Is Cricket Funny?
Guests: Marcus Berkman, Sam Perry and Tim Key
In November 1970, Fred Trueman, newly retired from first class cricket, appeared in Dad’s Army. The episode was called The Test, and Trueman was, somewhat predictably, cast as the demon fast bowler EC Egan, recruited by Warden Hodges for a grudge match against Captain Mainwaring’s Home Guard. The joy of the episode is that, as the viewer, you know long before the game begins what kind of cricketers each of the characters will turn out to be. Mainwaring, Pike, Godfrey, Jones and Frazer play exactly as you’d expect, as of course does John le Mesurier’s wonderfully fey sergeant Wilson – he of course bats as effortlessly as he does everything else.
Lots of British sitcoms feature a cricket episode, because the game itself says something - it’s a shorthand for a certain kind of Englishness. The village green is a familiar stage and the game is full of archetypes that don’t need to be explained. Above all, it has the potential for disaster, humiliation or triumph – that, after all, is cricket’s canvas.
It leads us to the question is cricket funny? Is humour instrinsic to its creation? Some of its earliest literature features the comedy of humiliation – run-outs and dropped catches. The amateur game is ripe with it, the pros too have their brushes with ignimony along with victory and defeat. Players, commentators and hacks getting it wrong is part of the fun. But is there more to it than that?
Jon tries to get to the bottom of whether cricket is in fact funny by speaking to Markus Berkmann, author of Rain Men, The Grade Cricketer's Sam Perry and Perrier (Edinburgh) award winning comedian, actor and poet - Tim Key.
The Nightwatchman Podcast
Written and hosted by Jon Hotten
Produced and edited by James Wallace
Sponsored by Rathbones
Find out more about The Grade Cricketer
Get hold of Marcus' book Rain Men
Tim Key's books He Used Thought As A Wife and All Around The Mulberry Bush as well as his poetical playing cards are all available here