This is a Sunday Photo Fiction submission. It doesn’t have the punch line I wanted because I wasn’t sure how litigious Michael Crawford is. I suspect it’s more than 200 words, too. More examples here. Photo: Al Forbes
Graeme cut his teeth in the comedy clubs of the early 1970s. He did a great line in mother-in-law gags and his Frank Spencer impression was second to none. His Margaret Thatcher wasn’t quite as good, but if he wore the powder blue trouser suit, the punters knew who he was trying to be.
As time went on, though, his style fell out of favour. A lot of the old time comics ended up doing gigs on cruise ships. Graeme, however, couldn’t face the embarrassment of coming on after a menopausal contralto from Armley. If they wanted Alternative Comedy, then he’d give them Alternative Comedy. He carried on with the Maggie impressions but he stopped doing the jokes. The audiences lapped it up, even if he didn’t quite get why.
After a while, the Alternative Comedy bubble burst. A brief foray into surrealism came to nought in the early 1990s so he offered to do the book for a UB40 musical. He had to give up when Robin Campbell threatened to call the police, though he did nearly manage to get a gig cleaning Astro’s gutters.
By the early 21st century, things had come full circle. His style was back. Trouble was, you could only get away with it if the punters thought you were being ironic. Sadly, it was obvious that Graeme meant it; he cared about his mother-in-law gags and Frank Spencer impressions. Besides, fat blokes in tight suits and kipper ties are generally deemed to be beyond irony.
One day, he was thinking of jacking it in. Desperate, he turned to his agent for advice and the agent sent him to a Comedy Consultant. He’d never realised such people existed, but he was willing to listen to anyone if it kept him off the cruise ships.
“You tried improv?” Asked the consultant..
“Nah, why?” Graeme replied.
“You don’t got to be as funny if you’re making it up. Or maybe, there’s dry humour.”
“It’s when the punters can’t tell if you’re joking or not.”
“What’s the point of that?”
“You’re guaranteed big laughs. No one wants to look like they don’t get your jokes. So they’ll pretend they do. ”
“But I can’t go out and not be funny.”
“Pity. You make it work, you’ll have your own chat show by Christmas.”
“Really? But how?”
The consultant smiled. “Got a machine out back might help.”
Graeme followed the consultant to his backroom and gasped. He hadn’t expected the machine to be like this. It looked more than anything else, like an old fashioned mangler.
“You sure about this?” He asked the consultant.
“Of course,” nodded the consultant, “One cycle, and you’ll be dry enough to get a spot on a radio 4 panel game. No one’ll be laughing at home, but the commissioners will be falling over themselves to offer you more work.”
Graeme thought about it. “Okay,” he said.
“Great,” said the consultant, “Hands first.”
“Sure thing,” Graeme obliged, placing his pink, sausage like fingers between the cyclinders on the mangler and whispering a prayer. It was when he felt the first excruciating wave of pain that the consultant spoke,
“Your mother-in-law says ‘Hi’, by the way.”