Never Argue with a Mug

One of the useful things my Dad taught me (see my post for 20 Aug 2005) was learnt from Roy Rene, the Australian comic genius born Henry van der Sluys in Adelaide.

During the war, Dad was walking with Roy down Castlereagh Street in Sydney where Roy was appearing in variety at the New Tivoli.

A bloke came up to Roy and made the usual ‘greatest fan’ type comments. Then he said, “I’ll never forget your show at the Alhambra before the war. That ‘F’ joke! Funniest thing I’d ever heard”.

Roy said, “Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you can make it to the new show.”

As the bloke walked off, chuckling to himself, Dad asked Roy, “What is the ‘F’ joke?” Roy said, “Oh, it’s a lame old gag that’s been around for years”.

“How does it go?”

“Well, the original version is about an infants’ class learning the alphabet. The teacher writes the alphabet on the blackboard and gets the kids to name the letters as she points to them. She points to the A and says ‘Johnny, what is this?’ ‘It’s A, Miss.’ She points to the B. ‘What is this?’ ‘B, Miss.’ ‘And this?’ ‘C, Miss’, and so on until they come the letter F.

‘Now, Johnny, what is this letter?’ ‘It’s K, Miss.’

‘That’s not right, Johnny, let’s try again.’ So they go through it from the start: A, B, C, D, E, K. No matter which way the teacher tries, forwards, backwards or at random, when she points to the F, Johnny always says K.

At last in frustration the teacher throws down the pointer and says loudly, ‘It’s all going wrong; every time I get to F, you see K.’

Roy stopped.

“Is that it?” Dad said. Roy nodded. “I don’t get it”.

“Say the last bit slowly out loud,” Roy said.

“….eff, you, see, kay. What? Oh, I get it. It’s a bit weak. isn’t?”

“Yes,” Roy said. “That’s one reason I’ve never used it.”

“But that bloke said it was the funniest thing he ever heard”.

“Maybe,” Roy said, “but it wasn’t me who told it.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I’ve never played the Alhambra and anyway, I’d never have used that joke in my act.”

“Why not?”

“You wouldn’t have got away with it back then. Spelling out the ‘F’ word in a public theatre? They’d have closed you down and done you for obscenity!”

“But that bloke was absolutely certain it was you.”

“Son”, said Roy, “never argue with a mug.”

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