Next week I'll be talking to the Falmouth School of Art's Professional Writing Course, because it's only down the road. This will be, I think, the third time I've talked to the newies on the course, and I just went back and had a look at last years talk, and remembered this bit:
"What makes Henry laugh is other people’s pain. ‘I was talking with a friend about slapstick and he fell and hurt his ankle. I was crying with laughter. I like well-timed actual pain."
I never did anything about this before, because it's like finding a horrible photo of yourself, and pointing it out to people, trying to explain that it's the lighting, really, it is.
But as some of the new people may go back and check on what I said last year, to make sure they're getting their money's worth and not being fobbed off with yesterdays tea boiled, I thought I might put this in context*. Also, I wouldn't want them to think they're going to be meeting a monstrous tosser of the lowest order.
What actually happened was this: when I lived in Canterbury, a very good friend of mine who gave me my first break (he used to work for the types who make Bob the Builder) came to visit. We headed out for a pint, and on the way (so no drinking yet) had really quite a profound and rather abstract conversation about the art of slapstick. At which point m'colleague fell rather spectacularly off the pavement, disappearing from my field of view entirely.
Now I don't normally laugh at people hurting themselves. I promise I don't. It's a small-minded sort of thing to do which would put me in the company of people who read mens magazines with three-letter titles, a place I don't want to be. But when you're talking about slapstick, and someone executes a perfect pratfall, one has to show one's appreciation somehow. Almost immediately however, it became apparent that my good chum had actually hurt his ankle quite badly and was now in quite a lot of pain. Which made it worse, as I ended up with the sort of nervous giggle practiced by lunatics and over-sugared schoolchildren. So things were, frankly, a bit frosty. Until I bought him lots of drinks and apologized profusely.
He went to work for Aardman later on, and I had another drink with him much later, so I think we're okay now.
Anyway, I wouldn't want the new people to walk into the room thinking I'm a socially-retarded monstrous tosser. Obviously they may walk out thinking exactly that, according to how the talk goes, but that's their right.
Oddly enough, I did some freelance work as a mob hitman in the early nineties, killed a lot of innocent people in a variety of horrible, gruesome ways. Never lost a nights sleep over it.
Funny how the human mind works.
* Also, I made less money this year, which has sent the graph all to crikey. And yet I'm having more important meetings. Perhaps my talk should be titled: 'I have literally no idea what I'm doing'.