I have one hundred friends
i’ve never met
except upon the internet
The other week we watched a TV programme in which Rob Brydon examined the concept of Welshness and, being a Welsh comedian in exile, the nature of the Welsh sense of humour. This interests me greatly, being also an ex-pat Welshman and a bit of a comedian. There is, I feel, a paradoxical nature to the Welsh temperament which was deftly highlighted in this show.
The general perception of the Welsh as a race, as far as one can have an accurate general perception of a race, is one of dourness and a pervading sense of glum resignation.
Brydon evolved a stage routine during his tour of Wales, which began as a fairly mild ribbing of Wales and the Welsh, and, after some adverse reaction from audiences and discussions with his friends and other Welsh comedy stars, evolved into a more positive presentation.
It turned out to be a bit of a thorny subject, since Brydon’s best friend appeared to be not only anglophobic but violently antagonistic to Brydon’s affectionate pokes at Welsh life.
Having grown up in North Wales, I can appreciate the strong emotions that this subject evokes. However, my own experience is that there is a strong and vital streak of humour running through the Welsh psyche. I grew up in a family whose senses of humour were as varied as their personalities. I get my sense of comedy I think from my grandmother, who had a black and mischievous sense of humour, which can be exemplified as follows:
When I was a child, every Friday afternoon I would go to my grandmother’s house where the new edition of The Wrexham Leader would have arrived.
My job was to read out the obituaries, and then, a weekly treat, the ‘In Memorium’ poems, which were, more often than not, personally-written epitaphs to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the dear-departed.
My grandmother found these hilariously funny, and would often have a handkerchief to her mouth and tears streaming down her cheeks at the unintentional humour that these verses contained. My favourite, or at least the only one I recall in its entirety, runs as follows:-
You have not really left us
Nor have you travelled far
You’ve only wandered on a bit
And left the door ajar.
I don’t think you have to be Welsh to see the humour inherent in this, but it helps.