What Makes Me Laugh
Radio host and former Journalist of the Year, Nick Ferrari, reveals what rubs his funny bone
By Nick Ferrari
July 5 2023
Put it down to the job I do – one I have been involved in for decades. What makes me laugh is blisteringly straightforward – pomposity being pricked and deflating faster than a crocodile swimming pool inflatable with a tear in the seams.
Then again, humour is so subjective, isn’t it? What might have one person rolling in the aisles doubled up with uncontrollable fits of laughter, can leave another utterly unmoved. Like so many other things in life, it all comes down to individual taste. For instance, why do some favour a ribeye steak over a sirloin? And then, what’s the best way to cook it? Then peppercorn or béarnaise sauce? And let’s not even start with which red is best to accompany it.
It all boils down (or grills) to personal taste – as it does with humour and what makes you laugh. For instance, someone somewhere must find Nish Kumar funny because he keeps getting work despite his supercilious act having just the one gag: He’s so much smarter than anyone else, particularly anyone associated with the loathsome government, which in turn is only in power courtesy of votes from backward Troglodytes who are deemed a world below his intellect.
But back to my job. Getting up at five o’clock in the morning, five days a week for nineteen years to present a radio show during which you know you’re going to face at least one politician, senior copper, union leader, hospital chief, council leader, government ‘tsar’ or lackey who is going to attempt to spin bare-faced lies before you’ve even had your breakfast, can engender a degree of cynicism. And often you even know how the interview will go.
Me: Joining me now is the Minister in Charge of Fish, Charlie Buggerlugs MP, who will today launch a new government initiative costing untold millions to ensure we all eat up our fish. Minister, you have to concede, fish has become expensive. What’s the average cost today of a takeaway order of cod and chips in the UK? Good morning.
Minister: Good morning, Nick, and I’m pleased to be able to tell you more about our plans. Our research shows that children’s health is improved by 320% every time they eat fish, and their exam performances are the same as an Oxford Don sitting the Eleven Plus.
Me: But the cost, Minister. How much for cod and chips?
Minister: For me, the important thing is to make sure everyone who wants to, is able to eat fish.
Me: Indeed. But again, I’m going to push you on this: How much is a portion of cod and chips?
Minister: This government has introduced a raft of policies aimed at tackling soaring prices across the board and I am proud of our record on that.
Me: And the price of medium cop and medium chips?
Minister: I think, Nick, what your listeners want to hear is that as a government, we are working tirelessly in this area and take these concerns very seriously.
Me: I think, Minister, my listeners would like to hear you answer the question.
Minister: Erm, ahh, err, well … actually I prefer a battered sausage.
Me: Minister, thank you.
Politicians don’t have the opportunity of doing stand-up comedy shows – the closest they come to that is every four or five years when they get to endorse their party’s manifesto as it is served up to the public in a desperate bid to persuade us to give them the reins of power to tax us to oblivion, while telling us it is in our best interests.
Once again, it is the breath-taking pomposity and bare-faced cheek of some of the promises that can reduce you to gales of laughter. For instance, a government that has been in power for more than a decade will, with a straight face, declare it will push through reforms to transform the NHS. But what have they been doing for the last ten bloody years?
And what about the opposition that claims it has the answers for everything from inflation to raw sewage discharges, but declines to give any detail as to what those solutions might actually be? Seeing as it’s led by a bloke who seems unable to determine whether a woman can have a penis or not, I suppose the lack of any precision concerning this policy could be some form of blessing!
Then there’s another political party that says everything will be fine if we all scrap our diesel cars, ride a bike, get a heat pump fitted and freeze to death in the winter, drink free-trade coffee, have shoes made from hemp, and wear a Peruvian knitted hat.
By the way, it’s worth remembering that once politicians are in power, these manifesto commitments can be discarded as easily as a used Kleenex. They’re like pie-crust promises, easy to make and even easier to break.
Comedy writers have enjoyed the undying appeal of poking fun at the pompous since that chicken first crossed the road, which back then was just a cart track. The greatest British comedy show of all time, Fawlty Towers, trades brilliantly on Basil’s desperate need to appear higher up the social ladder than he is. The most memorable scene, in which he thrashes his Austin 1100 Countryman with a branch, only happened because he was trying to take his hotel restaurant ‘upmarket’ and out of reach of ‘the plebs’. And let’s not forget that one of the other finest home-grown comedies of all time, Dad’s Army, relies on the pomposity of the self-important Captain Mainwaring being exposed at every possible turn.
The fact his subordinate at the bank, Sergeant Wilson, is privately educated, excels at cricket, and is invited to join the local golf club sends our poor Captain cuckoo.
Having helped you spot these pompous prigs in restaurants, on the radio, and on TV, let me provide you with one further hugely fruitful hunting ground – airports and their business lounges. Why is it that as soon as a businessman (and from my decades of experience of business ‘lounging’ it is always blokes) reclines with his treble G&T and packet of Tyrells Mature Cheddar and Chive crisps, he has to start conversations on his mobile phone in a voice at a level usually reserved for conversations on the deck of a yacht crossing the Atlantic? This, of course, means we all get to hear that he’s concluded his business in Nice, is off to Dubai “to do deals all night long”, and has put the order in for that all-electric, full leather, panoramic-roof Jaguar.
He’s the same self-possessed “titan of industry” who will storm to the front of the queue when the plane starts to board, ignoring all and any instructions, still barking orders down the phone, and scattering mothers and small children asunder. If anyone has inadvertently taken his seat, he will behave as if he’s walked into his bedroom and found his wife exploring a range of positions from the Kama Sutra with the man who collects the trollies at the local supermarket.
This article began with an analogy about food, and as we approach the pudding course of the piece, let’s return there. Can there be a more pompous pud than a crêpe Suzette? It is, after all, just a mix of eggs, flour, sugar, butter, oranges and flaming Grand Marnier, but to watch the theatrical way it is prepared and served in some restaurants, it’s as if they’ve found the secret lovechild of Marco Pierre White and Mary Berry. Outrageously pompous. But as I hope you will now agree, pomposity is no laughing matter.
Nick Ferrari hosts the Breakfast Show on LBC (Monday to Friday, 7am-10am) and The Pledge on Sky News.