Comment: Warning: today's column contains utterly tasteless items

The most joyful recent story about McDonald's catering outlets came from Hong Kong...
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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY I put forward the theory that a humorous writer would be ill-advised to try to squeeze humour out of an already humorous news item. He would be better advised simply to reprint the item and not try to improve on it.

As evidence of this, I now bring you the whole of an item about the great Evel Knievel, the man who soared across space on motor bicycles. This is an item which I found on the back page of the International Herald Tribune on Friday last week.

"In the world of Evel Knievel, this motorcycle mishap was nothing much. The 60-year-old daredevil suffered a minor scrape in Clearwater, Florida, when his parked bike toppled over, pinioning him beneath it. He was sitting on it with the kickstand down. Neighbours heard him yell for help, freed him and summoned paramedics."

That's it. Evel Knievel fell off his bike and couldn't get up without medical help. That's all you need. How can you improve on it?

Nor does one need to say anything about the postman in my home town, Wrexham, who was trapped in the post box. Unlike the Knievel story, this was widely reported, but in case you were on Clapham Common at the time and missed it, a Welsh postman got trapped inside a very large postbox when the door blew shut. The first anyone knew about it was when an old age pensioner went to post a letter and a hand came out of the slot to take it...

I have to say that I find that story a bit smelly. But why spoil a good story? After all, I have never doubted the story about J B Morton, the man who was Beachcomber, "finding" a little boy in a post box.

You know the story? Some time in the 1930s Morton is supposed to have started talking into the slot of a large post box, as if a small boy was trapped in there.

"How did you get in? What's your name? How old are you? Have you hurt yourself?" And so on.

A crowd gathered.

"What's wrong?"

"Boy stuck in letter box."

"Good Lord, how did he get in?"

"Just finding out..."

And while this crowd was forming, Morton slipped away, leaving them all to organise the release of a now silent, probably unconscious little boy.

Great story. True story? Hmm... Sounds dodgy to me. Yet stories which are really true also sound dodgy. Like the one about Torquay United last Saturday. It was reported in the Telegraph, and no doubt elsewhere, that the players in the Torquay United Football League team had been told not to practise shooting at goal when they came out to warm up before a match. Reason? Too many of their shots were missing the goal and flying into the crowd, and insurance was insufficient to cover a bad injury to a spectator. If Evelyn Waugh had put that into a novel, you wouldn't believe him...

But my favourite recent news item concerns McDonald's hamburgers. I love collecting items which show McDonald's in a bad light, because I think they serve very boring mass-produced fodder and because they take themselves and their hideous red and yellow so-called restaurants so very seriously.

I have here a cutting from this paper from last summer headed "McDonald's World Cup win has French seething", detailing the fury of French restaurateurs over the choice of McDonald's as "the official restaurant of the World Cup", which would be like nominating Miller Lite as the official beer of the World Cup in England.

It was the big money offer of the burger bar which made the difference, it seemed. "We knew money had no smell," said the furious chefs. "Now we know it has no taste either."

The most recent joyful story about McDonald's catering outlets (better name than "restaurant", surely) came from Hong Kong, where , we are told, the populace had fallen in love with the Snoopy figures being given away with Big Macs.

The citizens were queuing up to buy burgers to get their Snoopy figures, going outside and throwing their hamburgers in the litter bins untouched before going home to enjoy their Snoopies. Bins were overflowing with uneaten hamburgers outside every Big Mac dispensary, it seems...

Actually, that is one item you might improve on. You could visualise the painful meeting at which the man responsible for the Snoopy idea which had so powerfully backfired tried to defend himself to the bigwigs at McDonald's...

A reader writes: I would stop there if I were you. McDonald's lawyers are very quick on the draw.

Miles Kington writes: Yes. Perhaps you're right.