed to do this blog a few weeks ago, but I asked for my appearance to be delayed until after the Glastonbury festival, at which I played with my ‘band’ Cassetteboy.  Brilliant, I thought, Glasto will give me lots to write about.  So, here are my Glastonbury observations in full:
1) It’s quite muddy.
2) I’m really drunk.
3) Actually, the mud’s dried out now.

Even I’m going to find it difficult to stretch that out to a few hundred words.  I guess I’m going to have to face up to the fact that I’m never going to make it as an observational comedian.  I just don’t pay enough attention; I wander about in a daze most of the time, even when I’m not really drunk.

Actually, I may as well take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who knows me whom I’ve ignored whilst out and about.  There are two possible reasons for this:

1) I’m not paying enough attention, and I haven’t seen you.
2) I wasn’t paying enough attention the last time we met, and I can no longer remember who you are.

I’m being serious here, this does happen to me an awful lot, and it’s very embarrassing.  I’m going to blame it on the fact that I’m really quite short sighted, and didn’t get glasses until I was ten years old.  Up until that wonderful day, my world was just a smeary mess (ironically enough, much like the lenses of my glasses are at the moment, I really should clean them more often).  When I first donned the spectacles, I was outraged.  “You mean everyone can see this stuff?  Why did no one tell me?”  My parents answered with rude gestures.  “And stop that!  I can see what you’re doing now.” 

(That last part didn’t really happen.  If my parents have ever made rude gestures at me, it’s always been behind my back.)

But by then the damage had been done.  I’d gone through life, meeting people and talking to them but generally ignoring the round, brown or pinkish blur from which the words came.  I’d grown up ignoring faces, because I couldn’t really see them.  Instead I identified people by the colour of their clothes, which, to be honest, wasn’t an entirely foolproof system.

And so, when I was meeting with the brilliant illustrator Ian Bass, to discuss sketches for Earth Inc, I realised I had totally failed to describe Professor Ruck, one of the major characters.  Or rather, I had only partially described him.  The finished passage is below – see if you can guess which section of the description was there from the beginning, and which had to be hastily inserted.

“A short man in his late fifties, Professor Ruck was a curious figure, with an enquiring mind and a questionable appearance.  He had a lengthy nose, an ugly protuberance that might have been described as cruel, although the Professor was its only victim.  It leapt crazily forward, seemingly desperate to escape from Ruck’s face, an attitude it shared with the man’s bulging eyes and the tufts of hair that sprang from his ears.  His large discoloured teeth revealed rather too much about last night’s dinner, while his scalp told sorry tales of self-inflicted haircuts. 

Fortunately Ruck’s clothes distracted attention from his currently livid visage.  While his face was as black as thunder, his trousers were as green as grass, his shirt was as yellow as buttercups, and his tie was as red as a strawberry.  A passing poet would doubtless have tried to compare Ruck to a summer’s day.  This would have been difficult however, as Ruck would have been trying to kick the poet up the arse.  The Professor thought poetry was a stupid waste of words.”

If you guessed that originally I’d only written about the colour of Ruck’s clothes, well done, you’ve been paying attention.

More of this nonsense tomorrow, unless I have any better ideas.

4 Responses to “Earth Inc by Michael Bollen”

  1. Steve Says:

    Hey Mike, am about a third into the book and am really enjoying it. Unfortunately I am already married so no joy on that front. I have just read an article on a little fan that I can attach to my bike that will charge my phone and be the catalyst for interesting conversations with female cyclists at traffic lights. Maybe you could give us your views on alternative energy? or not, of course.

  2. Loz Says:

    Well done for stealing material from Lee and Herring. Who probably stole it off someone else before that. And so the comedy circle is complete.

    You probably nicked the self-referential “I’m writing about not being able to write about things” thing off someone, too.

    But you book is good at least up to page 27, where I’ve got so far. And the bloke in Waterstones who I bought it off kept looking at the cover and the back, before saying “this looks really interesting.” I bought 3 other books, too, and he didn’t do that to any of the others. Which means your book looks more interesting than Fahrenheit 451, The Book of Dave and Satanic Verses. So I reckon that’s a big win on your front. Well done!

    PS I can’t marry you as I’m not a lady.

  3. Michael Bollen Says:

    Hi Steve,

    When you say you’re about a third into the book, does that mean that two thirds of you aren’t that into it? Of course it doesn’t, I’m deliberately misunderstanding you for supposedly comic effect.
    Thanks for your comment, and I’ll try to come up with something about alternative energy for Thursday’s blog. Or not, of course.

  4. Michael Bollen Says:

    Hello Loz,

    Gah, Stewart Lee is one of my favourite stand-ups, so I’m rather gutted that I’ve inadvertently stolen some of his material. I’m guessing it was the stuff about the Bernard Manning / Queen Mum gag format? I was lucky enough to see Stewart Lee do one of the best stand up sets ever at Glastonbury a few years ago. There was a power cut a few minutes into his set, and he completed his slot using a megaphone whilst shining a torch on his own face. Brilliant stuff.

    To be honest, I’m secretly pleased that this blog has attracted readers of a calibre high enough to spot Lee and Herring material.

    I’m glad you like the first 27 pages of Earth Inc, here’s hoping the remaining 324 pages live up to that early promise.

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