Monday, October 01, 2007

Lost for Words, The Chris Difford Retreat Diaries, Part Six

September 3rd/4th, 2007

The laptop in the picture below contains no punchlines:

So, here we all are, gathered around a table, in a recording studio, somewhere in the mountains of Umbria, restless, creative minds fuelled by the experience of having written and performed a brand new song in a single day.

The table is festooned with candles, ashtrays, bottles, glasses and a tiny cat. In the corner, a couch is shared by Mr. John Bentley and a fucking enormous dog. Honestly, this dog is some size. One more drink down the neck of one or two of us, and someone is going to accidentally saddle it. The last time I saw a dog that size, it was metaphorically and, again, I failed to call the next day.

(Before I wake up tomorrow with the word "misogynist" tattoed across my forehead and a pair of outsize panties wedged into my mouth, that was a joke. I am no fan of the male gender, and I think we can safely assume from my previous entries, that self-love is not a problem from which I suffer. It's a hobby I enjoy, but that's another story.)

Very often in my life, when faced by brainless neanderthals - in business suits and ties - waxing less than lyrical about their cars, soul-deadening careers and some or other "fit bird" they "did" the previous night, I have pictured myself in European climes, sitting around a table with other artists, putting the world to rights. A hazy, glorious world of absinthe, cigarettes, jazz and genius.

In my head, it's usually me, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. .

No, wait, that's a different dream.

Now, finally, I am surrounded by my peers.

"Two dyslexics are in a car together," says Riley Briggs, swigging from a bottle of beer we have now decided is Kaliber, cunningly relabelled. "The passenger turns to the driver and says "Can you smell petrol?" "Are you kidding me?", the driver replies, "I can barely smell my own name."

And so it begins. Each of us taking turns dredging the silliest, most inane jokes from the bottom of our tour bus pile and dressing them up for this new audience.

Then it happens. I may have mentioned previously my concern at the utter lack of celebrity gossip I appear to be gathering in the course of my travels, thus far.

My concern is about to dissipate, for it is here, exclusively, that I shall reveal a deep, dark secret about Christopher Henry Difford. Oh, you've read of his lyrical acumen, you've heard his records on the radio, you even took it completely in your stride when he proclaimed his primary weakness to be, indeed, cowboys. And quite right too.

I do not intend to shock, and I certainly do not reveal the following information with any malice. It is in the public interest, and I will sleep the sleep of the recently fucked senseless, easy in my mind tonight.

Chris Difford is rubbish at remembering jokes. Absolutely, diabolically rubbish.

Not rubbish at telling jokes, mind. He can set 'em up with the best of them, and he has that Billy Connollyesque style, whereby he giggles happily to himself along the way. That's infectious. That's charming. Copacetic to the nth.

When he reaches the punchline, however, there is very often a moment of confusion which stops the audience dead in its tracks, a denouement of puzzled faces and knitted brows as we try to work out if we are actually much, much stupider than we had originally thought.

It's usually just a word, or a phrase out of place.

"Cheeses of Nazareth" becomes "Cheeses of Jerusalem", for example.

It is made all the more entertaining by the fact, that it quickly becomes a double act between Chris and Dorie Jackson, who sings in Chris's band and is obviously quite used to his erratic gag reflex.

So, everytime Chris starts a joke, we have a following exchange...

Chris: It's that one, you know, about the man with three hairs...

Dorie: Do you know it?

Chris: Yes.

Dorie: No, but really. Do you remember it?

Chris: Yes.

Dorie: You remember how it ends?

Chris: Yes.

Dorie: Really?

Chris: Yes.

Dorie: Go on then...

He doesn't. Not quite.

This is the man who wrote "A man behind me talks to his young lady/He's happy that she is expecting his baby/His wife won't be pleased but she's not been round lately" and other great comic turn arounds. He's a funny guy.

He doesn't do punchlines.

And I think that's brilliant. I think we had a better time watching him miss the punchline, repeatedly, than we would have had if he'd been the slickest stand-up comedian on Earth.

It breaks the ice for all of us immensely. For me, in particular, still nursing that nervousness that comes with trying to shake off your hero worship and get to grips with someone as a human being - which, after all, why you like their work in the first place.

So, yeah, I'm all good.

(There were a great many bad jokes told that night - including some absolute filth which was being texted to Emma-Bob-Jim-Harrison-Gertrude-Karoline Thommen from a 70-year-old woman - many of which would linger through the week as running gags, but none more so than "Cheeses of Jerusalem".)

There is still a tiny cat on the table. I know I keep mentioning it, but foreshadowing is one of those things an author typing up his diary two weeks later can get away with. The tiny cat is very important indeed.

Now, a few thoughts on masturbation.

I'm very sorry, but when you have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to pull - on tour, on holiday, wherever - masturbation is an essential part of one's daily activities.

There may be some readers who are of the opinion that this is all very well and what I do in the privacy of my own room is perfectly acceptable, provided I keep it to myself and don't hurt anyone.

Bigots, I say! This is an honest - within reason - account of my travels, and I will admit now that in full romantic mood, brought on by - I don't know - the experience, the scenery, the company of attractive and talented people, I get myself nicely drunk and take myself back to my room with every intention of giving myself a damn good seeing to...

Unfortunately, in the final blow to my already wilting self-esteem, I - after much coaxing on my part - tell myself I have a headache, roll over and went to sleep, without so much as a kiss on the cheek.

The most romantic place on Earth and I can't even get myself to put out.

Something must be done.

"I'm always touching myself..." (Ed. Note. We'll give you that one.)

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