Tonight's class: Brewing your own whisky

`I arrived at the club in a state of perfect equilibrium - half man, half whisky'

I'M THINKING of starting a series of evening classes that will be unlike any evening classes that ever existed.

Let me explain by way of a story.

There was once an American jazz guitarist called Eddie Condon who in the Thirties was roused to indignation by the arrival in America of Hugues Panassie. Panassie was a French jazz critic and record-producer who had come over to the States to supervise a few recording sessions using American jazz musicians. Bad enough his being European - but French! "How come this French guy is coming over here to show us how to make jazz records properly?" seethed Condon. "Do I tell him how to jump on a grape?"

Well, that is the story. It is not, however, the whole story. Because Condon had a gift for that kind of phrase (I remember him once writing: "I arrived at the club in a state of perfect equilibrium - half man, half whisky...") and his gift obviously appealed to the jazz-loving Alistair Cooke, whom I once heard recounting the story about Panassie on the radio. The odd thing was that Cooke got it wrong. He told it all right as far as the punch line, but then had Condon say: "Do I tell him how to jump up and down on grapes?"

Obviously, this punch line means the same thing. Equally obviously, it is wrong. It is much funnier for the grape to be in the singular, for Condon to say: "Jump on a grape", both because the tone is more contemptuous, and because the image of a Frenchman jumping up and down on a single grape is funny. But Cooke got it wrong. And I wondered how a man like Cooke could get it wrong.

I wondered again on Sunday, when listening to Desert Island Discs, how a good actor like Warren Mitchell could get a story wrong. He told Sue Lawley that he knew a funny Jewish story about a desert island, in that tone of voice which made it clear he was about to tell it. I wondered if it was the same one I had been told long ago, the one about the Jew who is rescued after years of being marooned on a desert island, and who is asked by the rescuing naval officer why, after years of solitary building on this otherwise unoccupied island, there are now two synagogues.

"Well, you see that one over there?" says the Jewish castaway. "That's the one we don't go to."

It was indeed the same story that Warren Mitchell was going to tell, with its same delicious overtones of snobbishness, exclusivity and intolerance common to all religions. But he told it rather differently. In his version the two synagogues are specifically Orthodox and Reform, and when asked why there are two, the Jewish castaway says: "See that one over here? That's the Reform Synagogue. I wouldn't be seen dead in there!"

It doesn't work that way, does it? You can see why, without being able to pinpoint it, but it's something to do with losing the casual dismissiveness, the offhand, throwaway intolerance of "That's the one we don't go to..."

Like most people, I probably don't tell jokes very well myself (and don't often try), but like most people I can see why others get it wrong, and am often tempted to help them. Luckily, I resist this temptation. It would be inviting disaster, not to say a punch on the nose, to take a man aside and say: "Look, that joke you didn't tell very well just now, and which didn't get much of a laugh - I think I could help you improve it..." It would be about as tactful as taking him aside before his marriage and telling him he's marrying the wrong girl, or criticising the way he drives a car...

In fact, there is a whole bunch of activities in which we never get properly instructed, and have to pick up from behind the bike sheds, as it were, and never really get right. Telling jokes is one. Marrying is another. Then there's making love, parenting, dealing with dogs, catching a barman's eye, tying a bow-tie... all those things that we have to attempt at some time, and usually get wrong without admitting it, and never learn to do properly.

That's what my series of evening classes is going to be all about, in fact. No basket-weaving or pottery. Just classes in things like telling funny stories properly, whistling with two fingers in your mouth, riding a bicycle, making shadow figures on the wall, brewing your own whisky...

Send for full brochure now.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture