Moyes: Proving That A Repeated Joke Can Still Be Funny

The traditional logic is that jokes repeated over and over fail to stay funny, and yet David Moyes is still making everyone laugh. The man's a comedy genius...

Last Updated: 17/03/14 at 12:19 Post Comment

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The traditional principles of comedy state that repeating a joke isn't usually the right thing to do in the pursuit of laughter. That humour suffers from the law of diminishing returns; a joke told once can be funny, told twice is less funny, told three times is perhaps amusing, told four times is not even that, told five times is getting annoying, told six times is actually, yes, really quite annoying, told seven times is deliberately provocative, told eight times is just impolite, told nine times is starting to look desperate, and told ten times is clearly a cry for help. Doing a diary on the Premier League every week, for example, would be a terrible idea.

"Right, so Rafael and a football walk into a penalty area." "Oh, mercy."

Nobody told David Moyes, though. Up and down the country students of comedy are gathering in awe, asking each other in hushed tones just how he's managing it. The same skit, sometimes twice a week, to the same audience, and yet the laughter just keeps multiplying.

"Have you heard the one about Robin van Persie playing like Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, who is only in this joke because he shares a middle name with the striker and is, presumably and based on nothing more than his appearance, which is that of a lifelong bureaucrat, not very good at football?" "Yes, yes, oh God yes."

In part, it's the subtle variations in tone and delivery. At times the humour seems to come from watching entirely the wrong side playing the wrong kind of football; at others its watching the right side try to play the right football, and fail. This was perhaps the most striking feature of the performance against Liverpool: the best team available went out with the clear intention of playing coherent attacking football, only to look once they got onto the pitch like they'd walked into a kitchen, forgotten why they'd come into the kitchen, and started picking up random objects one by one in the hope that the sight of a spatula might jolt them into remembering. It didn't, and they ended up holding a spatula for ninety minutes while the visitors ate all the biscuits.

"Knock knock. Knock knock. Knock knock. Knock knock. Knock knock. Knock knock ... look, I don't think they can hear us from out here, Antonio, shall we go round the side?" "Again! Tell it again!"

In part it's the wider all-encompassing tragedy of it all, the rubberneck compulsion to watch a man attempt to field the ultimate hospital pass in the largest shadow that football's ever thrown? After all, United have been generally dreadful against Liverpool for a good long while now; the difference this weekend is that those latter-day Ferg-capitulations were both irrelevant and uncharacteristic. As a general rule in games like this, the worse a side are in general, the better they need to play in these games. The inability to raise the game when everything demands it is in some ways, a far worse sign than occasionally falling over against Stoke or whoever.

"Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains, in that my only purpose is to block out the sun and spread darkness over everything." "My God, I'm dying."

Then, of course, there's the fact that sometimes cumulative hilarity does work, along the lines of Sideshow Bob and the rakes. Step, thwack, groan. Step, thwack, groan. Step, thwack, groan. Because this is Manchester United. Alex Ferguson's Manchester United; globe-spanning money-hoovering emergent-market gouging Manchester United. The club that were too good for the words 'Football Club', that are beloved across the world from Aperol Spritz to Zong, official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Pakistan. The United that always, eventually, win. And right now it looks like not only have they dropped a bollock the size of the Hindenburg, but they're still pretending that they haven't. That'll probably do it.

***

In some ways it was a bit unfair on Tim Sherwood to put him on straight after the David Moyes show, and whoever scheduled Overpromoted Sunday should probably apologise. But at least his Tottenham side gave him a performance in his own image: frenetic, giddy and almost totally lacking in wit. And it was good to see him finally realise, after several months on national television, that the gilet is a garment entirely lacking in dignity.

"Where does Tim Sherwood keep his armies? In his ... oh, wait, there they are. Come on Tim. Give us something to work with here."

Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton

You can follow Andi on Twitter here, Alexander on Twitter here, and buy last season's Diary here.

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