On wisdom, comedy and memories

By Rafiek Mammon

So we flew to Port Elizabeth again last week. I remember a running joke in our family about P.E many moons ago, was always to ask: “Is P.E. still open?” The reason for the question being very confusing to the person that it is asked of…and usually the person asking the question would add something like this: “I’ll tell you why I ask, because the last time I was there, it was closed. They were hanging curtains and laying carpets”. And this would meet with great laughs.
Even I used to think it’s quite funny at the time. And to an extent I still do. And I can only imagine what some of you might be thinking – what else did we do for fun? Slam our fingers and toes in car doors, perhaps?

It did make me think about family fun (or the lack thereof), though – something I don’t do much of these days but do, like most people, have fond memories of. And, sometimes, when the family members – sisters, brothers and their kids – get together, we do still share a laugh around such issues as Port Elizabeth’s opening hours and a few other “in” jokes that only family members will get or think are vaguely funny… moments that are few and far between these days. I guess moving on in life and “expanding” on one’s comical reservoir makes one move further and further away from the humour that one shared in the days of yester…or do they? Should they?

I guess the same can be said for the programmes we thought were very funny on television then – programmes that, when we watch them now, are a bit of a yawn actually. But then again there are a few that age well. But I guess the majority wouldn’t have aged well. I wonder what the ‘Brady Bunch’ would look and feel like should I watch it now.

Or perhaps ‘Eight is Enough’. Or that wonderful ‘Carol Burnett Show’ – something I never used to miss on television. This is something I would dearly love to own a few episodes of, but whenever I speak to my “dealer” – he who so diligently downloads television programmes for us – the answer is always the same: Carol Burnett is not downloadable. And I have looked everywhere – every time I go to London even…all to no avail. And I am very tempted to ask someone out there who has Ms Burnett’s shows on DVD or video to share them with me like radio announcers often do. But, since I am not a radio announcer, I shall refrain from doing so. (Please?)

I remember how that became a family thing to do – watch the ‘Carol Burnett Show’ on television. How well do I remember her opening – well not her opening but the opening of the show – with her permanent guest artists, Harvey Korman, Lyle Wagner and Vicky Lawrence. And when a comedian called Norman Wisdom was on the show one would be in absolute comedic heaven. And these days there just aren’t shows like hers any longer.

And I wonder why? Is there no cause for them? No demand? Have we all moved on so far that the very essence of what was once in all likelihood some of the best-scripted comedy is now forgotten? And I can’t even get it on DVD or video (…please?). At least some of the old favourites like Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin are on DVD – lovely box sets that look like collectors’ items. Memory lane is made of this I think…

Then, on a trip to London a few years back HMV had a sale on their DVD box sets. And what did I find? A Norman Wisdom set of five DVD’s – all the favourites I used to watch with my parents and siblings when we were younger. I bought it as a gift for my older brother. I watched them with fond memories trickling down the old memory banks.
I believe the gift is doing the rounds…from one sibling to the next.