20. But it makes me wonder…

“So where is the audiology department, Ma?” I ask, turning the car into the hospital driveway.  Answer comes there none so I try again – at volume.  “Where am I going, Ma?”  By now I’m shouting.  “Where’s audiology?”  Still no reponse.  I seem to have slipped into an episode of Fawlty Towers. I start to laugh and Ma frowns.

“What’s funny?  Why are you laughing?”

And, of course, she is absolutely right to get peeved.  We don’t laugh at Pa when he enlarges the font on his Kindle because of his ropey eyesight.  No-one mocks GrannieBorders at her failure to do the Highland Fling from her wheelchair. So why is it that someone struggling to hear becomes a source of humour?

I was mulling this over on my weekly trek to see how I’m doing on the drugs trial.  I’m now convinced, by the way, that I’ve landed a placebo as I’ve noticed no effects whatsoever, for good or ill.  Mind you, when I went up on Christmas Eve, I waited with three gentlemen who are also on the trial, clutching their gold, frankincense and copy of the Metro, and it turned out that none of us have noticed any effects.  Presumably, we can’t all be on placebos?

I digress.  Anyway, this week as well as the usual blood tests, Dr LaMancha did extra neurological checks which included a questionnaire.  One section lists a number of symptoms and you have to say whether they affect you: ranging from all the time to never. I find this section rather disconcerting. Not because I have much to report – at the moment I’m lucky enough to have my difficulties pretty well controlled by the medication, and long may that last.  But the pick-and-mix list of symptoms does paint a rather depressing picture of how the condition might progress, as presumably they wouldn’t ask about problems that no-one has.   “Do you find yourself levitating?”  “Only occasionally”.

What’s more, thinking about the deafness issue, I couldn’t help noticing how many questions were about how people react to your condition.  Are you reluctant to tell people, Dr LaMancha asked?  Do you find that friends, relatives, colleagues are supportive?  Are you anxious or embarrassed to go out in public?  Do you avoid speaking in public? Do you avoid eating in public?

It did make me wonder whether my Parkinson’s – being, like deafness, a condition generally associated with the old – is also going to become at some stage a source of humour.  I just have to hope that it’ll be me making the jokes.

2 responses

  1. I’ve always been a firm believer, as you’ll have noticed, that practically anything (with a few very rare exceptions) can be a source of humour, as long as it’s wielded in the right way. Humour is subjective – what’s funny to one person also ends up as unfunny to another, which is why you pitch your comedy to a specific audience, or become part of an audience to a specific comedian.

    Broader comedy with a lot of physical elements to it, like Miranda, is often wildly successful because it’s very clear what you have to laugh at. More intelligent comedy, like Blackadder, appeals to the thinker; thus, it’s very British comedy – Stateside comedies are often incredibly visual, whereas Brits come up with the comedy of embarrassment.

    British humour works on being self-aware, almost to the point of self-parody at times. It’s observational humour, both embracing and attacking social norms, and often the protagonist is who ends up getting it in the neck – Basil Fawlty is a good example, as is Ben Harper from My Family. Put-upon characters. Their hapless chaotic lives wouldn’t be funny in real life, but for comedy, they work incredibly well.

    Which is why I think something that usually would be something serious and dark – like Parkinson’s – can be a source of laughter… if you use it correctly. You’re also right insofar as you should really be making the laughs yourself – imagine a racist comedian telling a Jewish joke: there’d be uproar. An old Rabbi telling the same joke to provide wry introspection? That would be clever. While I think it’s important not to tar people with a degenerative disease with the same brush as ethnic or religious minority groups – all of which, without exception, have been poked fun at unfairly at some point or another – at least if you’re telling jokes about yourself it’s clear that you see the funny side.

    Whether other people see the funny side is up to them, but it’s also up to them not to be upset if they don’t.

    As a comedian, I try to toe the line a lot, but since a lot of stuff I say is delivered deadpan, sometimes it goes wrong as people think I’m being serious. I’m not going to start making jokes like “no, she’s not getting jiggy with it, she’s just got Parkinson’s” in mixed company – but if you were to, I think it’d be a lot more appreciated, and appropriate!

    Jasper Carrott has a joke about making fun of people with dyslexia, but he says he stopped telling it after he got letters of protest: “Door Jasker Parkit, Laf anol ask silly on, you winker…!”

  2. I think it’s possibly to do with it being associated with old age plus the fact that lots of people won’t admit to it that makes deafness funny – but also if you mishear something you can give a very funny response. I lost the hearing in my left ear in my car accident and wear a hearing aid and am quite ok about admitting to being a bit deaf – but I do always make sure people know how I lost my hearing so they don’t think it’s cos I’m old!!! We all know how young you are Jellywoman and I know you’ll stay young at heart even as you inevitably get older, and that’s important. Not to mention your sense of humour so you will any funny side first.

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