‘Why did the man keep a protractor in his desk?’
‘He was angling for a pay rise.’
(Ha Ha Ha or not really, because I’m pretty sure no one ever actually spontaneously laughed when I told this joke as a kid.
A lot of things seem very funny when you’re a kid that don’t seem so later in life, but maybe it’s because we’ve gotten too serious and lost something. I’ve seen kids laughing uproariously just trying to tell a joke, and then telling it in such a muddled way that no one else could understand it, and then laughing heartily again. Just trying to tell a joke can give you the giggles when you’re a kid.
Then there’s ‘rudey, nudey or toilet humour’. I had a great (and not rude) series of UK children’s books as a kid that were by Graham Oakley and featured The Church Mice, Humphrey and Arthur, and friends, and The Church Cat, Sampson. The great thing about these books (and why I still have them today) is that the humour always worked on numerous levels: there was obvious humour and visual humour for kids, and then there was more subtle humour that kept the adults entertained. The illustrations in these books alone are enough to make you laugh, the people and the animals are so expressive and there is so much detail in the illustrations, even down to humorous epitaphs on grave stones in the church graveyard, that are only details in the background of a scene. The language in these books is humous and evocative too – I think I first came across the word ‘wheedling’ through The Church Mice and thought it was in the funniest word.
In The Church Mice and the Moon, there is a scene in which the mice are in a lunar module with a camera on it, and they are supposed to have landed on the moon and be relaying images back to the crowds at home. However they are not actually on the moon, but are still on earth (in the church vestry as the choir gets ready for the sunday service) and the first thing the viewers see when the images are unveiled is the giant (clothed) bottom of a person who happens to be bending over in front of the lunar module camera, at this exact point when someone gestures to the ‘lunar’ images and says ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the press, behold the moon’. To this day whenever I see someone bending over and their bottom being accidentally featured in the media, or in a public place, I chuckle to myself, whisper ‘Behold, the moon!’ and think of the church mice.