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The Best by Miles, By Miles Kington
Master of satire that still bites
Tuesday 01 December 2009
Miles Kington never improved. He started out in 1964 by creating small gems of timeless humour and was still creating them 44 years later. Admittedly, some of his japes turned out to be jaded. His wit could be punctured by an embarrassing whimsy. His autobiography was to me wet, spoiling memories of all the good stuff he had tapped out in the next room in our Punch days.
At his best, he was brilliant and The Best by Miles is brilliant. His half-page summary of War and Peace will live on for as long as people are reading Tolstoy (or rather, nearly getting round to reading Tolstoy). It consists of the word "bang" repeated for 11 lines interrupted only by a single "KER-SPLAT!" in the middle. Somewhat more literary is his retelling of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in which Will Wordsworth and Alf Tennyson face a poetic showdown with "King" Edward Lear and his deadly limerick.
A further yoking together of disparates is Miles's version of what "Jabberwocky" would have been like if written by Raymond Chandler. Even more spectacular is his cod-Shakespeare series "History of King Tony", with Cherie Blair as Lady Macbeth and the Three Witches as Fleet Street hacks.
The most epic subject undertaken by Miles, or anyone ever, is another series, "Minutes of the United Deities". The "Chairgod" attempts to instil order into meetings attended by Allah, Thor, the god of Ian Paisley and the Jewish god whose contribution to Any Other Business is to tell the joke about the Martian and the fruit machine (Zeus doesn't get it). Fundamentalists may cry "Sacrilege!" but I prefer "inventive".
Miles could also make a meal out of small stuff, literally in "Forty Rules for Blackberrying". That's blackberry as in bushes, not the sort with a capital B. Gadgetry is not any humorist's strong point, particularly not Miles's. He doesn't here discuss the rumour that, when offered a job as a TV critic, he accepted it without owning a set. Now, sadly, we'll never know.
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