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DOES HONG KONG HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR?



It’s an interesting thing- humour- and just how it’s accepted or understood or misunderstood or banned by different nationalities often because of ignorance or for religious reasons.



I, for example, grew up in Hong Kong listening to The Goon Show on radio and which led to being drawn to shows like “Not Only, But Also” and mostly British humour. 




These were the early days of television, and not having had television in Ceylon, in Hong Kong, we were suddenly introduced to series like “Wagon Train”, “Laramie”, “Rawhide”, “Bonanza”, “Have Gun Will Travel”, “Highway Patrol” etc. 



My parents, they preferred the comedy entertainment of Morecambe And Wise, Ronnie Corbet and The Benny Hill Show plus the far more mainstream entertainment of The Perry Como Show, Dean Martin, Andy Williams etc.


What’s always interesting to me is how humour changes from nationality to nationality, woman to woman and affair to affair and very much dependent on those times that shaped one’s personality and future.


Apart from the music, artists like the Beatles, and most of the British Pop Invasion, brought with it especially Lennon’s Goonish sense of humour whereas in the States, there was “Laugh In”, The Smothers Brothers Shows and “American Bandstand” which was before my time and just too slick for these tastes.


It was like dating Marie Osmond when I really wanted was to be in bed with Madeline Kahn as the monster and singing “Springtime For Hitler In Germany” as she howled at the moon.



By watching reruns of Abbot and Costello, The Three Stooges and the brilliant Marx Brothers, one went further back in time to understand the genius work of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and others. 



For me and my best friend Steve, with the introduction to the music of the Beatles came the outlandish humour of Sellers, Secombe and Spike Milligan- the Goons. 



Steve and I got it- we really got it because there really wasn’t anything to get.


It was anarchic and nothing like anything we had heard and as he and I could imitate all the voices, we went around lunch breaks at KGV saying, “That’s not funny- that’s mad!” And it was. It was absurdist humour and I guess we thought lesser of those we were around- and dissecting frogs and trying to understand algebra.


In between all this, there was the more risqué British humour of the Carry On series and that crew led by Sid James and the delightful Kenneth Williams, but by now, some of us were veering towards the more outré and clever humour of Dave Allen, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and of course the Goons. 



Later on in life, and when having the opportunity as a starstruck young journalist to interview all these geniuses, maybe even smoke a spliff with them and understand their backgrounds and middle grounds and bouts of manic depression sorted out by alcohol and pills, I was smack dab in their sphere of the absurd. 



Let’s not forget that George Martin produced the Goons as well as those brilliant recordings by Peter Sellers before being taken on those magical mystery tours by the Beatles. 



It was trippy stuff and something I believed Hong Kong missed out on, though one doubts that the wordplay in English was never really understood by many- and not only by my Chinese friends.


Even when attending an international school like KGV, Steve and I were drawn towards the less commercial bands like the Kinks and the Small Faces.


We were also introduced to the almost bebop humour of, sure, Shelley Berman and Bob Newhart, but we were the only guys in Hong Kong talking about the genius of Mel Blanc and then discovering the new breed of comedians- Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, the up and coming Steve Martin, but always coming back to Peter Sellers. 





In between waiting for the latest Beatles release, Steve and I were going back to the future and bingeing on everything we could find that just made us laugh.


I always saw something of Sellers in Lennon- dark, extremely clever, very honest and just putting it out there. 



In Hong Kong, despite the movies of the Hui brothers and Stephen Chau, I am always reminding myself that what I think to be hilarious often goes way over the heads of many in today’s version of the city purely because they were never introduced to those trailblazers in all forms of comedy.


I mean, how do you try and explain the humour of Andy Kaufman or what I found so darn funny about “The Jerk”?




I think about my decades in Hong Kong and its underlying personality traits were suffering from different complexes- superiority and inferiority- especially when the city was a British colony.


My father lived in fear of upsetting the white man and losing his job.


These days I don’t see even teaspoonfuls of fun in Hong Kong because fear has been replaced by paranoia. 



There’s really no need to explain why because we should know what it is as it’s also what’s keeping international tourism at bay.


Let’s just say that the government needs a very good communications team to fight fire with fire and not more order takers. 



The recent farce involving some sheikh of Araby is extremely funny to fans of Sasha Barron Cohen and could be an ongoing series-but not when it’s being blocked by fear and bots on social media who bring nothing to the party- and veiled threats.


The Hong Kong Jockey Club, meanwhile, has so much material to play with- the bloated corporate puffery, million dollar salaries for promoting gambling in exchange for giving so much to charity, the expenses of maintaining a white elephant that is the Hong Kong Racing Museum and is nothing more than a good place to grab a taxi.


There’s the Nintendo type music played in the background during the Club’s tipping show, the ominous sounding music when placed on Hold and the turnover mantra that drones on and on like a Xanax cocktail.


Personally speaking, the highlight of Hong Kong racing these days is the interactivity in the interviews between the HKJC’s Nic Child and horse trainer Frankie Lor.


It’s got nothing to do with Frankie’s English. It’s just Frankie going to town and being himself not giving a damn with Nic playing everything back with a straight bat. Good stuff.




Here’s an idea: Why not ask Winfried, who has a good self effacing sense of humour than many think, when he’s going to get a new suit and a more puffy shirt?



How about asking the regular emcee of those tedious and officious presentation ceremonies what she does for fun and if she’s on steroids?


Humour: Hong Kong needs it now more than ever. But the city must first remove any signs of road blocks.


Road blocks create shrinkage.



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