Sky’s Adam Boulton last week made a joke, comparing potential coalition leaders to the entity known as Jedward. The interviewee looked bewildered and the camera jiggled, unsure of where to turn to hide the blushes and silence. It goes to show that there’s something quite excruciating about the now mandatory asinine humour of television news.
Limp innuendo has become a defining trait of the BBC’s breakfast presenters, whose qualification consists in no more than being able to read out loud while gently titillating the middle aged.
The depressing truth is that, despite the younger demographic, lectures are much the same.
Most take place in a state of mild tension that makes the merest hint of jocularity spill over into nervous laughter. There’s apparently something inherently droll about enunciating ‘poo’ from a position of authority.
Staring at a camera and flirting with the co-host only at the behest of an autocue, the vacuous anchorperson can be relied on never to say anything that would excite the tabloids. But the lecturer, unencumbered by celebrity and drunk on the prospective thrill of the live performance, cannot. Once in a while you mistake your audience for a crowd, yourself for Frankie Boyle, and hazard a joke that goes beyond the relative comfort zone of innocuous, endearing swearwords.
Today it was my turn. I’ll even confess I’d thought of it beforehand and surreptitiously typed it into my notes, lest the heat of the moment spoiled the punchline.
Yes, it was risqué, a tad politically incorrect, even. But I’d have got away with it in a seminar; it was crying out for the bigger venue.
It fell agonisingly flat, in spite of an okay delivery. A few nervous stares cut through the more general indifference. Maybe they didn’t hear me right?
I spent the remainder of the hour wondering whether I hadn’t crossed the line from being the young, cool one who gets away with stuff, to the older one who, at best, elicits discomfort by conspicuously burping while he talks. I then returned to the office and found a pile of freshly shod hair nestled in my keyboard. Next week I’ll punish them with abject dryness. Or find a warm-up act to pave the way for oratorical gold.