You may have noticed, if you’re a regular reader that I like a good joke.* I was on the train the other night after having dinner out in London at the fabulous trattoria on Goodge Street called Signor Grilli. One of its key features is that it has a really great quaffable house red at a good cheap price. Considering where it is (the heart of tourist London) this a real treat, and this alongside it’s great food is what has kept me coming back for six years.
Anyway, I was visiting with a friend the other night, and after I finished I was suitable squiffy. On my way home I found myself sitting opposite a group of people who had been to some kind of religious expo somewhere in London.
There were four of them who were sitting in a line. Three in a row on one side of the isle and one guy opposite me on my side of the isle. They were chatting about how much fun they had had at the expo and how it had been really energising. They seemed like a good bunch. For the purposes of this I’m going to have to give them names so that you can keep track of who they all are.
Sitting furthest from me was, I guess, non-descript guy. The only thing that was descript about him was that he had been unfortunately tied up in work all day so had been unable to make it over to the expo except for after work so although he’d been there for some of the keynote speeches at the end he’d missed all of the hands on action during the day. Sitting next to him in the middle of the threesome was a woman who was wearing a suit and tie. She looked like she had never knowingly engaged with popular culture in her life. I may be wrong about this, and I certainly don’t mean it harshly, I just think that she had been going very much her own way for an awfully long time. The guy who was on the end was, we’ll call him gregarious guy. He was slightly chubby, slightly red of cheek and seemed like he’d be quite fun in a roaring tory kind of a way. And the last guy was, well Sideshow Bob.
Gregarious guy wasn’t really playing to his audience here. He had started talking about how this guy looked quite a lot like Sideshow Bob. Unfortunately non-descript guy was kind of non-descript in his response and Be-suited Woman had never even seen the Simpsons. After some explanation she said, “is that the charming cartoon program that comes on before the news? But I always thought it was for children.”
After some explanation of the situation, and a few rather shocking impressions from Sideshow Bob gregarious man was scouting about for something interesting to carry on with. He decided that as Non-descript man had missed out on the earlier speakers in the day he ought to fill him in on something that had really tickled him. It was, he claimed, “the funniest joke that he had ever heard a vicar tell”.
And this was the point at which I became really interested. I had been casually taking in all of these guys just in case they could be useful later, but once there was a joke in the offing that was really it. I was hooked.
But what with my stop on the train coming up, I literally was on the edge of my seat. So much so, in fact, that Gregarious Man actually stopped telling the joke to say “are you okay”. I was leaning in so much, just willing him to get to the end.
So I said, the only thing I could say really which was the truth, that I was simply wishing that I could hear the punchline before I would have to get off the train. It didn’t matter, I said, because, as I suddenly noticed the train was slowing for my stop. But it did seem to matter to Be-suited Woman. She was concerned about me, clearly. So she said, “if you want to know the punchline I’ll tell you”. All of the others tried to stop her, all wanting this ultimate joke to be properly preserved for the Non-descript man for whom it was intended. But she blurted it out, “the punchline is ‘the vicar had to organise the bowling on Sunday’.”
What? I can hear you all collectively ask. What, on earth, was she talking about? It didn’t make any sense to me either because there really hadn’t been enough of a joke yet. Poor non-descript man probably got the joke retold to him with the punchline in it’s proper place at the end, but that can hardly have been the same as hearing the greatest joke a vicar ever told in front of a packed and willing room.
I of course was in torture. What did it mean? How could it make sense? It didn’t sound very funny. I felt though that I had one saving thing, I had actually had a funnier incident that the Non-descript man because I just couldn’t help thinking about the literalness of a woman who thought when I said that I wanted to hear the punchline that I would – actually – just want to hear the punchline rather than hear the rest of the joke first. It was incredible.
So what’s the joke? I have for my own benefit, and to a lesser extent yours, tracked it down. And it goes something like… Should I tell you?.. Should I? I don’t know?
Oh go on…
A vicar is goes to his bishop to get reprimanded.
Bishop: Now Vicar, I hear you have cancelled several services over the summer with parishioners left wallowing in sin, willy nilly, and you have been simply not showing up to mass. Is this true?
Bishop: Is it?
Bishop Look I’ve had reports of people leading their own services in Chipping Norton without any kind of guidance.
Vicar: Is that so bad?
Bishop: They sacrificed a goat!
Vicar: Oh okay. It’s no use. It was because of the cricket.
Bishop The cricket?
Vicar: Yes the cricket, I do so love cricket. And this summer we were doing so very well. And all the good bits were on a Sunday. So what was I to do?
Bishop: You were supposed to attend mass as planned Vicar. That is what you were supposed to do.
Vicar: But it’s sooooo boring.
Bishop: Boring? Boring! I’ve never heard such rot in all my life. The Christ’s immaculate conception boring? Wine into body – boring? Never heard such rot. Never! What have you got to say for yourself?
Vicar: I’m very sorry.
Bishop: Do you repent?
Vicar: I guess…
Bishop: Will you do it again?
Vicar: Well it’s not the ashes again for eighteen months so until then sir…
Vicar: Sorry you’re worshipfulness. But it seems life is so short these days. I want to enjoy every moment I can since I’m advancing in years. If only there was some way I could know…
Bishop: Know what?
Vicar: If there was cricket in heaven?
The Bishop sat back in his chair, placed his hands together, closed his eyes and prayed silently. After a few seconds he returned to the conversation
Bishop: Well there’s good news and bad news.
Vicar: Really. Well good news first I always say.
Bishop: Well the good news is that there is cricket in heaven. You’re even slated, when you get there, to manage your own team.
Vicar: And the bad news?
Bishop: You’ve got to organise the bowling this Sunday.
Oh God no.
* You may in fact think that I actually like bad jokes**
** Yes jokes and footnotes.