ANGELA GREGORY: The best possible taste

French and Saunders

French and Saunders

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OFTEN, and particularly here in the office, I am ridiculed for my inability to tell a joke.

Criticism ranges from my delivery to outright sneering at the joke’s content.

I think it’s a confidence thing – if someone is staring at you, malevolently waiting for you to fluff the joke, I think it’s understandable if you get a bit flustered and fulfil the prophecy.

Personally, I think my humour must be so sophisticated only the very highest of minds can grasp it.

So, when one particular member of my family continues to insist ‘it’s a sentence, not a joke, I’d laugh if you’d delivered a punchline but you haven’t’ then I think that’s more of a comment on their intelligence than my ability, isn’t it?

Sometimes, however, I’ll admit to getting a little muddled.

For instance, in a recent attempt to retell a joke I heard on a French and Saunders radio show I got Florence Nightingale mixed up with Mother Teresa. The person to whom I was trying to email this joke (dangerous – a typed joke can often fail where it succeeded when spoken, which is why I’ve decided not to reproduce it here) was left utterly bemused, understandably.

Particularly embarrassing in my case, however, is the fact that there is actually a member of my family called Florence Nightingale.

You’d think that would’ve made it a little easier to remember.

At last month’s Edinburgh Fringe, they handed out an award for the best joke of the festival.

It was by Nick Helm and it was: ‘I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’

My favourite, however, was at number five. It was by Matt Kirshen, who said: ‘I was playing chess with my friend and he said, “Let’s make this interesting”. So we stopped playing chess.’

The worst joke came from persistent magician Paul Daniels, who said: ‘I said to a fella “Is there a B&Q in Henley?” He said “No, there’s an H, an E, an N an L and a Y”.’

To me, there is very little difference in quality between the best and the worst joke there, which just proves it’s all a matter of personal taste and definitely backs up my theory that people who don’t like my jokes just have the wrong taste.

Once again on the subject of French and Saunders, whose recommendations I would definitely always trust (see Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Bollinger etc etc), I have started watching The Killing, or Forbrydelsen for those of us pretentiously in the know.

Jennifer Saunders mentioned that she and husband Adrian Edmondson have taken to rushing home at lunchtimes to catch up on episodes of the compelling Danish thriller.

I could definitely identify with that, having nearly made myself ill a few years ago by challenging the number of episodes of the first series of 24 you could physically cram in in one day without melting your brain.

I was dreaming about the plot and waking up in the middle of the night to make notes so I could raise particular theories with my husband the next morning, who was also watching it with me.

OK, so I didn’t quite do the latter but I was pretty close to it.

In the end, my brain nearly blew a fuse I’d watched so much television.

So I can definitely see where French and Saunders were coming from when they recommended the truly addictive smash hit from Denmark (definitely not the US remake).

At the minute, not everyone is watching it, so when you find someone else who is it’s like having discovered some underground cult you can discuss in hushed tones.

There are many references in these discussions to knitting patterns, people called Troels and Theis, and the merits of calling a 19-year-old girl Nanna.

There’s much talk of atmosphere and eeriness, and how clever you feel watching a whole TV series with subtitles.

Most of all, however, it’s about pontificating over whodunnit.

It really is the ultimate head scratcher.

After the first episode, I had someone banged to rights simply on the basis that they’d mentioned they’d bought a new pair of shoes.

It gets under your skin that much, that quickly.

In fact one of my colleagues said to me the other day: ‘I wake up each morning with this overwhelming feeling that there’s something I need to do. And then I realise what it is, I’ve got to find the killer.’

If anyone’s got the box set or just looks up a spoiler page on the internet, please don’t tell me who it was (I’m asking for trouble here I think).

I want to find out for myself, in a really slow, grim, painful and very Danish way.

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