Saturday, March 29, 2008


It happened to me once. And it wasn't even very funny. As always with humour, its a question of timing. I was chairing a planning authority meeting in the early 80s when we were considering a retrospective application to 'regularise' a chain saw repair business. There were dozens of letters complaining about the eardrum-shattering noise that was blighting this part of the tranquil Montgomeryshire countryside. After reading out all the letters of objection, the Principal Planning Officer (a droll character named Wilkes) observed that the immediate neighbours hadn't objected - and added that it was because they'd already become too deaf to notice. I 'corpsed' , and my Deputy had to take over while I left the meeting to recover.

So I sympathise with Charlotte Green, who 'corpsed' this week on the Today programme and had to be rescued by James Naughtie over something not very funny at all. Ms Green has history of course, but I could fully understand her previous collapse. She was introducing an item about a newly appointed big-wig in Papua New Guinea named Jack Tuat (where the 'u' is pronounced as a 'w'). I'd probably have pronounced his surname as twaite and pretended it was the local dialect.

Today's Telegraph lists other examples of presenters losing it. Most cricket fans will remember well Brian Johnston's collapse after Aggers described Ian Botham's vain attempt to avoid hitting his wicket as "He couldn't quite get his leg over" - ball-by-ball commentary at its funniest. Personally, I also liked his "Lilley - caught Willey, bowled Dilly". I must admit that I didn't know about the Reginald Bosanquet 'corpse', until I read it today. It was an item during the fireman's strike in 1978, when the ITV news cameras were following an Army Green Goddess fire crew to rescue a cat stuck up a tree - and then accidentally ran over it and killed it. Today, his uncontrolled laughter would probably have cost him his job as the only appropriate response to the thousands of complaining letters from cat lovers.

Probably the best example I remember in the world of politics occurred in the National Assembly for Wales. Former Tory AM for North Wales, Peter Rogers, a farmer with an unmatched lung capacity was at full throttle dismissing the arguments of what he disparagingly referred to as 'The Green Welly Brigade', and unfortunately said 'Willy' instead of 'Welly'. Lord Elis Thomas, the Presiding Officer, just about managed to hold himself together.


Anonymous said...

Lovely humerous post Glyn, but the story is wrong.
The story she introduced was about an early recording of sound, she then went on to announce a death.
She started giggling when some one in the back ground said it sounded like a bee in a bottle.
The BBC website played the whole thing back yesterday for all to hear.
Peter Rodgers story is a classic on to!
Great posting on your planning session.
Same thing happened to me once at a huge funeral and I nearly died laughing.
My God I will always remember that day!

Glyn Davies said...

anon - we're at cross purposes. I knew what caused Charlotte Green to lose it. I was referring to what caused her to lose it the last time. I sympathise with your predicament at the funeral. Intense situations sometimes lead to illogical laughter. I recall an instance in Llandaff Cathedral, celebrating the opening of the National Assembly - in the presence of Her Majesty, The Queen. It was a service of all the faiths, and when the Jewish singer started up, I only saved myself by biting my lip so hard that I drew blood. My wife reckoned she could see my body shaking as I fought to gain control. She did not look at me, knowing that would have been the end and I'd have to leave. Don't really know why, but it was a style of singing that sounded unbelievably awful to me. I'd need to get used to it.

Anonymous said...

" I only saved myself by biting my lip so hard that I drew blood. My wife reckoned she could see my body shaking as I fought to gain control. She did not look at me, knowing that would have been the end and I'd have to leave."

That was me to a tee!!!
Sorry Glyn, my mistake on the previous time she lost it.

frankie said...

One of the joys of life is getting a fit of the giggles. Listening to Charlotte Green, she might have been ok if someone else had not been sniggering in the background. In my many experiences of losing it, it is catching someone's eye who is also trying to control themselves, then all is lost, and you just have to give in to it! I just love things like that.

Glyn Davies said...

I still lose it every time that Mr Bean headbutts the Queen Mother.

Blodyn said...

I remember the Ian Botham one. I was stuck in a traffic jam somewhere in the Midlands and about one in four cars was occupied by people in hysterics. I had to get out of my car and looking around it was amazing to see the faces of those who had not been listening to Test Match Special. They must have thought that we had been 'bombed' with laughing gas.