Introducing the latest adventures of Evel Knievel

Of course, it may just be that people are slower on the uptake in Chicago

FROM TIME to time people who know that I maintain a small humorous column in this corner of the woods come up to me with a newspaper cutting or overheard story which they just know will form the basis of an article. It's so funny, they say. And as soon as I hear them say how funny the item is, I know I won't be able to use it. You see, when an item is really quite funny, what is there left for a humorous writer to do except repeat it? You can't improve on it. You can't get comedy out of something which is already funny. The most you can do is bask in its reflected glory.

What comic writers have always got humour out of is serious things, or familiar things, or ordinary people. There was nothing intrinsically funny about a young man having a valet till P G Wodehouse got to work on it. The notion of three men in a boat is not funny, not by itself, nor is...

Well, you get the idea.

What makes it more painful for me is that when I go through papers, I too cut out odd and quirky items which I think are funny, which is a waste of time as then there is nothing I can do with them except make a pile of cuttings which the wife would dearly like to consign to the dustbin.

"No, don't!" I cry. "They may come in useful. I might meet a humorist who is short of ideas."

"But," she points out, "you've always said they would be useless to a humorist."

"I know. But it might at least infuriate him..."

Take, for instance, an item I have here with the heading "Deaf Friends Shot For Using Sign Language". Apparently five deaf friends stopped on the street in Chicago to have a conversation in sign language. Nothing very unusual about that. But apparently Chicago street gangs also use hand language to communicate secretly. Two passing gang members thought that these five must be members of rival gangs and shot at them. No serious injuries, I'm glad to say. But bizarre? I think so. Possibly even humorous...

I hasten to add (because I know from experience that people are sensitive) that I don't think there is anything odd or funny about being deaf. I once found myself in a pub in Exeter full of deaf and dumb people. It was their club night, I think, and we were the only people there who spoke. The only normal people, one is tempted to say, but because we were the odd ones out, the only ones not telling silent jokes in sign language and bursting into raucous laughter, it was we who felt abnormal.

I knew someone once who specialised in helping people who were deaf or dumb, or both, who were involved in law suits and who, when they appeared in court, simply could not avoid having to communicate with judge or counsel. She said they had tremendous trouble one day with an old man who simply couldn't understand anything said to him and couldn't read anything written down for him. It was revealed that the only person who could communicate with him was his grown-up son. The son was sent for.

"Can he understand you?" said the judge.

"Yes," he said. "What should I ask him?"

"Well, his name, for a start," said the judge. "We haven't legally established who he is yet."

"OK," said the son, and he went over to his old dad and screamed in his ear: "What's your name, dad?"

Of course, it may be just that people are slower on the uptake in Chicago. For years I had a cutting about a man in Chicago with a scam which netted him a considerable income without breaking the law. He simply put an ad in the local paper which said: "This Is Your Last Chance To Send Five Dollars To This Address!", and appended his address. According to the story he was sent hundreds of dollars and quite legally kept them.

The great thing about stories like that is that there is no way of checking them, and there is no way you would want to check them, because you want them to be true. It is like the cutting I kept for a long time, spotted in the 1960s in Time magazine, which revealed that Andorra was at war with Germany.

During the Second World War, Andorra declared war on the Fascist powers along with everyone else (except their rather more fearful neighbours Spain and Portugal) but forgot to rescind the declaration of war in 1945. So they were still at war with Germany until this moment in the 1960s, when they hastily withdrew their declaration in case the Germans staged an invasion. It said so. In Time. So it must be true.

I have just remembered that I had originally intended to tell you about 60-year-old Evel Knievel's latest motorbike accident, but I have run out of space. Tomorrow, then!

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?