Officers of the law are not generally known for their sense of humour, outside the variety hall, that is. But all that could change, thanks to a new comedy show from a long-serving sergeant in the Humberside Constabulary – a real live laughing policeman.
Alfie Moore, whose show The Laughter Police opened on the Edinburgh Fringe last night, is seeking to be a modern reincarnation of the jolly copper in Charles Penrose's 1920s music-hall song, the original "Laughing Policeman". Red-haired and plump-cheeked, when not up on stage he is on the beat in Scunthorpe, where he has spent 17 of his 43 years dealing with less than savoury characters.
Although his show offers a funny insight into life on the force, according to the comedy website Chortle, it contains little of the song's hysterical mirth. By his own admission it "treads the fine line between comedy genius and unemployment", with tales of junkies, alcoholics and fag addicts, as well as bureaucratic battles with government targets and endless report-filing.
He says the public might find it surprising that he spends much of his time running around to help junkies. "If a heroin addict is in a cell, they can see a doctor with all expenses paid," he said. "The GP will write a prescription and I will drop what I'm doing to go to the chemist with petty cash. I've been to fetch four cans of Special Brew for a prisoner who was an alcoholic, and Nicorette for smokers."
Moore hopes that – unlike the award-winning police blogger Detective Constable Richard Horton, whose NightJack website was shut down and who was given a written warning by Lancashire Police – his bosses will see the joke. "I am excited but a bit nervous about bringing The Laughter Police to the Edinburgh Fringe, but not nearly as nervous as my bosses. I'm very proud to be a police officer, but there is a danger that bureaucracy is sinking what I believe to be the finest criminal justice system in the world."
Moore is performing his free, hour-long show until 29 August, in the Dragonfly venue. His bosses have approved a promotional DVD, and a Humberside Police spokeswoman confirmed he has permission to perform. Meanwhile, he has been rehearsing in venues from "rough gigs in Manchester" to the West Midlands Police chief constables' annual charity ball.
Moore's flyer features him with baton raised in a traditional Punch and Judy puppet scene. "One hundred years ago," he said wryly, "that was acceptable. Now, I'm more inclined to do a risk assessment, caution Mr Punch and record his ethnicity."
Peter Buckley Hill, founder of the Free Fringe, welcomed Moore's comedic venture. "His show is unique," he said. "There are very few police officers who do comedy – in any sense – and this is interesting because it is real."