Every form of writing has its alloted lifespan. And the briefest of them all afflicts the topical joke. It suffers from three genetic weaknesses:
1. Timing deficiency - a joke is only as topical as the event it refers to.
2. Funny disposition - it's no joke if nobody's laughing.
3. Exposure - it may be current and funny, but without an audience it's like a falling tree in an empty wood - no one hear's it bringing the house down.
It's no great trade secret that news is the main source of topical material. Be it the tabloids, the BBC website or even good old fashioned television. Weekly mags can be good for celeb stories too. I'll skip the established rules of writing (See Rule of Three, Wordplay, Inversion, etc.) as there are many great books out there which deserve to be bought and read. The challenge is not so much the writing but what you do with them afterwards.
Live shows such as The Treason Show and The News Revue adopt the Darwinian approach of a large writing gene-pool and the survival of the sharpest. And every once in a while, a radio opportunity appears for writers to scrabble for. Most recently, that was Newsjack, a topical gag and sketch show on BBC7.
As it's now paragraph four and I haven't mentioned any successes, you can rightly deduce that my mayflies didn't make it past the flyscreen. Still, on clearing out the files (It's like burying a pet only without the feelings.), I saw one or two that amused me so I thought I'd give them an airing. I do tend to write a lot so I've split into chunks for convenience.
- There are now 29,000 UK politicians and their advisors on the public payroll. To put that into perspective, that’s about 29,000 too many.
- New research shows that a few drinks a week can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by a third. Drinking or thinking – that’s your choice. The American researchers also warn that people with existing memory problems shouldn’t start drinking now. Maybe they could write that down on a beer-mat.
- eBay bidding for a little piece of Michael Jackson reached fever pitch. £8,000 for a hat; £36,000 for a jacket. But his kids are safe because there’s no trace of his DNA in them.
- A Californian teacher accidentally included part of a homemade sex tape on a DVD of school memories given to kids. Apparently, you can find it in the Extras menu.
- When former PM and Catholic convert Tony Blair had a black eye, he was advised to put a steak on it. But not the one Gordon Brown wanted to drive through Mandelson’s unholy heart.
- Gordon Brown and David Cameron are battling it out for the gay vote, but not with handbags. Because that would be wrong, and not what you’d expect from enlightened politicians. Like the Tory party, who first introduced Clause 28, banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Or New Labour, who took only 6 years in power to repeal it.
- Michael Jackson’s mother has filed for custody – of his back catalogue.
- In the US, Bernard Madoff who scammed Americans out of $65bn, was sentenced to 150 years. Proving that America still has a sound grasp of mathematics.
- Now that Baroness Thatcher has left hospital, she is said to be in good spirits. One of them is probably embalming fluid.
- Prince William and Kate Middleton checked into a hotel as Mr & Mrs Smith, prompting press speculation that they’re the new Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Perhaps they could adopt Prince Harry.
- The EU wants all horse owners sign a pledge not to eat their pets. Makes sense – but is it technically cannibalism if you eat an animal shag?
- 220,000 passports will be given to migrants this year. A Home Office spokesman said “This is brilliant news for the economy, particularly for the company that makes passports.”
- Sacked oil workers at the Lyndsey oil refinery have burned their dismissal letters in protest. I have to say, it never worked on my credit card bills.
- Google has agreed to take the pornography options out of its search engine in China. This will leave just three sites – one for the government, one for recipes and one for cockney rhyming slang.
- A Taliban fighter who was killed had an Aston Villa tattoo on his body. Army intelligence believes he was a Brummie, because let’s face it, who else is going to support them – Aston Villa, I mean? Perhaps that’s how they recruit their suicide squad – just give them a season ticket. Suddenly death doesn’t seem quite such a bad option.
- The Queen is starting an allotment at Buckingham Palace. That, or she’s picking out a suitable plot for Prince Phillip.
- The Calman Commission has recommended that the Scottish Parliament has control over speed limits, drink driving and airgun licences. Or, to put it another way, Scottish weekends.
- Gordon Brown is set to announce plans for the Iraq war inquiry. But, mindful of new technology, a Twitter conclusion is already available: Tony Blair did it.
- President Obama has appealed to the Muslim world for reconciliation. He says they have much in common, especially their condemnation of Israel.
- Silvio Berlusconi says that pictures of topless women at his villa are an outrage. Adding: “You can see any bush at all.”
- A dyslexic TV newsman has apologised after covering the story of two gay Humboldt penguins fostering a chick. He said he was unfortunate that he referred to them as two Bumholdt penguins.
- A mystery Brit has won £25million on the Euro-millions lottery. The search is on by the media to make the lucky winner’s life an absolute fucking misery.
- Jade Goody’s mum Jackiey has found love with a man and turned her back on lesbianism. And her front too.
- Former president George Bush snr has celebrated his 85th birthday by parachuting out of a plane. Sadly there wasn’t enough fuel to make it to Iraq, for target practice.
- Bad news: McDonalds is serving more meals than ever, despite the recession.
Good news: Someone must be being paid to serve them.
Even better news: The toilets are always clean there so it’s a great place to go for a shit.
- BNP leader Nick Griffin was egged by anti-fascist protesters. A spokesman said, “There’s never an ostrich around when you need one.”
- Madonna has been granted permission to adopt baby Mercy from Malawi. A humbled Madge told reporters, “All I need now is a couple of yellow ones and I’ve got the whole set.”
- Davina McCall has said that Big Brother will end in 2010. Gordon Brown has refused to comment.
- The parents of Ireland’s first sextuplets have described them as a ‘gift from God’. Let’s hope their next door neighbours see it that way at 2am.
- Bad news: There are fewer adult learners than when Labour came into power in 1997.
Good news: We haven’t run out of pens.
- Kung Fu actor David Carradine died after an auto-erotic experiment went wrong. At least he went to his maker knowing what the sound of one hand clapping was.
- A 49 acre Creationist museum has opened in Kentucky, backed by a Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis. But apparently there’s no gorilla there playing the drums. Of course, the big question is whether the idea for the museum evolved over time or if it was always part of God’s original plan?
- Yes, of course I’m frightened at the idea of bailiffs knocking at my door. But then I do live in a submarine.
- Gay marriage, gay divorce? Where will it end? They’ll want the vote next.
- I have every confidence in the government to do the right thing. That’s because I believe in Armageddon.