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‘..he’s behind you’

Getting my mum to understand stand-up comedy is like having to do a very difficult thing with no chance of success. Similar to my skill with similes I suppose.

Each time I call her I promise myself that I won’t volunteer any personal information which could lead to the response ‘oh thats nice dear, the daffodils are coming up very early this year and I’m not doing the church window for another month’. And yet somehow I always get trapped, though her latest response exceeded all expectations.

Yesterdays conversation:

MUM: So are you performing anywhere dear?

ME: Yes, I’m doing a couple of shows in San Antonio and a new place in Austin

MUM: That’s nice, and what will you be wearing?

ME: Well..just my usual, jeans and a t-shirt. Why, what did you think I’d wear?

MUM: I thought you might dress up as a horse

ME: (stifling laughter and horror) um..what made you think of a horse?

MUM: I thought you’re doing pantomime (see below)

I was very impressed that she was able to top her previous response to me doing stand-up when she asked if I wore a clown suit on stage. No, not usually as I find it’s hard to climb the stairs in giant floppy feet. Though the idea of dressing as a pantomime horse telling jokes about suicide bombers and knitted swimsuits (made by my mother) is quite appealing.

I fear that she’ll be greatly disappointed if she ever comes to see one of my shows, or should I say, variety acts.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, pantomime or panto is an old British stage tradition. Its performed at Christmas in dull English towns, is aimed at lower middle class class families and likely to be Aladdin, Puss in Boots, Dick Whttington or Jack and the Beanstalk. Panto features a principal boy, played of course by a woman; a pantomime dame, played by a man and the pantomime horse.

This is performed by two people dressed in a shabby two-part horse costume, one playing the head and front half and the other playing the rest. Often the front half does something different to the back and thats showbiz gold. The horse may also take the form of a cow, with similar whacky results. Theres a lot of double entendres, generally milked to within an inch of their lives, though not in a cow sense and a lot of audience participation. This takes the form of ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh yes it is’ or ‘oh no it isnt’.

Pantomime is last believed to have been funny in the early 1800s.