Things I hate #13

Polite humour. It’s the verbal equivalent of touch rugby. The rules are simple. No tackles and everyone surrenders the ball meekly. No one says anything genuinely funny and everybody laughs like they’ve just heard Pete and Dud’s ‘Greta Garbo’ sketch for the first time. No harm done, you might think. And to some degree it’s understandable. It’s the sort of humour you engage in when you first meet people. Like an ice breaker. It shows you’re human and not a tight arse but you’re not too in the face either with mental issues and emotional complications. That you’re not some cold automaton that’s out to stab everyone in the back for that next promotion but you’re not a whacked out weirdo with a wobbly personality who can never be taken seriously or left alone with cutlery. It’s the sort of banter for when you’re first wading in with a new group of people and feeling the bottom to see how deep it goes. Let’s face it, you don’t want to steam in with some crack about fanny farts on your first day, do you? No one liners about erections. But once polite humour goes beyond that point, once it becomes a routine, once it becomes a part of your character then it is the habit of twats. Be warned, don’t trust these people. They are zombies in suits from Next and hooded tops from Gap. Listen to the hollow, mirthless laughter. Look into their joyless eyes. They have no souls.

 

The key to polite humour is trivia. It generally expands on someone minor occurrence and hammers on and on and fucking on about it until it seeps into your DNA. Like Jim from accounts always brings two sandwiches for his lunch in a Tupperware box. One day he brings one sandwich on white bread and one on brown because he’d run out of white/brown bread (whichever he normally favours). That’s it, end of story. And that will have all the office/factory/wherever in hysterics for hours. It’s comedy gold to these soulless bastards. Some comment from it will be picked out, repeated endlessly and become a catchphrase to show how cutting edge and witty everyone is. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Here he comes, here’s the Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. Breadman. And each time you hear it you – which you will, over and fucking over and fucking over – you will want to hang yourself from the nearest stairwell. Which, to be fair, is probably a good reaction. It means you still have a chance. Run now while you’re still feeling like that or get some fucking rope before it’s too late.

 

To paraphrase Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven, polite humour is the kind of joke or saying or observation that you might blandly like then forget forever the moment you think about something else. It is nothing.

 

But then there is often an element of bullying to polite humour. Or rather, in it’s response. Polite laughter. Is there anything more toadying than that? The forced chuckles of minions. Some boss or gaffer or line manager coming out with a crap gag and everyone is strapping on the Tena Ladies like they’re bladders are about to rip open, corpsing until they can’t breathe. Oh, you’re such a witty fucking bastard, boss. With such a blinding, amazing sense of humour. I don’t know where you get them from. It’s like having Tony Hancock in the room with us. And can I have next Wednesday off? Can I be excused from toilet cleaning duty this week? My arse. You might as well get down on your knees now and eat someone else’s shit and keep tucking in to those turds for the rest of your miserable life. And what sort of cunt stands there and soaks all that piss up? That is the dark, fascist side to polite humour. When everyone laughs like their job and a pleasant working environment relies on it. Chuckling along to a gag by Hitler as you walk on eggshells through the Reichstag or the admin office.

 

But polite humour can set up some beautiful situations. Like when the office banter is in mid-flow when you get some Silverback with an ego the size of the Grand Canyon blundering into the conversation and simply having to dominate. Here he comes, Guy the Gorilla in studded boots, ready for a game of rugby sevens, bulked out on Creatine and shots of testosterone, keen to dish out the late tackles and cauliflower ears. Eager to be smashing teeth and breaking bones. Screaming out, ‘look at me! Look at me! Look at ME!’ ‘You know your problem, Jane?’ he says, following Jane’s recital of that week’s office catchphrase for the fifth thousand time. Jane looks up from her keyboard and the Fruit Corner she’s nibbling on, poised for some tame back-handed compliment, a smiley look on her face. Ooh, come on, bring it on… If she didn’t know her problem she soon would. ‘Is that you’re a two faced cow that needs some cock inside you.’ Boosh! This body tackle sends Jane crashing broken to the side lines by the photocopier and has the ball spinning in the air. A look frozen on her face. Suddenly she’s off her Fruit Corner and it’s going to be a night of Love Actually and two 500g bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk when she gets home. Bob from IT thinks they’re still playing soft boy’s rules and dashes in, grabbing hold of the ball. He tucks it under his arm and makes for the goals. ‘Toosh,’ he rejoins. ‘Breadman!’ Silverback turns to Bob. One word: ‘Bender.’ Silence sweeps through the room. Cue some polite chuckles then. You soulless cunts.

 

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