“Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing. Those who lack humour lack common sense and should be trusted with nothing.” Clive James penned that glorious truth. Examples of the correlation between humourlessness and lack of common sense are all around us in present-day New Zealand. They proliferate like weeds. No doubt some will occur to you as you read these lines, but it may be wiser not to name them, to keep your counsel. The humourless weed is prickly and cannot see the joke. I was reminded of Clive James’ words by the current race for the Labour Party leadership. If James is right – and everything I have observed about my fellow man in more than seven decades persuades me that he is – if those who lack humour should indeed “be trusted with nothing”, then we would be wise to include evidence of the presence of a sense of humour among our criteria for electing those who seek to govern us.
I’ve known quite a few senior New Zealand politicians and advised three or four who got to sit behind the big desk on the ninth floor. I have my own view on which of them had “a sense of humour” as I suspect James would have defined it: combining a joyful sense of the ridiculous not just in others but in oneself with that grounded understanding of what is socially acceptable and what not, which we commonly call ‘perspective’. Taking oneself too seriously is probably incompatible with a sense of humour. For the moment I’ll keep to myself my views on the sense of humour, or lack of it, of past and present-day New Zealand political leaders. I’d prefer to get your opinion. And it might be particularly interesting to consider which of the current contenders for the Labour Party leadership have shown evidence of a sense of humour or should be “trusted with nothing”. Lest you’ve forgotten, they are, in no particular order, Grant Robertson, Nanaia Mahuta, David Parker and Andrew Little.
Now here’s an old music hall routine:
A: I say, I say, I say, what is the secret of successful comedy?
B: I don’t know. What is the secr..
Maybe you had to be there.