Gallows Humour

In these unprecedented times, is it safe to laugh in the face of danger?

“I picked the wrong week to quit smoking!” On the face of it, not one of the funniest exclamations known to man. But coming from the increasingly stressed control tower manager – in that most classic of rip-roaring film comedies – ‘Airplane’, it marks a hilarious descent into the downright ridiculous. As the impending spoof disaster looms ever closer, actor Lloyd Bridges in his role as the manic air traffic controller- Steve McCroskey, peppers his colleagues with ever more bizarre proclamations. From… “I picked the wrong week to quit drinking”, and “I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines!”. Before culminating in the side-splitting… “I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!”

Spending an entire week working out of my impromptu office and recording studio up in the loft conversion at home has certainly been a challenge. But spending perhaps months up here will be nigh on impossible, without adopting a similar ‘devil may care’ cheery disposition. Laughing in the face of danger. Finding reasons to smile - as the global crisis unfolds, hour by hour.

It's been hard for sure. After forcing myself to observe the daily ritual of a fifteen minute headline catch-up at 7am each morning, wading through images of makeshift hospitals and prototype ventilators on the rolling news channels, to the hysteria of the lurid red bar charts of the panic-stricken business TV networks, I eventually escape to the sounds of good time 70’s and 80’s classic rock cd’s prior to breakfast. Before tuning the DAB radio to ‘Union Jack’. A unique national commercial radio station, boasting the ‘Best of British Music & Comedy’.

Their breakfast show in particular has become a haven from the ‘hell-on-earth’ that seemingly surrounds us. While the news stations pore repetitively over every painful pandemic detail, and some of the other music stations profess to be ‘turning up the feel good’. Union Jack presides over such seemingly frivolous features as; ‘Club Quarantine’ – half an hour of back to back banging anthems complete with foam party sound effects and of course, a ‘no-trainers door policy’. Next up is the show’s ‘Pandemic Playlist’ – a listener request feature aimed at cheering up the nation’s hapless home-workers.

The station also boasts a thrice weekly new comedy show, nattily entitled, I kid you not – ‘Stand Up To Corona’! For me, this is just the sort of tonic our beleaguered nation so badly needs.

Of course, I would understand entirely if you felt some of these shenanigans could perhaps be described as being in ‘dubious taste’. You’re absolutely entitled to that opinion. But even after my elderly father tested positive for Covid-19 last weekend, I must tell you, there’s no place on the radio dial I’d rather be spending my time at the moment.

Because, as one of their straplines proudly proclaims…. “If we weren’t laughing – we’d be crying”. And ain’t that a fact?

Mark Gregory